One of my first professors of poetry was Dr. Henry Quintero. While his lectures were full of intensity and a passion for what he did, it was how he ended his classes that taught me the most. While his students packed up their backpacks and filed out the door, Dr. Q would stand up and in that wonderful, warm, booming voice of his he would tell us to take care of ourselves because you are the most important piece of poetry you will write.
Dr. Quintero taught me that poetry is less of an art form, strict and unforgiving then it is an action. The actions we go through each day and the experiences that we share with other people in our lives. When reading poetry, I am looking for action and reaction. For a truly strong voice to jump out through the pages, making it impossible not to give that voice the space and attention it craves. Consider the work of Lorna Dee Cervantes, a proud Chicana whose works include “Emplumada” and “Sueño”. Cervantes knows how to use her actions to get the reader to pay attention, implementing line break and rhythm like just another tool in her toolbox. She writes about immigration and Chicano heritage but refuses to let her words stand alone. Her poetry is presented with action, purposeful line breaks and meaningful rhythmic and repeating phrases. These are some things that I read for in a poem for publication, mechanisms that work to expand the main idea and a speaker who is not afraid to use them. This is the poetry that brought me to creative writing; poems that speak through their actions and the people who read them.