Chocolate City Latina
Lively, Accessible, Woman-centered Poetry
Esperanza Malavé Cintrón shapes her book of poems, Chocolate City Latina, into four parts: Girl Talk, Spirit Speak, City Speak and Womanspeak. As the titles imply, the poems follow a progression of themes from family and identity to place, language, spirituality and a fierce claiming of parenthood, heritage and what it means to be a modern woman of mixed blood. Throughout, the poems display energy, directness, honesty and authenticity. In exploring language and how it shapes identity, Cintrón displays a willingness to play with words and syntax without ever sacrificing the (at times searing) heat of anger, love, forgiveness and loyalty that characterize the emotional content of the poems. Too, there is an optimism, a sense of life as an adventure, an eagerness to find out what’s around the next bend, along with a deep respect for the mystery of why we are the way we are. Cintrón delves deeply into relationships: between sisters, between parent and child, abuser and abused, between lovers and even the way strangers reach out to one another (as in the poem “Stall Scrawls.”)
Cintrón holds a doctorate in English Literature from The University of the State of New York at Albany. While in New York, she co-founded The Sisters of Color Writers Collective and edited its literary journal Seeds, which was published from 1989 to 2006. Currently, she lives in downtown Detroit where she teaches writing and literature at a local college.
There is a sturdiness to these poems, even as they reach back in memory or forward in possibility, and risk everything. Cintrón has a great sense of popular culture on its deeper levels, as in the fabulous poem “Communion,” which begins, “God is/ in Michael Jackson/ who mirrors the world/ as he fades to white/ wearing a dollar sign/ at his throat…”
Chocolate City Latina never lets up its intensity, while at the same time inviting the reader to bring his/her own perceptions to the work. I loved this book and will reread parts of it many times.
Mary Greene, author of Permissions, Where You’re Going in this Dream and A Painting With You Running Through It.