Bernice Zamora Criticism - Essay

Bruce-Novoa (review date Spring-Summer 1977)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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
-after Guillevec

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...

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Bernice Zamora with Bruce-Novoa (interview date September 1978)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An interview in Chicano Authors: Inquiry by Interview, by Bruce-Novoa, University of Texas Press, 1980, pp. 203-18.

[In the following interview, which was originally conducted via correspondence in September 1978, Zamora discusses various aspects of her life and work as well as the current state of Chicano literature.]

A prolific poet, Bernice Zamora had published widely in journals before the publication of Restless Serpents (1976), yet, as José Montoya indicates in his interview [also in Chicano Authors: Inquiry by Interview], it is a sad commentary on the male bias which predominates in the Chicano literary establishment—a mere reflection of...

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Joe Olvera (review date October 1979)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Restless Serpents, in The American Book Review, Vol. 11, No. 2, October, 1979, p. 20.

[In the following review of Restless Serpents, Olvera elucidates the work's major themes—religion, sexuality, love, and gender warfare—concluding that Zamora's poetry reflects the reality of the human condition.]

The first time I met Bernice Zamora, I was totally impressed with her vibrant, "welcome-to-the-fold" personality and mentality. Her fine form emanated auras of bright colors as she modulated and entertained the struggling writers under her care. At the time, she was a doctoral candidate at Stanford University, while teaching some...

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Marta E. Sánchez (essay date Fall 1980)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Inter-Sexual and Intertextual Codes in the Poetry of Bernice Zamora," in MELUS, Vol. 7, No. 3, Fall, 1980, pp. 55-68.

[In the following essay, Sánchez examines Zamora's focus on relationships between men and women in "Sonnet, Freely Adapted," "California," and "Gata Poem." She also discusses intertextual aspects of these works, noting how they have been influenced by and respond to other texts.]

In Restless Serpents, her first collection of poems, Bernice Zamora presents us with a poetry of conflict. Most of these poems attempt to redefine relationships between men and women, and the conflict which propels them, as sexual. Sexual dilemmas motivate...

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Cordelia Candelaria (essay date Winter 1980)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Another Reading of Three Poems by Zamora," in MELUS, Vol. 7, No. 4, Winter, 1980, pp. 102-04.

[Candelaria is an American educator, poet, and critic who frequently writes about Chicano and Hispanic literature and culture. In the following essay, a response to Marta E. Sánchez's reading of "California," she offers additional insights into the poem, viewing it "as a lyrical completion of Jeffers's ('Roan Stallion'), not as a feminist departure from it."]

Marta E. Sánchez's article, "Inter-Sexual and Intertextual Codes in the Poetry of Bernice Zamora," in the Summer 1980 issue of MELUS was a welcome example of solid criticism on Chicano poetry. While her...

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Bernice Zamora with Wolfgang Binder (interview date 12 May 1982)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An interview in Partial Autobiographies: Interviews with Twenty Chicano Poets, edited by Wolfgang Binder, Verlag Palm & Enke Erlangen, 1985, pp. 221-29.

[In the following interview, originally conducted in May 1982, Zamora discusses the origin of her poetic vocation, her major literary influences, and her contribution to twen-tieth-century Chicano literature.]

[Binder]: When were you born and where?

[Zamora]: I was born in Aguilar, Colorado, a little village at the foot of twin mountains called Spanish Peaks in Southern Colorado, on January 20, 1938.

Which members of your family had immigrated to the US?...

(The entire section is 3797 words.)

Bruce-Novoa (essay date 1982)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Rituals of Devastation and Resurrection: Bernice Zamora," in his Chicano Poetry: A Response to Chaos, University of Texas Press, 1982, pp. 160-84.

[In the excerpt below, Bruce-Novoa examines the snake image and the importance of ritual in Restless Serpents, stating that Zamora's poetry "traces the move from sacred to profane structuring of society and attempts to find relief from the concomitant loss of meaning and alienation which that change produces."]

Having been born into a family that can trace its presence in Southern Colorado and New Mexico back some two centuries; having grown up among rural, traditional people who practiced the centuries-old...

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Marta E. Sánchez (essay date 1985)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Dramatization of a Shifting Poetic Consciousness: Bernice Zamora's Restless Serpents," in Contemporary Chicana Poetry: A Critical Approach to an Emerging Literature, University of California Press, 1985, pp. 214-68.

[In the following excerpt, Sánchez identifies Zamora's cultural and literary influences, particularly that of American poet Robinson Jeffers, contending that Zamora's verse reveals the conflict between three opposing identities: woman, Chicana, and poet.]

You insult me
When you say I'm schizophrenic.
My divisions are


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José David Saldívar (essay date Spring 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Towards a Chicano Poetics: The Making of the Chicano Subject, 1969–1982," in Confluencia, Vol. 1, Spring, 1986, pp. 10-17.

[In the following excerpt, Saldívar offers a thematic and stylistic analysis of "So Not to Be Mottled."]

While a Chicano poetics must be holistic, must include the constitutive material nature of the culture relative to the individual, it must be distinguished from orthodox social theory. I begin [then] … with the self-evident claim that conventional social theory is not often concerned with the ethnopoetic or feminist consciousness of the historically situated author and/or reader of a text. This failure of social theory to deal with...

(The entire section is 1279 words.)

Cordelia Candelaria (essay date 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Chicano Poetry, Phase III: The Flowering of Flor y Canto," in Chicano Poetry: A Critical Introduction, Greenwood Press, 1986, pp. 137-74.

[In the excerpt below, Candelaria offers cultural and intertextual readings of the poems collected in Restless Serpents.]

Although Bernice Zamora has been publishing in alternative periodicals since 1970, her first book, Restless Serpents, did not appear until 1976. The warmth of the reception for her book has not been diminished by the absence of a sequel, though it would be received with great interest. "Her poetry is strong and sure of itself," writes [Joe Olvera in American Book Review 2, no. 2...

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