Revealing New Identities


April 29th, 2015

Revealing New Identities: Cisneros And Her Country

    It has been the duty for American writers, both past and present, to evolve and “[establish] and [discover] our national identity” through their own vernacular process (140). Sandra Cisneros is a writer whose stories have crossed many territories of American Literature. Rooting from her childhood in a Mexican-American household, and epitomized by her 1991 story titled “Woman Hollering Creek”, her readers get a viewpoint of their nation that is foreign to their own. Not only does her work represent her cultural background, but she also focuses on the gender inequality that many women here in America are forced to live with. Cisneros uses her unique experiences to unearth this new 20th century version of the American writer. The identity of this mystical being has changed over time as our country has expanded and become more diverse. Her stories and characters are infused with cultural meaning, representing the hardships many women must face each day, her stories allow the reader to become more aware and mindful of how times have changed here in America. She uses different languages unique to her culture, she discusses different themes like gender and family and how they have played in her vision of America. Cisneros uses her vernacular process to form an identity not only within her culture, but within the nation as a whole.

    Cisneros comes from a background seldom represented in American Literature. From Whitman back in the 1800s, to Hughes in the 20th century, and now with Cisneros, American Literature has seen many different faces. As America has grown and diversified, its authors and poets have been representative of that change. As America continues to struggle on the issue of gender equality, Cisneros uses her experiences as a female to develop her vision of the role gender plays in society. Cisneros writes, “Sometimes she thinks of her father’s house. But how could she go back there? What a disgrace. What would the neighbors say?”; The perspective we get has no control over her life, and the way Cisneros develops that struggle to the reader is very relatable and impactful and new (1135). In many of her stories she illustrates the hardships many young women deal with, pushing the Feminism movement into the future, making the public more aware of the struggles of their fellow Americans. Cisneros epitomizes the evolution of the American writer because she represents a common American citizen, much like Whitman did, but in a fresh 21st century rendition.

Having her stories impact audiences from all over the country is important because it expands the consciousness to a national-scale, leaving it up to the public on how they wish to interpret her lines. Like no other genre, American Literature has a subconscious effect on the reader giving them the ability to read a passage and then be able to understand and become aware of that writer’s vision. Cisneros’ work does a good job of highlighting the social barriers that many Americans must deal with everyday. She writes, “ the hubbub of parting; I am your father, I will never abandon you. He had said that, hadn’t he, when he hugged and then let her go”(1131). These lines provoke emotions of sympathy and helplessness for the Cleofilas, but in a way that even someone from a completely different background would be able to understand.  This awakens those readers out there who have a tough time relating to the culture she depicts. Not only do the readers become more aware, but they form thoughts and opinions and visions for themselves, further expanding the territories of American Literature. Every time someone reads one of her stories, her vision and vernacular helps the reader’s subconscious mature and grow and form an identity.

American Literature is heralded for embodying so many different forms and languages and themes and messages. Cisneros does just that, by using both english and spanish to help illustrate her vision, the readers get a very authentic perspective of the culture and lifestyle she is depicting. It adds another dimension left for the reader to interpret and derive meaning from. She uses themes relevant to her experiences like gender inequality and familial presence and isolation to identify and connect with her fellow Americans. In Ellison’s essay he writes about the unknown history of America, and how not knowing our past can be dangerous moving into the future. Bringing to light the struggles and hardships of her society, Cisneros writes about those tough controversial subjects, in an attempt fill the in the cracks of her cultures history. She has made her mark on the landscape of American Literature, expanding on the work of her predecessors, and converting her unique culture and unique lifestyles onto the page for people to connect with.

Sandra Cisneros has pushed the limits of American Literature, seeing how her stories have affected this country represented America, there is no doubt in how she has contributed to the evolution and discovery of something new for this genre. The territories she has covered in her work have helped her form her identity, helped her extend the boundaries of what is considered American Literature. She has transformed the image we all get in our heads when we hear the words “American Literature”, and surely her works will be of inspiration for the next generations of writers. Readers now have an expanded, more-accurate view of what America means to some people, elevating their conscious to levels not before reached. She uses specific literary devices to help compliment her vision, intensifying the author/reader relationship. As America moves into the future, more and more frontiers will emerge and thrive, leaving it up to us to form new visions and new voices that represents the passion and spirit we have.




Carving New Wood

April 1st, 2015

“Eliot to Whitman, Whitman do you copy?”

Dear Mr. Whitman

    You do not know who I am, but my name is T.S Eliot and I am an American poet and have used your collections of literature as inspiration for my own poetry. The table you set for writers in the 1800s, especially here in America, by transforming the traditional author/reader relationship that was so popular at the time into a complex, yet artistic self-reflective journey through the reader's subconscious. It has completely changed the way myself and many others think and act and feel and even view other forms of art on a day to day basis. Your vision of America and the American poet has motivated entire generations to look deeper into your lines, whether it be regarding themes of freedom or self-actualization or our relationship with nature, your food for thought has kept readers well-fed for nearly a century.


I see your contributions to American literature and I see your vision of this nation, and I cannot help but conjure my own vision using my own experiences in my own voice, and this curiosity and creative nature has allowed me to examine issues ranging from isolation to humanity, and even death. Without your poems like “Song of Myself” and “Preface 1855”, I wonder where I would be today. Where this nation would be today. Would I be able to illustrate my vision as I have done? Would I even be a poet? The literary world and myself owes so much to you, and the only way I can properly thank you for your work is to build and evolve and advance on what you have given to us.

    A few poets and I have developed what we think may be the next great age of American literature, and we call it Modernism. Using the literary devices that you pioneered in your collections, Modernism provokes the reader’s subconscious to reflect on similar themes that your work did, but in a way that represents the time-period that is the 20th century. Your ability to join hands, in a literary sense, with your audience is what I think separates you from other authors, and Modernism pushes that boundary at times between that author/reader relationship. For example, you ended “Song of Myself” by consoling the readers that if they do not understand the message you were trying to send, you would be there for them, acting as a guide through the complexity of your work;

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,/ But I shall be good health to you   nevertheless,/ And filter and fibre your blood./ Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,/ Missing me one place search another,/ I stop somewhere waiting for you.

I wanted to do something similar in my work. I wanted to take the reader for a journey through my vision, interacting with him/her along the way. My take on this technique ended up forming parts of my introduction stanza to my poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, it reads “Let us go then, you and I,/ When the evening is spread out against the sky/ Like a patient etherised upon a table/...To lead you to an overwhelming question…/ Oh, do not ask, ‘What is it?’/ Let us go and make our visit” (368). Each line and stanza becomes more personal for the author and reader when our poetry is as if there is dialogue between the two. However, our execution of this technique is different. I want to be authentic, I want to be true to my audience, and if that means my poems are dark and emotional and grim at times, so be it. The era I live in now has been through much turmoil, the first World War being one of many mournful days for this country, I feel I owe it to myself and my readers to represent these dark times, but in a way that allows me to act as a helping hand as you did.

The difference in setting and place between your work and my own is one of my favorite things to compare. The time-periods are so different yet or poetry shares so much, and that parallel is so interesting to me because it shows how timeless your work is and hopefully how timeless mine will be in the future. In your collection of poems, “Song of Myself”, the reader is ushered through different snapshots of America, sometimes under the stars in grassy fields, and other times in the South during times of slavery. Your ability to illustrate such meaning through setting has been a guiding light for much of my poetry; “Falling asleep on the gather’d leaves with my dog and gun by my side”, your subtlety drags with it themes of freedom and one’s relationship with nature, all while again providing the reader with ageless scenery (33). The way you connect your readers and your nation to your vision is why I think the imagery you generate makes your work so relatable to people of all backgrounds and upbringings. You say that “[your] elbows rest in sea-gaps, [you] skirt sierras, [your] palms cover continents, [you are] afoot with [your] vision”, epitomizing your ability to connect the masses with with your words, as well as your ability to embody the multitudes that make up this nation (53). In much of my poetry the scene is set in a more modern America, in post-war wastelands and gloomy city streets. I learned from you that the backdrop in poetry can give each line more significance. I think you would appreciate the lines I wrote, “April is the cruellest month, breeding/ Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/ Memory and desire, stirring/ Dull roots with spring rain…. In the mountains, there you feel free” (378). I try to paint a picture as you did, I try to expose the emotions that come with the changing of the seasons using similar literary devices you did, imagery, free-verse, elegy, and so on.

I want to build on your body of work. I want to have the same type impact on American literature as you have. I want to be the inspiration in a time where it is needed. I want to help people find inspiration in their lives, not for just literary use, but for anything, as you have. I can change the way people think and feel and act and view their surroundings with my poetry, and I want to explore that unique power literature grants us writers. It does not matter to me how I am viewed in the public eye, there will always be people out there who are not on the same page as I, but my real objective is to make whomever decides to pick up one of my poems to think, to become aware, to develop their own voice, that they could then use to influence and connect with others. And I know my poetry comes off as maybe dark or morbid, but beyond the shadowy vernacular that I tend to use, lies radiant meaning that challenges and dares the subconscious to view my world, my country, and my contemporaries in a new 20th century fashion.


        T.S Eliot