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  • On Friday you talked about “the most famous of all Chicano poems,” so it’s fitting that today we’ll talk about Lorna Dee Cervantes, one of the most well-known Chicana poets. “ I Am Joaquín” offers simple, uncomplicated poetic tropes and accessible language; Mexican nationalistic imagery
  • LornaDeeCervantes

    1. 1. From Chicano to Chicana poetics: Lorna Dee Cervantes and the Chicana Movimiento Erin Hurt Intro to Mexican-American Studies; September 14, 2009
    2. 2. Chicano poetics <ul><li>Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales’s aim for “I Am Joaqu ín” was to create a particular poetic vision of Chicano heritage. As Límon writes, “[It is] an extended exercise in the political and cultural nationalist affirmation of the Chicano movement and the Mexican people in the United States” (123). For Gonzales and other Chicano writers, the raza gets pitted against the values of hostile dominant society, who viewed Chicano culture with disdain and contempt. </li></ul>
    3. 3. Chicano poetics (cont.) <ul><li>Many Chicano writers during this time used their literature to document and respond to the oppression their communities faced, to “reject the history and culture of the dominant society,” and to “create their own history and heritage” (L ímon 3). </li></ul><ul><li>Though Límon argues that Gonzales recognizes the repressed Chicana (127)—to a degree—historically, Chicanas did not have access to the same opportunities as Chicanos to participate in el movimiento and to publish their literary work. </li></ul>
    4. 4. Multiple forms of oppression <ul><li>Chicana writers found that the nationalist-focused heritage these Chicano writers produced did not critique the kind of sexism they faced within their own communities. As Sánchez writes, “[Chicana writers and activists realized] that they were being denied positions of authority within their own culture” (4). They faced multiple forms of oppression—from both dominant and Chicano cultures. </li></ul>
    5. 5. “A rock and a hard place” <ul><li>The literature written by Chicanas during this period often reflects how their commitment to the struggle against racism and social justice alienated them from both the ongoing Women’s Movement as well as the political goals of La Raza . As Cherríe Moraga puts it, “The Chicana feminist attempting to critique the sexism in the Chicano community is certainly between a personal rock and a political hard place” (qtd. in Scott 105). </li></ul>
    6. 6. Cervantes’s poetic approach <ul><li>In the interview with Karin Ikas, Cervantes states, “I became increasingly aware that there was nothing in the literature that documented my history.” </li></ul><ul><li>She describes her strategy as “the personal stance, the persona, as a form of documentation.” </li></ul>
    7. 7. Her relationship to “Beneath” <ul><li>When asked about her relationship to “Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway” she explains: “When I realized I was writing Chicana poetry for my raza, the first thing I wanted to do was document my personal history. I was not trying to express a deep pain, but trying to write poems I was not finding in gringo literature, the mainstream canon. That kind of poem also missing from Chicano literature wanted to write about the ‘woman history’ of our raza, about the urban experience and growing up in Califas and the varrios of San Jose” (González 3). From González, Ray. “I Trust Only What I Have Built With My Own Hands: An Interview with Lorna Dee Cervantes.” The Bloomsbury Review . 17.5 (Setpember/October 1997): 3-4. </li></ul><ul><li>Emplumada was written to “give back that gift that had saved me when I discovered, again, African American women’s poetry. I was having this vision of some little Chicana in San Antonio [Texas] going, scanning the shelves, like I used to do, scanning the shelves for women’s names or Spanish surnames, hoping she’ll pull it out, relate to it. So it was intentionally accessible poetry, intended to bridge that gap, that literacy gap” (González 167). from González, Sonia. “Poetry Saved My Life: An Interview with Lorna Dee Cervantes.” MELUS 32.1 (Spring 2007): 163-180. </li></ul>
    8. 8. Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway <ul><li>1 </li></ul><ul><li>Across the street--the freeway, </li></ul><ul><li>blind worm, wrapping the valley up </li></ul><ul><li>from Los Altos to Sal Si Puedes. </li></ul><ul><li>I watched it from my porch </li></ul><ul><li>Unwinding. Every day at dusk </li></ul><ul><li>as Grandma watered geraniums </li></ul><ul><li>the shadow of the freeway lengthened. </li></ul><ul><li>2 </li></ul><ul><li>We were a woman family: </li></ul><ul><li>Grandma, our innocent queen; </li></ul><ul><li>Mama, the Swift Knight, Fearless Warrior. </li></ul><ul><li>Mama wanted to be Princess instead. </li></ul><ul><li>I know that. Even now she dreams of taffeta </li></ul><ul><li>and foot-high tiaras. </li></ul><ul><li>Myself: I could never decide. </li></ul><ul><li>So I turned to books, those staunch, upright men. </li></ul><ul><li>I became Scribe: Translator of Foreign Mail, </li></ul><ul><li>interpreting letters from the government, notices </li></ul><ul><li>of dissolved marriages and Welfare stipulations. </li></ul><ul><li>I paid the bills, did light man-work, fixed faucets, </li></ul><ul><li>insured everything </li></ul><ul><li>against all leaks. </li></ul><ul><li>3 </li></ul><ul><li>Before rain I notice seagulls. </li></ul><ul><li>They walk in flocks, </li></ul><ul><li>cautious across lawns: splayed toes, </li></ul><ul><li>indecisive beaks. Grandma says </li></ul><ul><li>seagulls mean storms. </li></ul><ul><li>In California in the summer, </li></ul><ul><li>mockingbirds sing all night. </li></ul><ul><li>Grandma says they are singing for their nesting wives. </li></ul><ul><li>“ They don’t leave their families </li></ul><ul><li>borrachando.” </li></ul><ul><li>She likes the ways of birds, </li></ul><ul><li>respects how they show themselves </li></ul><ul><li>For toast and a whistle. </li></ul><ul><li>She believes in myths and birds. </li></ul><ul><li>She trusts only what she builds </li></ul><ul><li>with her own hands. </li></ul>
    9. 9. <ul><li>4 </li></ul><ul><li>She built her house, </li></ul><ul><li>cocky disheveled carpentry, </li></ul><ul><li>after living twenty-five years </li></ul><ul><li>with a man who tried to kill her. </li></ul><ul><li>Grandma, from the hills of Santa Barbara, </li></ul><ul><li>I would open my eyes to see her stir mush </li></ul><ul><li>in the morning, her hair in loose braids, </li></ul><ul><li>tucked close around her head </li></ul><ul><li>with a yellow scarf. </li></ul><ul><li>Mama said, “It’s her own fault, </li></ul><ul><li>getting screwed by a man for that long. </li></ul><ul><li>Sure as shit wasn’t hard.” </li></ul><ul><li>soft she was soft </li></ul><ul><li>5 </li></ul><ul><li>in the night I would hear it </li></ul><ul><li>glass bottles shattering the street </li></ul><ul><li>words cracked into shrill screams </li></ul><ul><li>inside my throat a cold fear </li></ul><ul><li>as it entered the house in hard </li></ul><ul><li>unsteady steps stopping at my door </li></ul><ul><li>my name bathrobe slippers </li></ul><ul><li>outside a 3 a.m. mist heavy </li></ul><ul><li>as a breath full of whiskey </li></ul><ul><li>stop it go home come inside </li></ul><ul><li>mama if he comes here again </li></ul><ul><li>I’ll call the police </li></ul><ul><li>6 </li></ul><ul><li>“ You’re too soft . . . always were. </li></ul><ul><li>You’ll get nothing but shit. </li></ul><ul><li>Baby, don’t count on nobody.” </li></ul><ul><li>--a mother’s wisdom. </li></ul><ul><li>Soft. I haven’t changed, </li></ul><ul><li>maybe grown more silent, cynical </li></ul><ul><li>on the outside. </li></ul><ul><li>“ O Mama, with what’s inside of me </li></ul><ul><li>I could wash that all away. I could.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ But Mama, if you’re good to them </li></ul><ul><li>they’ll be good to you back.” </li></ul><ul><li>Back. The freeway is across the street. </li></ul><ul><li>It’s summer now. Every night I sleep with a gentle man </li></ul><ul><li>to the hymn of mockingbirds, </li></ul><ul><li>and in time I plant geraniums. </li></ul><ul><li>I tie up my hair into loose braids, </li></ul><ul><li>and trust only what I have built </li></ul><ul><li>with my own hands. </li></ul>
    10. 10. Cervantes’s poetic approach <ul><li>“‘Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway’ is my direct response to all that falsified and romanticized portrayal of our history and culture.” </li></ul>