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Catalina Gómez: We are here today recording Brenda Cárdenas for the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape. We’re really delighted to have Brenda here with us. We’re going to spend some time reading some of her poems and maybe chatting a little bit. Today is February 14, 2014. Brenda, thank you for being here.

Brenda Cárdenas: Thank you for having me. I’m delighted to be here.

CG: We usually ask the poets or authors to first give a little introduction about themselves and about their journey becoming poets or writers.

BC: I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin of all places. Laughs. And I think…I really have to take my journey back to being a small child and having a paternal grandfather and a maternal grandmother who were both great storytellers, were incredibly warm people, loved children, would gather us around them, and um, and tell us stories. And some of them were autobiographical, true stories, some of them they were making up, like making up fairy tales. Some of them my grandfather would talk about what it was like in México, you know, when he lived there. And then I also had an aunt, uh, my father’s sister, who I reference in one of the poems, my tía Elia, who was another incredible storyteller, but also just a very creative person. So she…we were always doing crafts and making projects and doing arts, and she would …her husband was an electrician, and he’d go out on different jobs, and, come home from those places with things the companies were throwing out. So scrap paper, whatever, and she would bind and make me a blank book and tell me to write my stories down. She taught me how to write and draw and so I think that’s really the genesis of the writing for me. And in high school I fell in love with my literature class, and there were no Latino authors taught at all back then, but  there was Gwendolyn Brooks, and Langston Hughes, and Walt Whitman, and I fell in love with those writers, you know, as a…as a young person. And then it was just I think, you know, later years of high school, early years of college that I really started to write poetry myself. I mean I wrote my little stories when I was young, but when I really turned to the genre of poetry, was, you know, that far back. Um, they weren’t very good poems. They were pretty awful! Laughs. But I was starting and learning, so I think, you know, and then…from then…from then on, I’ve been an avid reader and have been writing and teaching….writing.

CG: That’s great. So you gradually began writing more poetry and getting more inspiration?

BC: Right, and you know, getting inspiration from people I was reading in my literature classes and starting to take creative writing workshops and learning from the others in the class and from the professor. Techniques and, you know different things you could do with the poem.

CG: So when was it that you felt that “this is just really what I want to do? Just write poetry; and I’m good at it”?

BC: Well, I don’t know if I ever felt I was good at it. But I always felt like I could be better at it. I could be better at it. But I think I felt like this is what I want to do. I think it was probably about the end of my freshman year in college when I thought I was going to go into journalism, and then I realized that I really did not want to go into journalism. That was not the kind of writing I wanted to do.  I didn’t want to do fact-telling. I really wanted to do creative writing. I’d say it was about then.

CG: Okay.

BC: But, I think… I don’t know. Well, you know, I think a lot of us were always questioning…we always feel like we could be better at it, you know? You…you read these incredible great poets, and oh my God if I could only do that! So…

CG: But I’m sure they were also feeling the same…

BC: I’m sure.

CG: Okay, well we can go right ahead and start the reading.

BC: Okay!

CG: So…in any order and again, if you can say the title, and when you’re reading from the books to specify that you’re reading from a specific book.

BC: Okay great.

CG: Thank you.

BC: Thank you.

  • Poet reads  “Nexus”Cuadernos de ALDEEU 26 (Fall, 2013)
  • Poet reads “Someone”Boomerang, Bilingual Press (2009)
  • Poet reads “Rupture”Cuadernos de ALDEEU 26 (Fall, 2013).
  • Poet reads “Cornflowers”Boomerang (2009)
  • Poet reads “Abuelo y sus cuentos: Origin of the Bird-Beak Mole”Boomerang (2009)
  • Poet reads “When We Moved Away from Tía Elia’s and Uncle Karel’s, 1968”Boomerang (2009)
  • Poet reads “Under Water”—unpublished.
  • Poet reads “Song”Boomerang (2009)
  • Poet reads “On the Coast in Pedasi”—Verse Wisconsin
  • Poet reads “At the Base of the Blues Tree: Una Ofrenda for Jimmy Davis, Chicago Blues Man”Boomerang (2009)
  • Poet reads “Duración—V”Boomerang (2009)
  • Poet reads “Intensidad—Ñ”Boomerang (2009)
  • Poet reads “Report from the Temple of Confessions in Old Chicago English”Boomerang (2009)
  • Poet reads “Poema para los tin-tun-teros”Boomerang (2009)
  • Poet reads “Flexible Vitreous”Verse Wisconsin
  • Poet reads “Empty Spaces”—Boomerang (2009)
  • Poet reads “Ars Resistencia”Verse Wisconsin
  • Poet reads “Zacuanpapalotls”Boomerang (2009)

CG: Wow. Brenda, thank you so much. Your reading was just…I have no words. It was fantastic.

BC: Thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me do this. It…it always means so much to think that I’ll be in the Library of Congress.

CG: Yes, and this will be put online, and it will be part of the Archive. It’s such an honor for us. Thank you so much.

BC: It’s such an honor for me! Thank you.


Poetry in English at the Library of Congress Washington, DC —February 14, 2014

Approximately 43 minutes.

Recording Title: Poet Brenda Cárdenas Reading from her Works


1) Nexus (after Ana Mendieta’s Silueta series, earth-body works, 1973-80) – (min. 4:25)

2) Someone – (min. 6:06)

3) Rupture (after Remedios Varo’s painting Ruptura, 1955) – (min. 10:29)

4) Cornflowers – (min. 11:27)

5) Abuelo y sus cuentos: Origin of the Bird-Beak Mole – (min. 12:44)

6) When We Moved Away from Tía Elia’s and Uncle Karel’s, 1968 – (min. 14:06)

7) Under Water – (min. 15:47)

8) Song – (min. 18:33)

9) On the Coast in Pedasi – (min. 19:54)

10) At the Base of the Blues Tree: Una Ofrenda for Jimmy Davis, Chicago Blues Man (after the painting Árbol de Blues by Roberto Valadez) – (min. 21:26)

11) Selections from Soundwaves
      - Duración – V – (min. 26:10)
      - Intensidad – Ñ – (min. 27:48)

12) Report from the Temple of Confessions in Old Chicano English – (min. 30:22)

13) Poema para los tin-tun-teros – (min. 32:39)

14) Flexible Vitreous (after Harvey K. Littleton’s Orange and Purple Implied Movement, 1987) – (min. 34:03)

15) Empty Spaces – (min. 36:31)

16) Ars Resistencia – (min. 38:01)

17) Zacuanpapalotls – (min. 41:00)

Conclusion – (min. 42:43)

End – (min. 43:17)


Verse Wisconsin

    • Brenda Cárdenas, “On the Coast in Pedasi.” Verse Wisconsi. Issue 109.Summer, 2012. 34. (print). Reprint forthcoming in Cave Canem Anthology XIII: Poems 2010-2011. Detroit: Aquarius Press/Willow Books.
    • Brenda Cárdenas, “Flexible Vitreous.” Verse Wisconsin. Issue 109. Summer, 2012. 35. (print and online with interview).
    • Brenda Cárdenas, “Ars Resistencia.” Verse Wisconsin. Issue 113. April 2014. (online).

Cuadernos de ALDEEU

    • Brenda Cárdenas, “Nexus.” Cuadernos de ALDEEU (Fall 2013)
    • Brenda Cárdenas, “Rupture.” Cuadernos de ALDEEU (Fall 2013)

Related Resources

  • Boomerang, by Brenda Cárdenas (catalog record)
  • Brenda Cárdenas (Biography page at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee)

Brenda Cárdenas

Brenda Cárdenas

Brenda Cárdenas was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is the author of two poetry collections in English and Spanish, From the Tongues of Brick and Stone (2005) and Boomerang (2009), and co-editor of Between the Heart and the Land/Entre el corazón y la tierra: Latina Poets in the Midwest (2001). Her poetry has appeared in over a dozen anthologies and journals, including The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century (2007) and The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry (2007). She was the poet laureate of Milwaukee from 2010-2012 and has taught at Wilbur Wright College in Chicago and Milwaukee Area Technical College. She has also been a Board Member of MARCH (Movimiento Artístico Chicano), Inc. in Chicago and ex-oficio Advisory Circle Member of Con Tinta Latino Literary Organization. Brenda Cárdenas currently lives in Bay View, Wisconsin and is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Learn more about Brenda Cárdenas at The Poetry Foundation