Lorna Dee Cervantes

Lorna Dee Cervantes read for the Everett Series on Tuesday, March 2 2010. She is an internationally acclaimed Chicana poet from San José, California. Her poetry has appeared in nearly 200 anthologies and textbooks, including The Norton Anthologies of Modern, American, English, Contemporary & Women's Poetry. The recipient of many honors, awards & literary fellowships, her first book, Emplumada, (Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1981) won an American Book Award; her second, From the Cables of Genocide: Poems on Love and Hunger, (Arte Público Press, 1991) won the Paterson Prize for Best Book of Poetry (judge-Hayden Carruth) and the Latino Literature Award. 

A fifth-generation Californian of Mexican and Native American (Chumasch) heritage, Lorna Dee Cervantes was a pivotal figure throughout the Chicano literary movement. On July 4th, 1976, she founded the influential small press & Chicano literary journal, MANGO Publications, which was the first to publish Sandra Cisneros, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Alberto Rios, Ray Gonzalez, Ronnie Burk, and Orlando Ramirez (co-editor). Cervantes and MANGO also championed the early work of writers Gary Soto, José Montoya, José Montalvo, José Antonio Burciaga, and her personal favorite, Luís Omar Salinas.

Cervantes is a dynamic poet whose work draws tremendous power from her struggles in the literary and political trenches. Her power is channeled by a keen intellect and careful craft, which allows her to explore the boundaries between language and experience.

Considered something of a Chicana / Native American legend in her own right, Cervantes has been on the cover of magazines like Bloomsbury Review, and was interviewed at length in the Michigan Quarterly Review (Fall 2003). Her poetry has appeared in literally hundreds of literary magazines.

Awarded a prestigious Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Award for her work, she founded and directed "Floricanto Colorado," showcasing Xicano & Xicana literature in Denver and surrounding school districts, which, among other events, helped to bring about the proclamation of "Abelardo 'Lalo' Delgado Day in Denver." The recipient of two NEA Fellowship Grants for poetry, several California and Colorado State grants, and a Pushcart Prize for Best Poem, she was recently a finalist for Poet Laureate of Colorado, along with Reg Saner and Mary Crow, who holds the position.

Cervantes holds an A.B.D. in the History of Consciousness. She was previously Associate Professor of English at the University of Colorado in Boulder and is currently completing her book of literary nonfiction, I Know Why the Quetzals Die: An Education. She is presently confounded by the prospect of peddling her screenplay, Pigmeat: The Life and Times of Memphis Minnie, a 20-year project, to Oprah. (Any leads? Agents don't "do" poets.

Her heart belongs in San Francisco, the Mission of her birth. Her first collection of poetry to appear in 15 years is Drive: The First Quartet (Wings Press, 2006). [Bio from Wings Press Website.]