September 14th, 2007


Poetry Friday -- Lorna Dee Cervantes

Last winter I sat on a panel of judges for The Balcones Poetry Prize, sponsored by the college where I teach. We read more than 120 books of poetry -- all published in 2006 -- which makes me think it's not true, people saying, "Nobody publishes poetry anymore."  Which makes me glad. That it's not true, I mean.

I loved a lot of what I read, and I loved that it was my responsibility to sit and soak up poetry on certain chilly afternoons. With a hot chai in one hand and the dog at my feet. That is the kind of responsibility I much prefer to laundry.

The prize was awarded to Lorna Dee Cervantes for her weighty collection Drive: The First Quartet, which is really like five books in one -- written over a period of 25 years. So first of all, it's a massive undertaking. 300-some pages of poetry. I get a little weak just thinking about numbers like that. And then there's the breadth of styles and subject matter -- long, skinny poems in memory of David Kennedy... thick narratives about a barrio childhood... short, squat, spontaneous pieces that shine like beach glass buried in coarse sand. All the finalists were very fine, but this book was the right choice.

So yesterday, Ms. Cervantes came to give a reading at the college. I took my elder daughter with me and sat in the back of the theater and listened to poems about politics and poverty and love and rage. My daughter chewed her chocolate chip cookie and drew an elaborate picture of houses on stilts and I listened. 

If you'd like to hear her voice, here's a little snippet I found on YouTube....

If you'd prefer to just read, here's something for you, poetry and cat lovers alike:

Baby Doll Dress

How I hated those pasty faces
that drag of fray on the cuffs,
that cracked tear of the chipped glass,
staring, that fake blue of the sea.
All my dolls were naked, stripped
of their mute and crippled artiface.
And the grey cats were gleaming
in their lace and buttoned collars,
in their bonny bonnets & braided silk trimmings.
What elegant teas we had, hunger
our only mistress of manners,
seated like Mad Hatters, my tuna-
tamed tigers and I.

book cover

Plotting Problems?

Tough time sorting out where to go next with your plot? 
What to do with your characters? 
At logger-heads with your editor?

Check this out. It is just too hilarious not to link to.