Lorna Dee Cervantes was born in 1954 in San Francisco and moved to San Jose (the setting for several of her best-known poems) after her parents’ divorce in 1959. Her ethnic identification is not only Mexican American but also Native American, and she draws on this dual heritage in her poetry. She began writing poetry at an early age and first came to notice reading “Refugee Ship” at a drama festival in Mexico City in 1974. Her poems began to appear in Chicano journals such as Revista Chicano-Riquena and Latin American Literary Review, and in 1981, the University of Pittsburgh Press published her first volume of poetry, Emplumada, to widespread praise.
Cervantes gained her B.A. from San Jose State University in 1984, studied for four years as a graduate student in the history of consciousness program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and has taught creative writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In addition to her academic position, Cervantes has done a good deal of editorial work, encouraging other Chicano writers, and has read her poetry at numerous national and international literary festivals.