Bruce-Novoa (review date Spring-Summer 1977)
SOURCE: A review of Restless Serpents, in Latin American Literary Review, Vol. V, No. 10, Spring-Summer, 1977, pp. 152-54.
[Juan D. Bruce-Novoa, who frequently writes under just his surname, is a distinguished Hispanic poet and critic. In the following review, he offers a laudatory assessment of Restless Serpents, noting thematic and stylistic aspects of the collection.]
[In Bernice Zamora's Restless Serpents, the] restless serpent is sign, heart, and being of a world fraught with meaning always just beyond our rational grasp, a little too ambiguous to be nailed down, too unsettling to be comfortably defined and forgotten; in others words: poetry, language that creates itself as the surface upon, by and in which the ineffable can manifest itself in the world.
What attracts me in Zamora's poetry is that in spite of the directness of the voice and its worldly substance, something escapes, like the mystery of the penitent rituals in those sacred moradas, or the identity of the caretaker of the pool of drowning seasoned dead, or the faces of our interrogators in the anteroom of some lost temple, or the underlying logic which unites the chopping of wood, the praying of a rosary, and a young girl entering an outhouse, and demands the death of a goat in the morning. These and more escape, but how firmly they remain fixed in the mind is measure of Zamora's success.
Zamora's world is best summed up in "On living in Aztlán."
We come and we go
But within limits,
Fixed by a law
Which is not ours;
We have in common
the experience of love
It is a world of limitations and definitions imposed from the outside, often by strangers, but at times—much too often it seems—by those close to us; and in our prison, we love each other, and love unites us. Yet, this significant poem, while it displays the essential elements of Zamora's poetry, falls short of its true dynamics in the way it calmly separates the...
(The entire section is 915 words.)