Remember high school English classes?
That was my first introduction to poetry. Old poets. Lot’s of ‘thee’s and thou’s,” and too much Old English stuff.
I was a studious person, more logical than emotional, so many poems went over my head.
That was until I went to college, in the mid ’70’s. It was an eyeopener when I read the profound words of contemporary poets Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni, who spoke of racism and the strength of women.
I found only two Chicano/Mexican American poets, both male: Alurista and the political activist, Rudulfo “Corky” Gonzales.
Yo Soy Joaquin, I am Joaquin, gripped me from the beginning.
This bilingual poem, published in 1967, summarized Mexican and Mexican American history, from the exploitation of the natives through colonial times, to the present. The poem served as a nationalist ideology for political activism, using the historical events of the 19th Century social rebel, Joaquin Murrieta.
The poem was groundbreaking, revitalizing, and began a social movement. Since it is several pages long, here’s an excerpt from the middle of the poem:
I am Joaquin.
I rode with Pancho Villa,
crude and warm, a tornado at full strength,
nourished and inspired by the passion and the fire of all his earthy people.
I am Emiliano Zapata.
“This land, this earth is OURS.”
The villages, the mountains, the streams
belong to Zapatistas.
Our life or yours is the only trade for soft brown earth and maize.
All of which is our reward,
a creed that formed a constitution
for all who dare live free!
“This land is ours . . .
Father, I give it back to you.
Mexico must be free. . . .”
I ride with revolutionists
I am the Rurales,
coarse and brutal,
I am the mountian Indian,
superior over all.
The thundering hoof beats are my horses. The chattering machine guns
are death to all of me:
I have been the bloody revolution,
You can read the entire epic poem here.
In the 80’s and ’90’s, I fell in love with poems and novels by Sandra Cisneros. My love affair with Ms. Cisneros’ work is well documented on my blog. For me, her poems in “Wicked, Wicked Ways” and “Loose Woman,” spanned the politics of women.
Ms. Cisneros is my ‘she-ro.’ My favorite poem is “You Bring Out the Mexican In Me.”
It’s also fairly long, so I’ll print one of her short poems:
Black Lace Bra Kind of Woman
Watchale! She’s a black lace bra
kind of woman, the kind who serves
up suicide with every kamikazi
poured into neon blue of evening
A tease and a twirl. I’ve seen that
two-step girl in action. I’ve gambled bad
odds and sat shotgun as she rambled
her ’59 Pontiac between the blurred
lines dividing sense from senselessness
Ruin your clothes, she will.
Get you home after hours
driving her ’59 seventy five on 35
like there is no tomorrow.
Woman zydeco-ing into her own decade.
Thirty years pleated behind her like
the wail of a San Antonio accordion.
And now the good times are coming. Girl,
I tell you, the good times are here.
From LOOSE WOMAN, 1994 pg. 78
Until next week, thanks for reading.