Edith Vasquez


This article offers a critical retrospective of Lorna Dee Cervantes, the Chicana/Chumash poet as a literary analytical overview of her most recent work collected in the multi-volume poetry collection, Drive: The First Quartet (Wings Press, 2006). It offers an assessment of Cervantes’s impact on the development of Chicana poetry and its articulation of social change, women’s empowerment, critical consciousness, and poetic innovation. Having emerged from performance poetry festivals in her early career, Cervantes went on to develop a signature poetics and to produce a number of canonical poems such as, “Uncle’s First Rabbit,” “Under the Shadow of the Freeway,” “Poem to the Young White Man Who Asked How I an Intelligent, Well-Read Person Could Believe in the War Between Races,” her tour de force, “Pleiades from the Cables of Genocide,” among others. Along with being an activist, editor, publisher, and philosopher, Cervantes has previously published two award-winning books of poetry, Emplumada (U. of Pittsburgh, 1981) and From the Cables of Genocide: Poems on Love and Hunger (Arte Público, 1992). Cervantes’s formation of a body of writing documenting and memorializing genocide is the central theme of this article, a theme which Cervantes with an daunting poetic vision and voice, urges her readers to consider as the central theme of poetry, society, and history. Intrinsic to her commitment to human rights which she articulates within poetic form, is her valorization of girls and women from working-class, mestizo, and indigenous communities who face and overcome ethnocide, racism, and economic and gender violence.

Author Biography

Edith Morris-Vásquez is Assistant Professor of English and World Literature at Pitzer College. She publishes in the fields of Chicana literature, and American poetry, and has recently published an article on the 2006 immigration megamarch in Los Angeles for the Journal of Latino and Latin American Studies.