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Emplumada (Pitt Poetry Series)

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Cervantes' first collection is an extremely mature book. The poems are lyrical and well crafted; images recur and build upon one another as the book progresses. Personal but never confessional, she hold emotion in check."--Library Journal Cervantes' first collection is an extremely mature book. The poems are lyrical and well crafted; images recur and build upon one another as the book progresses. Personal but never confessional, she hold emotion in check."--Library Journal


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Cervantes' first collection is an extremely mature book. The poems are lyrical and well crafted; images recur and build upon one another as the book progresses. Personal but never confessional, she hold emotion in check."--Library Journal Cervantes' first collection is an extremely mature book. The poems are lyrical and well crafted; images recur and build upon one another as the book progresses. Personal but never confessional, she hold emotion in check."--Library Journal

30 review for Emplumada (Pitt Poetry Series)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Erinallisonhurt

    This is Cervantes's first collection of poems, published in 1981 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Most critical work about Cervantes focuses on this first collection, in which many of the poems describe Cervantes's experiences growing up in San Jose. Some of her most anthologized work, like "Poem for the Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, an Intelligent, Well-Read Person Could Believe in the War Between Races, "Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway," and "Visions of Mexico While at a Writing This is Cervantes's first collection of poems, published in 1981 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Most critical work about Cervantes focuses on this first collection, in which many of the poems describe Cervantes's experiences growing up in San Jose. Some of her most anthologized work, like "Poem for the Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, an Intelligent, Well-Read Person Could Believe in the War Between Races, "Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway," and "Visions of Mexico While at a Writing Symposium in Port Townsend, Washington." Most critics choose to understand Cervantes's work as emerging from the historical moment when Chicana writers began to articulate their dissatisfaction with both the women's movement (feminism's second wave) and the Chicano Civil Rights movement. Both groups marginalized Chicana writers and their standpoints. Cervantes's poetry, which is mostly confessional and semi-autobiographical, often depicts and critiques the various oppressions that she saw around her as she came of age. Yet many of the poems in the book, almost half, are less explicitly "Chicana"--here, I mean Chicana in the sense of covering a certain set of themes (like Aztlan, the Spanish language, etc.). These less political poems deal instead with loss, grief, nature, and death. One of my favorites is called "Starfish." This poem, told in first person, follows a narrator whose fascination with the hundreds of starfish s/he finds on the beach stems from both the loveliness of the specimens as well as their impending death. Cervantes writes: "little martyrs, soldiers, artless suicides/In lifelong liberation from the sea." Cervantes is someone who often gets pigeon-holed as a Chicana poet (a term Cervantes is certainly proud to claim, by the way), but reading her collection in its entirety offers a more expansive understanding of what themes count as "Chicana," and what kind of writing counts as "political." Almost every poem in this collection feels rich with imagery, yet still manages to create a narrative. While these poems read quickly the first time through, many are compelling enough to warrant re-reading and unpacking.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Poems about social issues are at the heart of Lorna Dee Cervantes’ collection, Emplumada, works that remain just as powerful today as they were when they were written 40 years ago. By “powerful” I mean they are relevant, telling and heartbreaking in the way they lay bare the human experience of the working-class struggle, particularly that of Chicanos in California. Her eyes-wide-open descriptions of the issues of her day—racism, poverty, classism, sexism and abuse—stab slowly at the heart as sh Poems about social issues are at the heart of Lorna Dee Cervantes’ collection, Emplumada, works that remain just as powerful today as they were when they were written 40 years ago. By “powerful” I mean they are relevant, telling and heartbreaking in the way they lay bare the human experience of the working-class struggle, particularly that of Chicanos in California. Her eyes-wide-open descriptions of the issues of her day—racism, poverty, classism, sexism and abuse—stab slowly at the heart as she pens the lives of real humans on the page for us to see, understand and digest. We see her subjects clearly, including the awful things that happen to them and how they rise above them—or break. Some grow mean or defiant. Because we see them so clearly, we want the best for them; to see them succeed. Yet in these poems, good too rarely happens. Instead, the stories woven deftly through the poems show us how the world is set against her subjects in ways that are nearly impossible to overcome. Because these words still resonant so clearly, one realizes with another level of heartbreak that so little has changed in the four decades since these poems were published. Why is social change so difficult? Why have we evolved so little? Perhaps we should call what we’re chasing “social improvement” since humans resist “change” of any kind so diligently. The vivid details in the first poem in the book, Uncle’s First Rabbit, are among the strongest examples of Cervantes’ storytelling abilities. We follow the uncle as a 10-year-old boy through the Santa Barbara pines as he hunts a rabbit for his father’s supper. He daydreams of selling the rifle to take the first train out of town, far from this hideous deed. Instead, he shoots the rabbit only to be haunted for life by the dying animal’s cries, which to him sound “like a baby.” When his baby sister dies from his drunken father’s kick to the mother’s stomach before birth, it’s his mother who is keening, the act of wailing in grief for a dead person. These themes of violence and regret follow the uncle late into adulthood. His journey in Cervantes’ poem draws dread, grief, anger and sadness from the reader. The emotion feels very real. The poems should be read slowly to truly savor them in full. It’s like watching a movie where you can’t miss the time on the clock or white daisies surrounding the deceased woman’s head (much less a whole scene) if you want to truly understand the story. These poems are very visual and very detailed, and the details matter. Abuse and violence is another theme Cervantes takes on in this collection, which won her the American Book Award in 1982. In the poem Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway, we meet the strong yet sometimes broken women in her life, whom she portrays as survivors, queens and warriors. Her grandmother lived “twenty-five years with a man who tried to kill her.” Outside the narrator hears “glass bottles shattering” then, at her bedroom door, a man, “breath full of whiskey” at 3 a.m. calling her name. She reunites with a sweet friend from childhood and finds her with “blood in your eyes, blood in your mouth, blood pushing out of you in purple blossoms. He did this.” As the reader, you see it, you feel it, your heart is pounding. Some of her poems are gentle odes to love and nature while others paint the San Jose, California neighborhood where she grew up in precisely rendered strokes, the daughter of a Mexican mother and a Chumash father, although, from age 5, she was raised by her mother and maternal grandmother. Like many of her era, she wasn’t taught Spanish as a child, an approach her parents, and many parents, including mine, thought would protect her from the racism of those times, but instead left her feeling adrift in her own identity and culture. In Oaxaca, 1974, she is reviled and discounted in the heart of Mexico for not knowing the language. I didn’t ask to be brought up tonta! My name hangs around me like a loose tooth. The title seems to be a co-joining of two Spanish words, emplumado meaning feathered, as in after molting (and also winged) and plumada, which is the flourish of a pen stroke. This perfectly fits the book. She was 27 when it was published and remains one of Chicano literature’s most beloved and respected poets. Besides the American Book Award, she’s the winner of two Pushcart Prizes, the Patterson Prize for Poetry and many other honors. She’s read at the White House and The Library of Congress. The Chicano poet known as Alturista described her as “probably the best Chicana poet active today.” ✧

  3. 4 out of 5

    elise amaryllis

    4.7/5 this was an excellent poetry collection. they all feel like stories and are so full of images and sound so beautiful read aloud. i’m definitely planning on buying and re-reading this collection: i’ve reread many of the poems in this little book and come to love them more and more. i still don’t really know anything about poetry but these are so vivid and powerful and emotive. i saw a reviewer refer to this book as “dark, bloody, revealing poetry” and don’t see anything being more fitting. m 4.7/5 this was an excellent poetry collection. they all feel like stories and are so full of images and sound so beautiful read aloud. i’m definitely planning on buying and re-reading this collection: i’ve reread many of the poems in this little book and come to love them more and more. i still don’t really know anything about poetry but these are so vivid and powerful and emotive. i saw a reviewer refer to this book as “dark, bloody, revealing poetry” and don’t see anything being more fitting. my favorite poem in this book is probably “poem for the young white man who asked me how i, an intelligent, well-read person could believe in the war between races.” didn’t quote anything from it but it’s truly phenomenal. fav poems from this collection: - uncle’s first rabbit - lots II - meeting mescalito at oak hill cemetery - for virginia chavez - the prayer pressed between the waves - spiders - poem for the young white man who asked me how i, an intelligent, well-read person could believe in the war between races - this morning - beetles - before you go - for john on the cape - oranges - emplumada 5 quotes i loved: I am driven from this world, alive. I come to this world, in dreams. I’m an ugly woman, weedlike, elbowing my way through the perfect grass. The best of what I am is in the gravel behind the train yard where obsidian chips lodge in the rocks like beetles I burrow and glow I was a girl. I was juniper or magnolia, all violet and rage Marmots, foxfire, black rememberings in the scrub, now I remember our rusted buckets as we gathered sour apples in the winds, your long hair matting to silver and gold the shimmer of your teared eyes gone cold. Above the calm exterior of roses, spiders bloom fat with the afternoon buzzings. They are harmless. They are keeping the flies off my back porch. They have beautiful women drawn on their bodies. Their legs are ugly but useful; look what they leave in the dew. Look. With our arms holding each other’s waists, we walked the waking streets back to your empty flat, ignoring the horns and catcalls behind us, ignoring what the years had brought between us: my diploma and the bare bulb that always lit your bookless room

  4. 5 out of 5

    Naomi Ayala

    Revisiting these wonderful poems. The book won the 1982 American Book Award. A Latina, in the 80s, yup, and she's still around writing poetry and kicking butt. Revisiting these wonderful poems. The book won the 1982 American Book Award. A Latina, in the 80s, yup, and she's still around writing poetry and kicking butt.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eric Castro

    Surprising

  6. 4 out of 5

    Eva Sanchez

    I really loved the imagery and voice Lorna shared, would love to read more of her work. It inspired me. Love the use of the word: "Mescalito". I really loved the imagery and voice Lorna shared, would love to read more of her work. It inspired me. Love the use of the word: "Mescalito".

  7. 4 out of 5

    kathryn donovan

    File this under powerful female voices

  8. 5 out of 5

    R.K. Cowles

    2 1/4 stars

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ruthie Jones

    I only needed to read the following poems: "Uncle's First Rabbit," "Cannery Town in August," "Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway," "For Virginia Chavez," "Poem for the Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, an Intelligent, Well-Read Person Could Believe in the War Between Races" I'm not really in to "modern" poetry, but the imagery in these poems is very vivid, which I do like - even if the imagery is violent and negative. I like to read things that make my emotions run high (good and bad) - makes me I only needed to read the following poems: "Uncle's First Rabbit," "Cannery Town in August," "Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway," "For Virginia Chavez," "Poem for the Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, an Intelligent, Well-Read Person Could Believe in the War Between Races" I'm not really in to "modern" poetry, but the imagery in these poems is very vivid, which I do like - even if the imagery is violent and negative. I like to read things that make my emotions run high (good and bad) - makes me feel my blood pumping.

  10. 5 out of 5

    James

    I think it is unfortunate that the back cover description stamps the poems of this book as "remarkable for their surface clarity." While there is much gratification found in an initial surface read here, it is little compared to what one finds during a deep reading. Deceivingly subtle, these poems fit much more genuinely within that Emily Dickinson school of poetic intention, tell all the truth but tell it slant... I think it is unfortunate that the back cover description stamps the poems of this book as "remarkable for their surface clarity." While there is much gratification found in an initial surface read here, it is little compared to what one finds during a deep reading. Deceivingly subtle, these poems fit much more genuinely within that Emily Dickinson school of poetic intention, tell all the truth but tell it slant...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Najera

    Gorgeous collection of poetry. Her words are so clear, vivid and resonated so much with me as a young woman. Cervantes is surprisingly unknown for how beautiful her work is. This is quite possibly my favorite poetry anthology.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Miguel Vega

    "Racism is not intellectual. I can not reason these scars away." I read Emplumada first near the end of 2019 and around a year and a half later I finally have my own copy, and I did not know how much I needed this book again until now. "Racism is not intellectual. I can not reason these scars away." I read Emplumada first near the end of 2019 and around a year and a half later I finally have my own copy, and I did not know how much I needed this book again until now.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    Dark, bloody, revealing poetry. I love it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    poetry is not really my jam but this was fine

  15. 5 out of 5

    Felicia

    It's been quite a while since I've read this book. It brought back a lot of memories of college. It's been quite a while since I've read this book. It brought back a lot of memories of college.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Pascale

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jose Araguz

  18. 5 out of 5

    Aldric

  19. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

  20. 4 out of 5

    CherryRed’s Reads

    was very interesting book of poems. I like the vivid imagery!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lizz Huerta

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robert

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ann-Christine

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elise

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rosine

  27. 5 out of 5

    Winey Mommy

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jessi

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cameron LaFleur

  30. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Salazar

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