Maya Angelou, Mexican History, poetry, Poetry Month, poets, Sandra Cisneros, Social Justice, Strength

Poetry on Wednesdays-Political Poetry

Poetry and Politics-JFK quote. alvaradofrazier.com
Poetry and Politics-JFK quote. alvaradofrazier.com

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 
against myself. 
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: 
Yaqui 
Tarahumara 
Chamala 
Zapotec 
Mestizo 
Español. 
I have been the bloody revolution, 
The victor, 
The vanquished. 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AROHO, Chingonas, Dreams, Goals, How to be a Chingona, Travel, Uncategorized, Writing

Ghost Ranch, Greek Myths, and Writing

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Sunset over Sandstone at Ghost Ranch. Gettyimages.

My bags aren’t packed yet for my trip tomorrow to Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico, because one of the kids beat me to the washing machine this morning. I’m not stressing though because I am still drifting on a dream.

Last January I thought about my goals for the year. The intention word to myself was “Create.” To make the word more concrete, I found and filled out a printable called “Roadmap to My Dreams.”  In the area “bravery is a matter of belief, and I believe I can…” I listed “…submit my writing for a fellowship, contest, anthology, or magazine.”

In a matter of days I came across the website for A Room Of Her Own (AROHO): A Foundation for Women Writers. One of my writing buddies, Florencia, attended in 2012 and talked about her life changing experiences.  Applications for fellowships would close in three weeks. The chatter in my head kept me thinking about this challenge. There are thousands of writers who would love to attend a weeklong retreat filled with writers, poets, and published authors leading workshops. Should I or shouldn’t I submit for a fellowship.

I reminded myself of Sandra Cisneros’ “How To Be A Chingona in 10 Easy Steps.

Step One: Live for your own approval. Center yourself. Be alone. Create your own space.

There was that word again: Create. That is just what I needed to recharge myself. I submitted my application with a 10 page writing sample and was accepted. Writing is usually lonely and acknowledgements don’t come as often as rejection letters, so honestly, this award surprised the s*it out of me.

As a double bonus, I will be at Ghost Ranch during the peak time for the Perseid meteor showers. This display is named after the constellation Perseus, the hero of ancient Greek myth born from a shower of celestial gold. For three or four nights the sky will be pelted with shooting stars and fireballs.

The big city dweller that I am, I’ve never seen more than one shooting star before. But I can imagine that the expansive New Mexican sky will be sprinkled with brilliant heavenly dust. I’ll thank the stars, the universe, and God for giving me this experience, this impetus to move forward and keep writing.

Perseids Meteor Shower. Getty images.
Perseids Meteor Shower. Getty images.