About Kaddish for Columbus



  • "With piñon smoke clinging to her skirts, Miriam Herrera explores the roundabout ways that we came from Spain to the New World, and back again. In the voice of the bear and the deer, the blackbird and the wolf, Miriam discovers our hidden names. These poems, sweet and prickly as cactus apples, answer the question once posed in my presence that I didn't have the nerve to answer with 'we are all around you. We are right here.' And we intend to claim it all."
—Kathleen Alcalá, author of The Desert Remembers My Name: On Family and Writing


  • "The heart of Miriam Herrera's poems lies centrally in neplanta'The land in the middle' of the Nahua-that ever shifting evocation of homeland that includes family and community histories; the remembered and imagined; the bloodied and the mythic.  Her poems speak both of the authority of the landof desertscapes, of lava flows, of family ranches, of holy landsand the power the body has to sometimes experience and sometimes shape those landscapes.   We move back and forth from womb to kiva where her voice 'forces one toward the middle' beckoning us to also see with a new eye: 'It's me;/Looking in, looking out.'"

  • "Her work carries echoes of Pat Mora, Gloria Anzaldua and Jimmy Santiago Bacaall poets who speak of Chicana/o, Indian, Mestiza/o embodiments in and through the desertand yet she speaks in a unique voice that creates spans from Christopher Columbus to Jerusalem.  Hers is a voice from a little known borderlands of the Chicano/a imaginary; one inhabited by conversos or the descendents of crypto-Jews who made their home in the American Southwest.  The Jewish ancestry of this community is many times hidden even from itself as secrecy and denial continued as a mode of survival after the Spanish Inquisition.  As Herrera mourns for Columbus, in the title poem, she weaves incongruent pieces of the converso together through her song: the crypto Jew, embodied in Columbus himself, and Indigenous cultures that his voyages almost eradicated, are joined together and embodied in the descendants of both."

  • "In her borderlands Chaco Canyon, Columbus and Jerusalem find common ground to bear witness to her speakers' need to weld 'Skin, all at once the colors/of mountain snow. Of river mud/and adobe' and to forge an 'alloy of iron, nickel, silver, gold, cobalt,/moon and meteorite.'  Through her delicate touch we can read her Kaddish, her song of mourning and reflection on the power of the spirit, and understand it as a declaration to recognize and to celebrate that which is unspoken, inexplicable and illicit in all of us.   In this volume she balances largely unwritten histories, with largely unspoken truths with the call to stand on home ground and be seen and heard: 'word upon flat, upon sharp,/where utterance rings daily/in a more acute ear/and the trumpet of the pole star/tugs castaways/home.'" 
Ellen M. Gil-Gomez, author of Performing La Mestiza

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