The poet and activist read selected works to the Elon community during a Tuesday, Oct. 18 Liberal Arts Forum lecture.
On Tuesday, October 18, Elon’s Liberal Arts Forum welcomes poet Lorna de Cervantes to Whitley Auditorium to share selected works and answer student questions. An accomplished Chicana poet, Cervantes read six of his poems from three of his books, including themes of identity and the natural world.
“The great crisis of morality is compassion and the great crisis of compassion is imagination. “If you can’t imagine, you can’t imagine ‘the other,'” Cervantes said.[The lack of] Compassion and empathy are a consequence of the lack of art in schools, in society, in everyday life.”
His presence on the Elon campus would not have been possible had it not been for a fateful trip to Mexico City in his youth to attend the Teatro Campesino. When the theater troupe in his native San Jose, California, feared that they had not prepared enough material, they asked a young Cervantes to read his poetry as they changed sets.
“It was my ‘king’, my gift to my people. And at that point, the craft becomes essential,” she says. Cervantes then began to see himself not as a token, but as the representation necessary to improve Chicana and indigenous representation and visibility.
Writing has always been a part of Cervantes, “There has never been a time in my life when poetry was not central. My poetry is never for myself, always for other people.
“Poetry is the art of language and as art of language it is unique to that language never our own. It is social, it is communal, it has a history,” he added. “At the same time, it’s private and it’s personal.”
To say that poetry became a “career” for Cervantes is an understatement. “It’s a minister’s career to say that,” he jokes. “I’m a conduit.” She uses her connection with language to empower others to connect more deeply with the world.
“Poetry for me is a spiritual practice. It always has been. Spirit in the sense of inspiration to take a breath,” he said. “Breath is what brings us together and moves poetry from page to air … through shared breath, I think that’s where a lot of spiritual connection comes in.”
Reading his poetry aloud allows him to combine the political with the personal. To the participating students, Cervantes recounted his experiences to share what he had learned through poetry.
“It’s the play between the personal and the private on the one hand and the social and the communal on the other that really creates the web of humanity,” she says.
Although Cervantes is a retired professor, he can never retire his love for teaching. It is this passion that drives him to share his writings with students. “I am very happy to be here and speak at the Liberal Arts Forum and Humanities [because] Poetry makes us human,” she says.
This lecture was given by Elon’s Liberal Arts Forum. The group hosts similar events throughout the year and invites students to work together to discuss what interests are most prevalent on campus and what kinds of speakers might attract a wide range of students and faculty to Elon.