Martha Williams, Director of Programs and Education, recommends Woman Without Shame by Sandra Cisneros.
In her new collection of poems—her first published in 28 years—Sandra Cisneros breathes fearless words into everyday life. The poems in this book are ripe with self-discovery and self-appreciation, but also desire and aging and death. Acknowledging where she may find shame as she ages, Cisneros instead finds joy and humor and a deep understanding of how she wants to move in the world.
I was experimenting to be
the woman I wanted to be…
I was in training to be
a woman without shame.
~from “Tea Dance, Provincetown, 1982”
Cisneros moves between English and Spanish throughout the book, reflective of her world and the spaces we share. Some poems read like prayers, others like songs or recipes for life, and others still like news reports of acts gone unmentioned.
Some poems are stamped with a year, allowing us to place them in her life’s timeline. Many feature the dreadfully ordinary—suddenly and simply extraordinary through her mouth—like in the poem called “Smith’s Supermarket, Taos, New Mexico, at the Fifteen-Items-or-Less Checkout Line.” Examining her purchases in comparison to the young man in front of her, she meditates on the pains of young love as compared with the comforts of old love.
We often get to picture her writing or curled up in bed with a book. The pleasure these acts bring is described like new and old love all at once.
“I believe in the power / Of a thought, a word / To change the world” she writes in the poem “Creed,” where she also names mothers and grandmothers as the solution to all violence and points out that no one doubts the existence of love (“Even and especially those who have / Never met love.”)
Through these poems, Cisneros invites us to know her. We are welcomed into her private world, and to see our shared world—for all its pains and beauties—through her magical eyes.
I am a woman of a delightful season…
filled to the brim I am.
I said the brim.
~“At Fifty I Am Startled to Find I Am in My Splendor”
Find Woman Without Shame in English and Spanish editions here.