A decade after her death, this bawdy Latina lesbian rebel poet is overdue for recognition.
The first time I saw the Mexican American lesbian activist Gloria Anzaldúa’s poems, they were in a little magazine, “Poets’ Tribune,” that she had published in Mexico City’s gay and lesbian press. My first encounter with Anzaldúa was when the poet received a poetry award from Poets’ Tribune’s publisher, Patricia Reyes-López. I don’t know if I could have guessed that it would lead to my meeting Anzaldúa one year later.
I was in Houston attending the “Queer Poetry Conference” at the University of Houston, where there was a panel of lesbian and gay-identified poets. In the middle of the panel, I looked around to see a woman staring back at me from the podium. I was surprised to see a short, burly woman with frizzy hair and a man’s body. When I learned at the conference that she was Anzaldúa, I was thrilled, but also confused.
The panel was titled “The State of Women Poets,” and it included a number of women of color who were very proud of the work they did. Two of those poets, Anzaldúa and Ana Castillo, were in the front row, and there was a third, the lesbian poet Adriana Paz, in the audience.
At that point, I had never heard of Anzaldúa, but then I realized that she was seated two rows in front of me, and I did not know any lesbian poets. I had heard that the poets she heard before me were lesbian, but then I had not seen their work. I had just seen queer Latino women from Puerto Rico, like Carmen Hernández and Yuridia Bonilla, and a few white lesbians who were poets of color, like Adelina Cortés and Kiese Laymon. I had not heard of Anzaldúa.
When the panel ended, I looked around at the crowd and could not tell who the woman was who had stared at me from the podium. I had not seen her poems that day, and I was not sure who