The Context of Cisneros' Poem
In her poetry, Cisneros likes to speak directly from the heart, to the heart. Her poems are not complex; the diction is straightforward and the meanings of the poems usually reveal themselves on the first reading. There is rarely a need to tease out allusions or hidden themes; the punch is delivered quickly and with force. Anyone who has ever been in love, for example, will instantly recognize the symptoms described in “Once Again I Prove the Theory of Relativity”: the self in a state of wild abandon; the beloved contemplated as if he or she were a god; the intense feelings that create a kind of sacred space between two people, upon which the mundane aspects of life cannot intrude. The poem conveys a spontaneity and charm, almost a youthful naïveté, that suggests real experience. It gives the impression of having been written quickly, in the flush of that one overpowering and exhilarating emotion, whether felt at the time or vividly recalled later. And yet, the poem may not be quite what it first appears.
Cisneros sheds light on her method of composition, as well as making some revealing remarks about her poems, in an interview with Martha Satz published in Southwest Review. Cisneros says she wrote many of the poems published in Loose Woman for her private satisfaction only, never intending them to be published. She believes that her public life as a writer centers around her novels. As a poet, she feels free to explore the most intimate aspects of her psyche without a thought of how the results will be received by others: “The reason I write it is not to publish it but to get the thorn out of the soul of my heart.” Cisneros takes inspiration from Emily Dickinson, another poet who did not write for publication. Cisneros notes, “[Dickinson] knew that the true reason one writes poetry and works at the craft is simply to write that poem.”
Cisneros also comments in the same interview that in her poetry she does not decide what to write beforehand; the words just spill out, and she does not even feel in conscious control of the process. She writes what the inner levels of her psyche prompt her to write. Most readers would probably agree that many of the sixty poems in Loose Woman do indeed give this impression. These are not poems that have been much revised and reworked or agonized over. They are like quick snapshots of certain moods, attitudes, emotions, and situations. Taken together, they present a manysided portrait of the experience of being a woman involved in the affairs of the heart.
“Once Again I Prove the Theory of Relativity” presents one of the more innocent aspects of that many-sided portrait. The reader would hardly guess from that poem the persona Cisneros adopts in many of the other poems. “With Loose Woman,” Cisneros tells Satz, “I entered a realm where I am writing from a dangerous fountainhead.” By this, she means the sexual aspects of her poems, which she thought that men might find threatening: “I strike terror among the men. / I can’t be bothered what they think,” she writes in “Loose Woman.”
The title of the collection is meant, at least in one sense, ironically. “Loose woman” is how the persona of the poems thinks she might be described from a male, conservative, traditional standpoint; it is how a certain type of man might view her. From her point of view, “loose woman,” as the poem of that title makes clear, is a label she bears with pride because for her it means being free from repressive, restricted ideas about how a woman should think and behave.
It is as well to remember that Cisneros was raised in a Mexican American community, in which patriarchal attitudes were the norm. These attitudes included the belief that a...
(The entire section is 1540 words.)