Other Musics: New Latina Poetry

Other Musics: New Latina Poetry

by Cynthia Cruz

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Latina poets occupy an important place in today’s literary landscape. Coming from diverse backgrounds, they share an understanding of what it means to exist within the margins of society. As artists, they possess a dedication to their craft and a commitment to experimentation. Their voices—sometimes lyrical, sometimes autobiographical, sometimes politically charged—are distinctly female. Whereas previous anthologies have merged the works of Latino and Latina poets, this collection is the first to showcase Latina poetry on its own terms.

For years readers have admired the poetry of prominent Latina authors Cherríe Moraga, Ana Castillo, and Sandra Cisneros. Building on their inspirational legacy, Other Musics heralds a new generation of Latina poets whose work blends traditional forms and styles with postmodern innovations. These poets do not fit neatly into one category. They come from all walks of life, from remarkably varied class, ethnic, occupational, and educational backgrounds. Their topics and concerns are wide-ranging. All of the poets, according to volume editor Cynthia Cruz, are creating “a new kind of music,” one that embraces the “in-between” and bicultural world that Latina women must constantly straddle.

The fifteen poets featured in this anthology are Desirée Alvarez, Karen Bradway, Xochiquetzal Candelaria, Diana Maria Delgado, Natalie Diaz, Carolina Ebeid, Sandy Florian, Carrie Fountain, Leticia Hernández-Linares, Ada Limón, Sheryl Luna, Kristin Naca, Deborah Paredez, Emmy Pérez, and Carmen Giménez Smith. Along with an ample selection of each of their poetry, Other Musics features an artist statement by each poet, in which she discusses her work, her writing practice, how she became a writer, and her views on the purpose and mission of poetry in the contemporary world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780806163369
Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
Publication date: 04/25/2019
Series: Chicana and Chicano Visions of the Américas Series , #22
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 220
File size: 6 MB

About the Author

Cynthia Cruz is the author of five collections of poetry: Dregs, How the End Begins, Wunderkammer, The Glimmering Room, and Ruin. A recipient of fellowships from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, she teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

Read an Excerpt


Desirée Alvarez

Small Model of Mexican Ruin

All the sculptures, I would see with their eyes.
Across the centuries give me fox eyes,
iguana eyes, tortoise eyes. Eyes of eagle,
panther, jaguar, beetle. To be animal, to notice the air shift at master's approach. To smell the boar slaughtered in rain. To know who were the Indians before the Spanish came.
Being of both sides, being of color.
Passing skeleton, fragile building of woman.

The Art of Bell Ringing

At his life's end, Roosevelt wears his greatcoat for his last meeting with the king.

Old snow in the diorama in Diekirch never melts.
Soldiers in white bed sheets push the boat night after night to the river crossing.

What is forgiveness. A smoking mirror in the war museum, a yellow field of rapeseed spreading.

I no longer want to know the human names of things.
Children picnicking in woods under big trees find the piles of metal helmets,

even boots with the tibiae of soldiers still inside.
They take home a basket full of bones.

Brancusi will not return to work at his anvil, carve oak,
broil steak at the stove he built. In his Paris studio on a wooden bench rests the marble oval of a face.

On the Hudson River the boy writes his mother —
I am in a great hurry. I found two birds' nests. I took one egg.

Early Explorer's Journal

When they disembarked, the sound of wild birds was deafening.
Of course, they would have to be killed.

When I cannot imagine the unimaginable I know that somewhere someone can,
ruthlessly, passionate.

In the laboratory the young pigeon looks into the cage's mirror to become female.
This is the meaning of beauty.

I bought a cage and drew a pair of eyes to put inside, hanging from the perch.
I look at it for hours.

Prophecy of opposites: they cause each other.
If a thing becomes worse, once it was better.
How freedom can be understood.

Great-grandfather called all the birds to him sitting in the garden, blind and listening.


When I was the warrior my hair hung blackly below my knees.
I studied the service that is the blue holding the sky.
At sixteen I shed the turban, cut my tress and gave it to mother to wear.
She will know what to do when it's coiled at the back of her head.
What is hard is hacking off the face from desire.
I was moving between two camps.
I have stayed too long in places unvisited by monsoon.
In all my time here I've seen only one cat.
I remove my hands from the wire hive of sleep.
I am afraid of myself.
I always leave the lights on in my chandelier.
After many hours flaming, my body begins to shake with the thousand bulbs.
I dip them in the sweet water of burn where every night my steel knife puts the river to sleep.

The Trouble Is That We Make Night

But there was a kind of startled garden.
The smell of petals rising and leaves setting.

Even in perpetual dark, flowers.
The taste of fennel rushes in.

We sell the coal forgotten in the cellar to buy a horse, swindler seeds and glass

to build a trellis of unknown conduct and custody.

We will go on saying and doing terrible things.
Love, address the five senses

from your greenhouse walls.
Bid each farewell as you put them down.

Rest their bodies, lithe,
where there is space enough for both of us.


In the city spring burns its way out of me any way it can. Mother, I've made a list of all the lovely things you've done for me so I can remember when I leave you.
The tiny fields of mandrake, the violet lawn of fleabane where the deer stares with enormous splayed ears. Up high along the cliff live the animals with spikes who climb the hickory trees. I could go anytime now and it would not be about the afterlife.
I will not be limited to truth. My mouth will be hard against your forehead.

The Order in Which Things Are Broken

Ancients threw the masks down the cenote —
the faces smashed first in little ways before the long drop, an eye or an ear broken, a mouth snapped in half. Then, lifted from the well, two thousand years later, still grinning and golden. The loose spooling of two people fast unravels — how we let go of time spent,
how heat fades, how a body forgets fully what it knew.
I have learned your face as you will never.
The third day we met you gave me all your secrets until I held an ocean in a cradle. Now all I ask for is more.


I do not need to ask the monk how it is on the edge of a sword, I know misfortune —

the white horn plunged in the horse's breast slowly rinsing the world in frost. The garden

evolves, an animal dissolves, I long for all I let go. Ice queenly, I apologize to absence

and it follows me, listening carefully like a blanket in a cradle. April, we wrapped the

sugared beans in pink rice with salted cherry leaf to swallow spring and keep it longer.

But when your hands leave me I know the time between now and the daffodil's yellow gun

firing at the late-day sky. After you're gone I carry my body about, bells in my mouth.

The Piñata Maker

Quetzalcoatl dries out in the many suns of Valladolid,
the dragon's body of Mexican newspaper stretches to both ends of the little porch.

Inside the orange row house the bodies of donkeys and bears swing from the ceiling hooks.
A boy wraps wet paper ribbons around a waist that will be a mermaid's.
Next door the carnicería's caged white rabbits and chickens blink in the twilight before dinner.


Attention is the most I can give.
I remember where I came from.
A greasy metal scepter hammered in a dark garage.
I have been here before, standing in the cold workplaces of men.
A buck head, the lone beige high heel impaled on the wall.
Back when I didn't know I'd never know childbirth.
The few things I can do for a car. Tie up the muffler. Oil change. Body work.
The photographer addicted to not missing anything.
Thick-coated outdoor dog gnawing.
I saw the limp from the machine that crushed his leg,
not the acres of melons grandfather picked.
The single time I met him he sat with pride outside his trailer,
squinting under an aqua sombrero of straw.
The moment to have back would be that one, to make sure of the color of his eyes.


Karen Bradway

Truman Capote's Picture Book(excerpt)I. Childhood

Arch Persons

Riverboat gambler in a white linen suit.

Hotel New Orleans

Her leaving with all of her amethysts. Scent of Paris, scent of lime.

Fluorescent cities floating by on rafts ...

Laughter in the hall,
the click of the lock,
and then an awful silence.

All night long,
her laughter rolling around like dice in his head.

Bride's Fruitcake

Fruitcake, to Southerners, is a birthright —
Blanched almond meats. Citron.
Candied cherries &
Monroeville, Alabama's own Specialty All-Purpose White Flour.

Lots of butter.

Sook handing him,
cracking open the eggs
(her boat-like tennis shoes ...)
Truman brushing corn syrup across the top like a king!

Dark Fruitcake is a Groom's Cake,

boxed and be-ribboned,
cut into pieces for departing guests.

Under your pillow:
sultana and dark rum dreams.

Pecans green and fat as a snowy wood.

He himself surmising
— even as a boy —
Not that kind of groom.

Truman and Sook

in the kitchen,
cutting pictures out of magazines.

Some are too beautiful to even cut!

Next, paste them to kites,
add some glue for shine,
and fly them all day long ...

His sharp-toothed,
silvery night tiger!

Her foolish, sober-looking hare.

II. Later
(Shared) Moments with Warhol

Two watercolor butterflies,
— one pink, one yellow —
Crawling across the glass.

Holcomb, Kansas (1959) I

Whereby Capote started to write like a Real Man. Got fiber.

Then got fat.

Holcomb, Kansas (1959) II

In which Richard Hickock and Perry Smith cut the throat of a nation oblivious as the Clutters.
Nancy out riding her strawberry stallion.

A cherry pie literally cooling on the shelf.

Perry Smith

Serial cupid. Changeling with blue-cat-tattoo on the road with Dick —
A study in root beer, compulsive self-help, pretty pictures of Jesus,
and bottles of aspirin.

His trunk of dreams growing heavier and heavier ...

Sequined maps of Mexico.

Cities glimmering like lost jewels: Oaxaca,
Acapulco, Tijuana,
Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara —
Their baroque, Catholic,
pirate-like, Day-of-the-Dead glory. Or Hollywood pleasures,
get-rich schemes in the Yucatan ...

The whole South ringing like a red-hot bell —
(broken guitars, bits of wave and song)
When they finally hanged him,
his impossibly small feet dangling

Party of the Century (1966)

— Plaza Hotel, NYC

Late night chicken hash,
Spaghetti Bolognese,
and Vietnam blazing.

Very many pretty people tripping up the starry stairs.

Truman in dime store mask with gala martini:
sheiks, generals, and soaked brunettes.

Oscar de La Renta and his wife in suit and gown,
graciously nodding their giant furry cat heads.

Beneath the long-armed chandeliers:
talk bitingly dull.

Row after row of small creamy white hearts.


Xochiquetzal Candelaria


A wood wasp, slow and alone, bangs into the glass before falling to the pane again and again.

They come in from a crack in the pipe and head for the window,
where someone might wait for your return in one text, or kill you if you return in another.

Five, six, seven, eight —
the last of the wood wasps escapes for now

and a slate blue butterfly lands.
It might be injured or resting ...

This morning instead of rising,
I think of buffalo stampedes,
ribbons drifting from wires to drown out

the television audible in the courtyard:
car crashes, explosions giving way to a jingle about hotdogs.

At dinner someone comments how we're all descended from a few good men

which appears to support the theory of a few bad apples and I think of rules, exceptions and hunger.

How we multiply and cancel as in one day you have a subscription, a father, a pension.

How somali pirates found —
after the fishing schools died down —
a haul in humans.
(Only the fast and swift can cut lines of Bermuda rigged, long keeled, yachts.)

All the little zeros humming as sailing insurance premiums rise as I write this and recall how it is harder for a computer to understand a question than to answer it.

Is the littlest one old enough to stand by himself on the inclined sidewalk as he peers at the translucent condom blown into a balloon?

His sister only inches taller with braids dangling to her waist asking her big brother why they can't touch it, send it sailing into the air?

The oldest weighing no more than a couple sacks of potatoes,
batting the smaller hands away ...
His dark eyes perplexed by sidewalk trash.

I wish he could see the ocean,
wade into the shallows while adults hold out their arms to all the little hands

plashing at the sun's silver shavings swimming toward each other like music.

I wish he could close his eyes and listen for the question fluttering out the window of his chest.

Surrender #4
Take Notice, Take Nothing

For millennials Residue of radioactive salt streaked along the counter.

She starts to gather dead bees before her eyes burn and tear

as the wreckage cools ...
We line up, we wait ...

for the carnival ride to begin spinning again.

How long have we been blasting the buzzing mountains?

The dark?

New buildings lean toward the sea
(an optical illusion some say)
like peace, democracy.

We used to think in terms of moving on.

Now the train station might as well be a hospital ward where a barefoot boy dances by himself at the end of the platform.

But even before this,
there were signs

of compressed heat,
an absence in the swell.

Did they tell us to sell the parks,
libraries, estuaries?

Did they tell us our lives were best kept private

so the bees wouldn't be missed?

Did legislators pawn the dawn and the signature of trees,

and did we openly greet hurricanes

name them: Cindy, Susan, Sheryl-Anne as if we could sexualize what we had tampered with?

What about a night so clear,
a milk so blue?

Fresh bread, steam spreading the smell of butter and tomato,

a chair made by a father and kept for a great, great grandchild?

A pair of worn brown shoes at the threshold.

Surrender #6
In mist from this distance,
in sleep,

involved in French,
in light of Voltaire

and imagination,
in wolfish hunger,

in public places, in faces of camels, in two days' work,

in control of nothing,
in the coolness of morning,

in film X in which a boy shares his soup,

in thinking of jawbones, wild irises,
books on choreography,

in faith, gestations, rivermouths,
in winter caravans,

in whisperings of leaves: love, love, love.

Signature of Trees

Out they came, in droves, propagating the plaza with cranes of laughter, whistle trains.
Girls to one side, boys to the other weaving toward each other like thread.
The moment when a public place reaches its socratic perfection. The gated community miles away. Downy arms of comadres
looped together, pink and gold heels clicking cobblestones like silver shivers down a young boy's legs. One girl seems content to spend all afternoon seated drawing ears (some bare, others bedecked in a fine filigree) as if each can hear the trio that has just started to play.


A moment left to linger over an eyelash on my index finger:
a partial parenthetical, a swoosh:
Light on dust motes reaching for my baby's face turned toward my breast,

his lower lip suckling air.

On the nightstand,
a little tube of teething gel looks like a little tube of anti-fungal cream.

No one at the door but the sun like infection,

like a song of shedding,

as muscles twitch nerves whistle

for the grubbing at my chest.

Who remembers how his mother opened channels

for the milk to come down?
How she slathered, whispered,

pulled coins from her pocket,

mindful of the male faces in various degrees of tarnish.

Who kept the faces of those men in the shallows of goose bumped arms,

close enough to count eyelashes?

The art of loving titrated down to drool.


Excerpted from "Other Musics"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Cynthia Cruz.
Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction, by Cynthia Cruz,
Desirée Alvarez,
Small Model of Mexican Ruin,
The Art of Bell Ringing,
Early Explorer's Journal,
The Trouble Is That We Make Night,
The Order in Which Things Are Broken,
The Piñata Maker,
Karen Bradway,
Truman Capote's Picture Book (excerpt),
I. Childhood,
Arch Persons,
Hotel New Orleans,
Bride's Fruitcake,
Dark Fruitcake is a Groom's Cake,,
Truman and Sook,
II. Later,
(Shared) Moments with Warhol,
Holcomb, Kansas (1959) I,
Holcomb, Kansas (1959) II,
Perry Smith,
Party of the Century (1966),
Xochiquetzal Candelaria,
Surrender #4: Take Notice, Take Nothing,
Surrender #6,
Signature of Trees,
The Rains,
Diana Marie Delgado,
Desire Is a Road,
Little Swan, Waiting,
The Sea Is Farther Than Thought,
Lucky You,
Trampled Sleep,
Padded Satin, Other Suggestions,
In the Starlight of an Arrest,
Natalie Diaz,
When My Brother Was an Aztec,
Downhill Triolets,
Top Ten Reasons Why Indians Are Good at Basketball,
No More Cake Here,
Carolina Ebeid,
Ghazal over Waves,
Polaroid: Sandy Hook Beach, NJ, 1984,
Dead Dead Darlings,
In Lieu of Flowers,
All Those Gorgeous Feelings,
La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc,
Punctum / Sawing a Woman in Half,
Sandy Florian,
Good Inversions,
The Deaf-Mute,
The Artisan of Persuasion,
Serious Tinkering,
Flog to Death,
An Unlucky Influence,
Carrie Fountain,
Time to Be the Fine Line of Light,
The End of the Year,
Poem without an Image,
Aubade of the Three-Day Weekend,
Masha Eventually,
Christmas Morning in a Hotel Room,
Carmen Giménez Smith,
Be Recorder (excerpt),
My Brother Is a Savior,
Dispatch from Midlife,
Leticia Hernández-Linares,
Diamond Girl y La Spazz,
Flowers for My Fathers,
Ada Limón,
This Practice,
What It Looks Like to Us and the Words We Use,
The New World of Beauty,
How to Triumph Like a Girl,
I Remember the Carrots,
Sheryl Luna,
Small Defiant Gods,
Kitchen of Grief,
Universal Kiss,
Woman as a River between Borders,
Crazy Ted Talks to La Virgen de Guadalupe,
River Ghost,
La Mano Negra,
Kristin Naca,
The White Light,
Soneto de Silueta,
A Rest by Flight,
Why Being on Fire Is for Everyone,
Girar Also Means Spin,
Key Changes, Accidental,
Sweet Nothings,
Deborah Paredez,
Blue and Full of Stars,
Year of the Dog,
The Wheel,
Emmy Pérez,
The River on Our Face,
Green Light Go,
Poets' Notes and Comments,
Publication Credits,
Photograph Credits,

Customer Reviews