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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

15. Poetry of Liberation

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- John Ashberry
- Amiri Baraka
- Lorna Dee Cervantes
- Allen Ginsberg
- Joy Harjo
- Audre Lorde
- Sylvia Plath
- Adrienne Rich
- Gary Snyder
- James Wright
- Suggested
•  Timeline
•  Activities

Authors: Lorna Dee Cervantes (b. 1954)

Cover of Chicanas Speak Out
[7084] Mirta Vidal, Cover of Chicanas Speak Out (1971), courtesy of Duke University.

Lorna Dee Cervantes Activities
This link leads to artifacts, teaching tips and discussion questions for this author.
Cervantes was born in San Francisco and is of Mexican descent. Sensitive to the racial and ethnic prejudice she might encounter growing up in San Jose, her parents insisted that she speak only English both in and outside the home. She graduated from San Jose State College and for many years supported herself by writing and publishing. Cervantes founded and published a journal, Mango, which featured the work of Latino poets; she also wrote two volumes of poetry. Currently, she teaches at the University of Colorado at Boulder and is co-editor of Red Dirt, a cross-cultural poetry journal.

Both her Mexican heritage and her feminism inform Cervantes's writing. Her poetry celebrates her Mexican heritage, but it is also harshly critical of machismo and male dominance in Chicano culture and celebratory of specifically female oral traditions. She sometimes implicitly compares Euro-American dominance of Chicano people and lands with Chicano men's domination of women. Just as men and women are often at odds in her bilingual poems, English and Spanish words seem to battle on the page for space and prominence. Some poems imagine fantastical escapes from such conflict--an entirely female family, for example, or an uninhabited land. Images of birds and migration appear often in her work, particularly in her first book, Emplumada (1981), the title of which is a play on Spanish words connoting a bird's plumage and a writer's pen. In From the Cables of Genocide: Poems on Love and Hunger (1991), Cervantes uses symbols from nature to explore romantic and familial love. Her affinity for nature and landscape lend her work a unique delicacy and beauty that sometimes belie its political and social messages.

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