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The Zen of La Llorona is a second collection of poetry by a Native American woman, and as such, it goes beyond initial concerns with personal racial identity. While still very much speaking from an indigenous point of view, The Zen of La Llorona complicates that indigenous identity with visceral explorations of gendered violence, sexual orientation and mothering in an unpredictable, chaotic world. Key to these poems are historical and current events: traumas as distant as the colonization of California’s indigenous peoples and as close as the destructive forces of 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. How do we survive destruction without becoming destroyers ourselves? How can the elements of earth, love, community and work nurture creation, and manifest hope? Utilizing the figure of “La Llorona,” a mythical indigenous figure of the Americas who first murders and then mourns her children, the poems in this book seek to unravel the mysterious fascination we have with despair, and move us along with the poet to a more clarifying, centering focus on joy. Zen, the author notes, tells us “everyone loses everything,” leaving us with only a decision about our attitude toward loss itself. La Llorona, on the other hand, says, “Nonsense – there’s always something left to lose.” What that “something” is, and how we can preserve and honor it, is at the heart of this collection of poems.
‘This is a book of poems with stories urgently told. They ‘swim out of a river of betrayal’ onto the shores of the many waves of love. They are not only containers of history, they are poems that can be counted on to create new histories, and to save-step by step-the betrayed from drowning. This is the work of a mature poet who knows what she is saying.’ —Linda Hogan
‘The Zen of la Llorona is give and take, lessons of grief and grace, love and loss, passion and pain. As one character in the poems aptly puts it, “That's life.” A tender examination of paradoxes. I found myself wanting to tape several of these poems on my fridge, send them to friends, so they could remind and guide us daily on how to survive and live. Wondrous stuff.’ —Sandra Cisneros
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