Chants

Chants
Take a Poetry Pause
Listen to Pat read poems from Chants:
"For Georgia O'Keeffe."
Awards
  • Southwest Book Award, Border Regional Library Association, 1985
  • Harvey L. Johnson Book Award, Southwest Council of Latin American Studies, 1984

Bribe

I hear Indian women
    chanting, chanting
I see them long ago bribing
the desert with turquoise threads,
in the silent morning coolness,
kneeling, digging, burying
their offering in the Land
    chanting, chanting
            Guide my hands, Mother,
            to weave singing birds
            flowers rocking in the wind, to trap
            them on my cloth with a web of thin threads.

Secretly I scratch a hole in the desert
by my home. I bury a ballpoint pen
and lined yellow paper. Like the Indians
I ask the Land to smile on me, to croon
softly, to help me catch her music with words.

©Pat Mora

Watch as Pat reads the poem "Mi Madre" from Chants, for the website Latinopia.com:

2014: 30th Anniversary

Chants
Arte Público Press
Download a hi-res jpeg of the book jacket.

El Paso, the pass to the north, lies between vast stretches of desert. This is a geographic accident. Yet like everywhere, people live, love, marry, grow old and die. They also rejoice and despair. These poems relate all these experiences--but in the magical presence, the teluric force, of the desert. Two women poets sing here, one in the guise of the desert, the other in the figure of Pat Mora. Together they intone Chants.

Pat says: I’m a writer because I’ve always been a reader. In the early seventies, when my three children were young, knowing nothing about publishing, I decided to submit some manuscripts. I became discouraged at the speedy rejections by children’s book presses and magazines and stopped writing, though I continued reading. In the early eighties, I began to devote what time I could to writing poetry for adults. I was then Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Texas at El Paso. At night, I helped my three children with homework and devoted the time I could to writing. Arte Público Press at the University of Houston included some of my poems in its publications. I still remember how I felt when, sitting at my desk at UTEP, I received a call one morning from Dr. Nicolás Kanellos, publisher of AP Press, offering to publish my first book of poetry. I’ll always be grateful to Dr. Kanellos for his act of faith. In 1984, CHANTS, my first book, was published by Arte Público Press.

Highlighted Reviews
"The desert's beauty is perceived in the subtle gradations of color and texture, in stark contrasts between light and darkness. It speaks as a magical force, as a lonely woman and, for our patience, offers flowers. Like the desert, Pat Mora speaks with muted tones, weaves incantations; she invests her poetic space with magical figures, yet from her loneliness come as well fear, resentment and despair. But she learns the peaceful solitude of the desert. From their dialogue, words become blossoms, fragile in desert rhythms."—Julián Olivares, Editor, Revista Chicano-Riqueña

"Her poems are beautiful flowers on a painted landscape...chants that hold the reader mesmerized...her poems have a similar style to the similar structure of Willam Carlos Williams and the graceful beauty of Elizabeth Bishop." —Rafael C. Castillo, Nuestro

"Healers, those who restore by bringing together what seems to be separate, often suffer but possess great ‘magic’, and Mora’s is a healing voice."—Contact II

"This collection is rich, spirited and promising, and it makes me want to read more of her work."— A Feminist Review

"...one of Mora’s strengths is her accessibility. She adeptly uses universal themes such as family, love and nostalgia to invite readers in. She’s equally skilled at seducing us with evocative language, as in “Mielvirgen”: ‘In the slow afternoon heat she sits/ … her eyes closed, her tongue sliding/ on her lip, remembering, remembering.’ Chants is more than 25 years old, but today’s border and immigration debates make it more relevant than ever because it humanizes those living along the border, one of the most misunderstood parts of our country."—Beatriz Terrazas The Texas Observer, 3/25/11
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