Poet, writer and Milwaukee native Carmen Alicia Murguia recently published a collection of her poetry under the title The New Carmen! ¡La Nueva Bizet! (in this opera our heroine lives). Through her poetry, Murguia affectively uncovers and coveys the complexities of the modern, female, multi-identity American. She is Mexican and American, she is a Spanish and an English speaker, she is a poet and a basketball player, she is a force of love and of change, she is soft and she is strong, and she is all of these things simultaneously.
Bravely utilizing different font sizes and styles, Murguia creates individual poems that offer specific experiences to the reader. I say "bravely" because the decision to present poetry with varying type, while theoretically seeming to be a good idea, is rarely successful in its execution, often times coming across as gimmicky. But Murguia's poetry would not be as engaging nor as fulfilling without it.
Murguia's decision to draw from Hip-Hop and R&B music for the rhythm and language of her poetry also works well, providing a tone of honesty and unpretentiousness that the world of words could frankly use more of if those within it hope to connect with a broader audience. Switching between English and Spanish, her writing reflects the real life speech of millions of Latinos in the US, and gives readers who are unfamiliar with the Spanish language a reason to learn at least some.
The title poem is perhaps the most powerful of all those included the collection. Dedicated her friend, Juana Gloria Vega, who was killed in 2001 by her ex-girlfriend's brother--Vega was, like Murguia is, a lesbian--the poem speaks to all women who face adversity, no matter what form it may take, by redefining the ultimate tragic fate of the confident and strong willed heroine of Georges Bizet's Carmen.
The New Carmen
Got a way from his ass alive!
His fucking around,
The New Carmen
Goes to the technical college, Does Yoga, Eats Vegetarian,
Listens to Jazz
The New Carmen has a new mantra:
"Hey, mama, we can change, we've got to change!"
AND HELPS OTHER WOMEN DO THE SAME
Sadly, there still exist Don Josés who do not want the final act to be rewritten.
Covering a span of fifteen years, there are some truly passionate poems about politics and love--a few of which are definitely worth reading aloud to your heart's desire--and I strongly recommend you purchase this collection.
Listen to an archived interview with Murguia on WUWM's Lake Effect.