Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Poem: Lorna Dee Cervantes

Lorna Dee Cervantes
One of the poets whose work appears in the PINTURA: PALABRA portfolio is Lorna Dee Cervantes (1954-). A major late 20th and early 21st century American poet, Cervantes has long been a leading figure in Chicano/a and Latinx literature. Her first book, Emplumada (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1981), which explored her upbringing and experiences as a Chicana growing up in California, and dealt with themes of self-recognition and self-expression, familial and other forms of violence, and the development of a feminist vision, received considerable praise and won the 1982 American Book Award, bringing her to wider attention. She has gone on to receive numerous other awards and publish four more volumes of poetry, found several literary journals, and teach, both inside the university system (she was a professor at the University of Colorado for nearly 20 years) and outside it. Throughout Cervantes has remained an advocate for

Her PINTURA: PALABRA poem that I reproduce here is entitled "Night Magic (Blue Jester)." It carries the epigram "After Federico García Lorca," but it was not until I started to read it that I recalled the great Spanish poet Federico García Lorca's (1898-1936) poem "Romance Sonámbulo," with its opening gambit of repetition, "Verde que te quiero verde. / Verde viento. Verdes ramas," or in English, "Green, how I want you green. / Green wind. Green branches," and the subsequent dreamscape threaded through with dark and disturbing elements. If this is the García Lorca poem she had in mind, Cervantes begins by riffing on the Spanish poem's repetition and its citation of color, García Lorca's green becoming her blue, a direct response to the dominant color in the late Chicano artist Carlos Almaraz's (1941-1989) painting, from which the poem draws its title.

All these "blues" produce a kind of blues, embedding them in a dreamscape that is akin to but distinct from García Lorca's and Almazar's, yet also in conversation with both, especially the latter, an urban night scene in which the Blue Jester's magical, looming presence sparks and channels the positive and negative associations and events Cervantes details in her poem. The poem's syntax and pacing allow no stasis; the prevailing mood is one of anxiety, coupled with awe. The incantatory cadences feel especially appropriate to the dream-space that the painting and poem present, and also have echoes, particularly in the rhymes and swift shifts in imagery, of popular songs, spoken word poetry and hiphop. The effect is a poem that feels both very contemporary and out(side) of time, that is substantial and yet as evanescent as dreams or nightmares; as the poem reminds us at the end, after our journey through this world, the night, the dream, the poem itself "blew."


By Lorna Dee Cervantes

   After Federico García Lorca

Blue that I love you
Blue that I hate you
Fat blue in the face
Disgraced blue that I erase
You lone blue
Blue of an alien race
Strong blue eternally graced
Blue that I know you
Blue that I choose you
Crust blue
Chunky blue
Moon blue glows that despise
You — idolize you
Blue and the band disappears
Blue of the single left dog
Blue of the eminent red fog
Blue that I glue you to me
You again and again blue
Blue blue of the helium
Bubble of  loveloss
Blue of  the whirlwind
The blue being again
Blue of the endless rain
Blue that I paint you
Blue that I knew you
Blue of  the blinking lights
Blue of  the landing at full tilt
Blue of  the wilt
Flower of  nightfall
Blue of  the shadow
In yellowed windows
Blue of the blown
And broken glass
Blue of the Blue Line
Underlines in blue
Blue of the ascending nude
Blue before the blackness
Of  new blue of our winsome
Bedlam Blue of the blue
Bed alone: blue of the one
Who looks on blue of what
Remains of cement fall
Blue of the vague crescent
Ship sailing blue of the rainbow
Of  wait blue that I whore
You — blue that I adore you
Blue of the bluest door
Blue my painted city
In blue (it blew.)

You can read the rest of the PINTURA : PALABRA portfolio in the March 2016 issue of Poetry. All images in this portfolio are courtesy of and with permission from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Night Magic (Blue Jester) by Carlos Almaraz, gift of Gloria Werner © 1988, Carlos Almaraz Estate. Source: Poetry (March 2016)

Night Magic (Blue Jester), 1988, by Carlos Almaraz

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