by Jordan Browning

judith ortiz cofer.jpg

Judith Ortiz Cofer was born in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico on February 24, 1952. She moved to New York when she was a little child and when she was fifteen she moved to Augusta, Georgia. She obtained a BA in English from Augusta College and later earned an MA in English from Florida Atlantic University. Although she is best known for her works of creative nonfiction, she began her writing career with poetry. In 2010, she was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame. As of now, she teaches at the University of Georgia as the Regents’ and Franklin professor of English and Creative Writing.
"Judith Ortiz Cofer." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.


1. My name mocks me

for I was born at the cost

of my mother’s life,

earning my father’s hatred

5. with my first breath.

All my life

I have scoured a house soiled

with the thick soot of his resentment.

It has left its mark on the walls,

10. in his eyes, and on me.

All of it I have tried to wipe away.

In my hands I hold a broom,

in my heart—

14. ashes, ashes.

In Judith Ortiz Cofer’s poem entitled Esperanza, it tells of a young lady who struggles with trying to obtain her father’s affection after she was the cause of her mother’s death. She feels his resentment for her and she wants for him to love her and not hold her mother’s death against her. My reaction to this poem was more sympathetic towards the girl. Her father hates her over something she could not control. It was not her intentions to be born into this word and take her mother’s life at the same time. That is what just so happened. This poem is on a very deep level. It shows in the metaphor used in the last three lines where she talks about the broom which represents how she wants to sweep away her problems but the ashes are within and cannot be swept away. The theme of the overall poem is that of the passing down of Esperanza’s mother’s sin, hatred, and a broken household. The tone of the overall poem is sad. The sad tone is covered throughout the whole poem but you can really tell when she writes how she was born at the cost of her mother’s life which earned her hatred from her father. I personally cannot relate to this poem because fortunately my mother did not die before or after having me. Unfortunately there are some readers who can really relate to this poem because they too might have killed their mothers while she was in labor or after. This poem reminds me a lot of Snow White, Star Wars, and Gossip Girl because a mother dies giving birth to their child. I think Gossip Girl relates just a little bit more because Chuck’s dad actually does resent him for his mother’s death. For the illustration to describe the poem I used one of a little girl who looks sad while she holds a broom. I picked this one because in the poem it says that she has tried to wipe away the soot of resentment with the broom she holds in her hands.

Allen, Austin. "Esperanza." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. Web. 22 Jan. 2016
"Introduction to Latina and Latino Literature/Judith Ortiz." - Wikibooks, Open Books for an Open World. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
"Girl Holdingbroom - Google Search." Girl Holdingbroom - Google Search. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.

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The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica

1. Presiding over a formica counter,

plastic Mother and Child magnetized

to the top of an ancient register,

the heady mix of smells from the open bins

5. of dried codfish, the green plantains

hanging in stalks like votive offerings,

she is the Patroness of Exiles,

a woman of no-age who was never pretty,

who spends her days selling canned memories

10. while listening to the Puerto Ricans complain

that it would be cheaper to fly to San Juan

than to buy a pound of Bustelo coffee here,

and to Cubans perfecting their speech

of a "glorious return" to Havana--where no one

15. has been allowed to die and nothing to change until then;

to Mexicans who pass through, talking lyrically

of dólares to be made in El Norte--
all wanting the comfort

of spoken Spanish, to gaze upon the family portrait

of her plain wide face, her ample bosom

20.resting on her plump arms, her look of maternal interest

as they speak to her and each other

of their dreams and their disillusions--

how she smiles understanding,

when they walk down the narrow aisles of her store

25. reading the labels of packages aloud, as if

they were the names of lost lovers; Suspiros,

Merengues, the stale candy of everyone's childhood.

She spends her days

slicing jamón y queso and wrapping it in wax paper

30. tied with string: plain ham and cheese

that would cost less at the A&P, but it would not satisfy

the hunger of the fragile old man lost in the folds

of his winter coat, who brings her lists of items

that he reads to her like poetry, or the others,

35. whose needs she must divine, conjuring up products

from places that now exist only in their hearts--

closed ports she must trade with.

Judith Ortiz Cofer’s poem entitled The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica is told from the point of view of a woman who works behind the counter of a deli while observing the many Spanish speaking people who come in to the shop to buy food and just sit down and talk. While watching all of these people she notices all of the things that they all have in common even though they all come from different Spanish speaking countries. The tone of the poem is that of being nostalgic about going back to where she was born and the cultures of the customers. She achieves her tone with the use of words such as ancient, exiles, lost lovers, stale, old man, and “places that now exist only in their hearts”. The theme of the poem is that of unity, even though these people all come from different parts of the world the fact that they are all in this one place where they can all speak the same language and they all have the same type of story of being immigrants in the United States which brings them all closer together. I can relate to this poem because this is how black people are. We all come from different countries and yet we all have many things in common. It really shows in some hashtags that can be found on twitter, for example #thanksgiving with black families and #black twitter. These hashtags bring a lot of black people together from all over the world together because we can all relate to what is being said in the tweets. The Deli shop in this poem also reminds me of barbershops and beauty shops for black people. They are a place where you can go and connect with people you have never even met before just like the deli shop. For my picture I picked one of an actual deli shop because that is the place that brings people from all over together in this poem.

"Judith Cofer Ortiz: "The Latin American Deli: An Ars Poetica"" Judith Cofer Ortiz: "The Latin American Deli: An Ars Poetica" Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
"An Interactive Lesson Guide for The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica." Storyboard That. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
"Latin Deli - Google Search." Latin Deli - Google Search. Web. 22 Jan. 2016

Image result for quinceanera
Image result for quinceanera


1. My dolls have been put away like deadchildren in a chest I will carrywith me when I marry.I reach under my skirt to feel5. a satin slip bought for this day. It is softas the inside of my thighs. My hairhas been nailed back with my mother’sblack hairpins to my skull. Her handsstretched my eyes open as she twisted10. braids into a tight circle at the napeof my neck. I am to wash my own clothesand sheets from this day on, as ifthe fluids of my body were poison, as ifthe little trickle of blood I believe15. travels from my heart to the world wereshameful. Is not the blood of saints andmen in battle beautiful? Do Christ’s handsnot bleed into your eyes from His cross?At night I hear myself growing and wake20. to find my hands drifting of their own willto soothe skin stretched tightover my bones,I am wound like the guts of a clock,waiting for each hour to release me.
Judith Ortiz Cofer’s poem Quincenañera is told by a Hispanic girl who is going through the ritual of becoming a woman on her fifteen birthday. She must put away her toys and accept the tasks that women are required to do now. The tone of the overall poem is that of being unhappy. The girl in the poem feels as if she is not ready to grow up yet. She does not want the responsibilities that come when she transitions into being a woman. She still wants to be a child. Cofer achieves the tone of this poem when she uses dark words to describe the objects around her. For example, when she describes putting away her dolls like dead children and when she describes her mother pinning her hair back with black hairpins and describes the process as it being nailed to her head. The theme of the poem is that of growing up but not necessarily wanting to. The narrator does not understand why she must now wash her own clothes and sheets as if the menstrual cycle she has every month is toxic but the blood that men shed in battle is not. I can’t really relate to this poem because I am not Hispanic and have never had a quincenañera before. However, I have been to one and I know that a quincenañera is supposed to be a joyous occasion. It is a celebration of a girl who is coming of age and finally being accepted in this world as a woman. During this celebration the girl transitions from flats to heels signify the end of her transition. I do, however, relate to the narrator still wanting to be a child. I understand how she feels about growing up and having to do things on her own now. For my picture, I found one with a girl who appeared to be sad while in a big dress like one that is usually worn for a quincenañera.

Allen, Austin. "Quincenañera." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.
"Quinceanera - Google Search." Quinceanera - Google Search. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.

Image result for little girl in army helmet
Image result for little girl in army helmet

The Changeling

1. As a young girl

vying for my father's attention,

I invented a game that made him look up

from his reading and shake his head

5. as if both baffled and amused.

In my brother's closet, I'd change

into his dungarees -- the rough material

molding me into boy shape; hide

my long hair under an army helmet

10. he'd been given by Father, and emerge

transformed into the legendary Ché

of grown-up talk.

Strutting around the room,

I'd tell of life in the mountains,

15. of carnage and rivers of blood,

and of manly feasts with rum and music

to celebrate victories para la libertad.

He would listen with a smile

to my tales of battles and brotherhood

20. until Mother called us to dinner.

She was not amused

by my transformations, sternly forbidding me

from sitting down with them as a man.

She'd order me back to the dark cubicle

25. that smelled of adventure, to shed

my costume, to braid my hair furiously

with blind hands, and to return invisible,

as myself,

to the real world of her kitchen.

In Judith Ortiz Cofer’s poem “The Changeling” a young girl tells of how she dresses up and pretends to be a legendary war hero and tells stories to obtain her father’s attention but when she goes to join the dinner table her mother makes her change back into her regular clothes which make her feel invisible. The overall tone of the poem is kind of sad. The young girl has to dress up like a man just to get her father to pay attention and while he thinks it is charming, however, her mother does not find it charming because she believes that since she is a girl she should look like one and not like a boy. Cofer achieves the tone mostly when she writes about how she has to braid her hair furiously and then return to the table invisible as herself to the real world of her mother. The theme of the poem is that of her rebelling against gender norms. It show through as the whole poem is about the girl changing her appearance. I can kind of relate to this poem and at the same time. For me, I never had to dress up to get my dad’s attention. I did however when I was little dressed up in my mom’s old army uniform because it was fun and I could pretend that I could be this totally awesome crime fighter. It was fun to pretend to be a boy because boys get to play in dirt and climb things while girls are taught to play with brooms, vacuums, and play kitchens. For me it was not about challenging gender norms although it probably had a lot to do with how tomboyish I am now. Also my mother kind of encouraged my dressing up as a boy. For my picture I decided to use one of a little girl who looked happy while dressed up in an army uniform. I felt this picture really went well with the poem because this is exactly what the little girl in the poem does.

"Puerto Rican Poetry." PBS. PBS. Web. 05 Feb. 2016.
"Little Girl in Army Helmet - Google Search." Little Girl in Army Helmet - Google Search. Web. 05 Feb. 2016.