Published on January 24, 2013 by Amy
Lorna Dee Cervantes (b. August 6, 1954, in San Francisco, California) is an award-winning Chicana, Native American (Chumash), feminist, activist poet who is considered one of the major Chicana poets of the past 40 years. She has been described by Alurista, as “probably the best Chicana poet active today.” Lorna Dee Cervantes was born in 1954 in California. She grew up in San Jose, speaking English exclusively. This was strictly enforced by her parents, who allowed only English to be spoken at home by her and her brother. This was to avoid the racism that was occurring in her community at that time. Lorna Dee Cervantes was an associate professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder until 2007. She considers herself “a Chicana writer, a feminist writer, a political writer” (Cervantes). Her collections of poetry, Emplumada, From the Cable of Genocide, Drive: The First Quartet and Ciento: 100 100-Word Love Poems are held in high esteem and have attracted numerous nominations and awards. She is currently the Regents Lecturer at UC Berkeley, California for the 2011/12 year. In an interview conducted by Sonia V. Gonzalez, the poet states that through writing and publishing, “I was trying to give back that gift that had saved me when I discovered, again, African-American women’s poetry. I was having this vision of some little Chicana in San Antonio going, scanning the shelves, like I used to do, scanning the shelves for women’s names, or Spanish surnames, hoping she’ll pull it out, relate to it. So it was intentionally accessible poetry, intended to bridge that gap, that literacy gap.” Cervantes was actively involved in the publication of numerous Chicana/o writers from the 1970s onwards when she produced her own Chicana/o literary journal,MANGO “which was the first to publish Sandra Cisneros, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Alberto Rios, Ray Gonzalez, Ronnie Burk, and Orlando Ramírez. Cervantes and MANGO also championed the early work of writers Gary Soto, José Montoya, José Montalvo, José Antonio Burciaga, and her personal favourite, Luís Omar Salinas”
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Cervantes regularly gives poetry readings, work shops and guest lectures across the US. She was part of the Librotraficate Movement. The 2012 Librotraficante Caravan to Tucson was intended to smuggle books back into the hands of our youth, after they were boxed up and carted out of class rooms during class time, in order to comply with Arizona House Bill 2281. Cervantes delivered a moving speech to the Movement’s supporters outside of the Alamo in March 2012.
The poet was one of seven featured writers to give a reading at the American Literature Association Conference held in San Francisco in May 2012. Ciento: 100 100 Word Love Poems was nominated for a Northern California Book Award in 2012 under the poetry category.