Reviews y Comentarios
Reviews of For the Hard Ones published en revistas, received via correos electronicos, scribbled like little love notes…
A Diligent Observer of Lesbian Life
Born in Colombia and raised in Miami, lesbian writer and librarian De la Tierra edited the provocative 1990s Latina lesbian magazines Esto no tiene nombre and Conmoción. In this, her first bilingual prose-poetry collection, she celebrates lesbian life. As she writes about women’s bodies and desires and what they hide and reveal, De la Tierra manages to be simultaneously sensual and funny. In poems like “About the Tongue” she asks: “Why not admit that the tongue is the lesbian mascot?” A diligent observer of lesbian life, De la Tierra takes the ordinary and renders it meaningful. The décor of the fingernails signals “intimate desires,” while newsletters and matchbooks serve as “lesbian literature.” De la Tierra’s poetry is unapologetic as she breaks down stereotypes: Lesbians wear high heels and cowboy boots. She also writes sincerely about what makes lesbians different from others. These are women, she writes, who give up “the path that was already written” and make full use of their possibilities, like being a wife and having a wife. De la Tierra’s poetry, with its humor and penchant for repetition, lends itself to performance, and while it philosophizes on lesbianism her work is still accessible to a general audience. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries with collections of poetry and gay/lesbian studies.
–Review by Daisy Hernández, New York City. Published in Críticas, An English Speaker’s Guide to the Latest Spanish Language Titles, January/February 2003 Vol. 3 No. 1, Page 49.
Hard-Assed, Punk-Tinged, Earthy-Crunchy Lesbian Poetry
Curve contributor tatiana de la tierra is, in the words of fellow Latina lesbian author Achy Obejas, “a Sapphic warrior in Miami Beach and Buffalo, New York and the City of Los Angeles: Cyber-Sappho, Super-Sappho, Sappho-Kinetic with her Spec-Sappholar Sappho-citis, tatiana is the real Sappho-thing.” Wow, what a recommendation!
This bilingual collection of hard-assed, punk-tinged, earthy-crunchy lesbian poetry includes several great one-liners, like “Lesbianism is an art form”; “The fingers: classified as vital organs”’ and “That is how you enter lesbianism: naked and in love.” The “hard ones” from the title refers to butches, the ones who “wear the pants and never take them off, the ones who get on top, the ones who fuck. who bite. who penetrate. they are the most exciting.”
The poems in this book tell small truths about lesbians in a reimagined retelling of Dante Medina’s Spanish-language text Zonas de la escritura. However, whether you know the history of that text is relatively unimportant to this book’s enjoyment. So just enjoy poems such as “Tell me how you decorate your lips and I’ll tell you who you are” and “Penetration” simply for what they are: innovative, sexually tinged poetry told by a fierce Latina lesbian self-described as an editor, activist, salsera, librarian and—a term that I think I am soon to co-opt for myself—“combat femme.”
Review written by Rachel Pepper; published in Curve, May 2003, Page 41.
With the release of her first book-length work, For the Hard Ones: A Lesbian Phenomenology, editor-poet-essayist tatiana de la tierra adds philosopher to the many hats she’s worn. The Hard Ones is actually two books in one: a Spanish text (Para las Duras) that, when flipped over, also reveals an English translation. A metaphysical treatise on the nature of Latina lesbian identity, For the Hard Ones blends philosophy with prose poetry to explore the uncharted territory of queer Latina sexuality and language (with plenty of punning on the Latina lesbian “tongue”). The brevity and open-endedness of de la tierra’s text may leave some unanswered questions. Grade: A-.
Reviewed by Myriam Guba; published in Girlfriends, page 19, April 2003
Wild Librarian’s Book Resonates with Calm Elegance
Hailing originally from Colombia, now-local artist Tatiana de la Tierra has become one of those precious flowers in the Buffalo artistic community’s cap. A writer in both Spanish and English, a self-proclaimed hedonist and pornographer, and perhaps the wildest librarian you’ll ever meet, De la Tierra produces work focused on the creative potential and the political implications of her identities as both queer and Latina. Poetic yet confrontational, her work is by no means without humor, as those who witnessed her performance of “Big Fat Pussy Girl” in HAG Theater’s The Vagina Dialogues will recall. De la Tierra’s For the Hard Ones reads as a collection of musings on the definition of lesbianism itself, exploring the plasticity of lesbian experience and its multiple yet simultaneous incarnations. Although written as a “lesbianized” parody of Dante Medina, De la Tierra’s book often resonates with the calm elegance of a Buddhist meditation. As phenomenology, For the Hard Ones performs a study of the “possible appearances” in lesbian experience. Issues of community, self-identification, representation, and desire are woven through De la Tierra’s recitation of lesbian phenomena. In keeping with the work’s exploration of multiplicity, For the Hard Ones also includes the original Spanish version, which is printed from the back of the book forward and meets the English text in the center—a very “queer” mirroring indeed.
Reviewed by Caitlin Keegan; published in Art Voice, April 3, 2003.
For the Hard Ones/Para las duras has the feel of something ancestral, embodying old and essential knowledge that is being passed on in the amorphous and boundless world of lesbians, that has come through the inspired parody of tatiana de la tierra. In poems that are titled “Forms of Lesbians,” “Tell Me How You Decorate Your Lips and I’ll Tell You Who You Are,” “About the Tongue,” “Penetration,” “The Fingers,” and “Lesbian Literature,” we read indeed about the manifestation of lesbian lives, sex, loves, identities, etc. both psychic and physical.
The book is a delight, with a gorgeous cover featuring a painting by Chicana artist Maya Gonzalez, and a perfect epigraphy by the Colombian novelist Albalucía Angel. Both the cover and the words by Angel contribute to the synthesis of tatiana’s poetic investigation of the mythical lesbiana, and her incorporation in the word.
tatiana’s voice in this collection retains the unrestrained and sexual character of her writing in the Latina lesbian magazines Esto no tiene nombre and Conmoción, both of which she edited. But the depth and importance of her work is felt in writing that is extremely agile and inventive in tone and form. In these pieces the speaker meditates, fantasizes, analyzes and ruminates on the nature of being a lesbian.
There are lines to be relished, “being a lesbian is a changing of the hands of power” (“Pathway to Lesbianism); “is to name the imprint that being a lesbian leaves” (“Who Is the One Who Says ‘I Am’?”). And,
it is thanks to the tongue that there are lesbians, but it is not only with the tongue that a lesbian is a lesbian (“About the Tongue”).
There are lines that celebrate humor and lust, such as these instructions in “Nibbling”:
second: linger on the look, the perfume, the temperature, the silence, the wetness, the sticky moment.
And in the poem with the longest title (“Tell Me How…”), we are left pondering old beliefs, new lesbian theory, fantasies, memories…
some lesbians are hard.
they are the ones who wear the pants and never take them off. they are the dangerous ones. the butches. the ones who get on top. the ones who fuck. who bite. who penetrate. who dominate. the ones who everyone knows are dykes.
But while tatiana may prod and provoke political certainties and uncertainties, it is the unique combination of concept and cadence in these pieces that opens Spanish and English to lesbian possibility and sensibility. The pleasure of holding a book written in two languages in your hands lies in turning it over and looking for words on the other side for expanded meaning. The words can be enjoyed for their sound and for their etymology, the images, for their multiple meanings. Is mariposeando the same is “butterflying”? Or, mujer mariposeada the same as “butterflied woman”? Some lines may sound better in one language than the other, but that is strictly personal preference. tatiana’s translations invite the participation of the reader: “Las lesbianas duras… they know how to tune in to a woman’s desire/saben acariciar y agarrar y comer. Saben engatusar gritos y calmar ansias/they how how to harden a clitoris and they know what to do with it once it’s hard. (“Tell Me How…”)
Ultimately, this magical book stimulates (!) intellectual curiosity, critical reading and discussion in the field of lesbian lit. For tatiana de la tierra, a pioneering writer and publisher who emigrated from Colombia to “Mayami,” who has more degrees than you can sneeze at, and more qualifications (combat femme, salsera, pornographer, librarian—you’ll love her bio, written in bilingual “slam” rant) than anyone I know, this is a distinguished achievement.
Reviewed by Mariana Romo-Carmona. Published in Lambda Book Report, August/September 2003, p. 19-20
Mariana Romo-Carmona is the author of Living at Night, Speaking Like an Immigrant and Conversaciones, which won a Lammy in 2002.
De la tierra is Blunt, Funny, Insightful … and a Librarian!
For the Hard Ones: A Lesbian Phenomenology / Para las Duras: Una Fenomenología Lesbiana, by tatiana de la tierra (Calaca Press, 2002)
Written in both Spanish and English, For the Hard Ones is a challenging and inspiring collection of prose poetry about lesbian experience and identity. De la tierra is blunt, funny, insightful … and a librarian! The pages of this book will take only a few minutes to read, but the author’s words will seep into your brain and rise to the surface again and again. [Laura Finkel, Flower-Sprecher Veterinary Library]
Published on Cornell Library’s web site:
Hot!, December 6, 2003
Reviewer: A reader from USA
This talented writer expresses her poetry in both Spanish and English in a creative, vivid way. Her prose is strong yet beautiful, sort of like a mix of tulips and iron. There are three Latina women writers that I consider the best in their field: 1) Achy Obejas (Memory Mambo, etc) 2) Tatiana de la Tierra (¡este libro!) and 3) a bilingual children’s book writer, Mayra L. Dole (Drum, Chavi, Drum! / ¡Toca,Chavi,Toca!). The three writers (Achy writes brilliant/fascinating novels, De la Tierra is the GODDESS OF LESBO LOVE, and Dole has vibrant prose and incorporates strong girl Latino characters in her picture book) are in a league of their own. We need more Latino women writers, who write about the Latino experience, for a wide variety of starved audiences, from the young to the elderly… It is amazing to have found three sensational writers this year!
This book is obviously written by a woman who is in love with women and with words. Bravo Tatiana de la Tierra! I am looking forward to reading your next book!
A must buy!
Latina Lesbian Sizzle with a Kick, June 21, 2003
Reviewer: A reader from Philadelphia, PA USA
This is a fiery hot collection of lesbian delights, dripping with sensual intellect and an irreverent charm that will have you squirming, laughing and grinning from ear to ear. It is the kind of book you want to read out loud to your lover, ex-girlfriend, and every other dyke you know, a book that will call to you in your sleep and have you fondling its pages over and over again. These tightly bound short poetic jewels possess a sizzling wit and shameless wantonness. This book is divided into English and Spanish, and throughout the text you see an agility and deftness in both languages that is rare in bilingual editions. This book is a must-have for every one who has tried to define what makes lesbians so bold, sexy, infuriating and captivating. ¡Gózalo!
Reviews Published Online at http://www.amazon.com
Author’s Corner (Interview)
Pedro Reynoso Valdez
Para algunos, las palabras de tatiana pueden aparecer controvertidas o simplemente atrevidas, habrá aquellos que no quedrán leerlo. Pero para Tatiana, estas palabras son solo otra manera de expresar su manera de ser, abiertamente y sin censura. Filosofía que siempre ha seguido desde sus comienzos como editora de esto no tiene nombre y conmoción, revistas de lesbianas Latinas que se publicaron en Miami de 1992 hasta 1996. Pero dejemos a ella misma, que nos cuente mas de su poesía, su libro y su carrera como bibliotecaria en la Universidad de Buffalo, en Buffalo, Nueva York.
De donde nace el titulo, For the Hard Ones/Para las duras?
It was la dedicatoria in my book—“For the hard ones”—that Kim Meyerer, the graphic designer, put on the cover. She was playing around with the design, trying different fonts and colors. At that point the title was “Lesbian Phenomenology: A Poetic Fantasy” but I was unsettled with it because it seemed stuffy. “For the Hard Ones” felt right on.
Who are the “hard ones/las duras”?
In my poetic parlance, “las duras” are the butches, o mejor dicho, the “masculine” lesbians. And I dedicated the book to the hard ones because I am femme—una muñeca—and I have great respect and desire for butches.
Did you have a specific audience in mind when you wrote the book?
Para las duras is the result of a creative writing experiment. I was “lesbianizing” a book by Dante Medina, a Mexican author. At the time, I was in a creative writing program at the University of Texas at El Paso and I was doing my lesbianization for a Mexican literature class. So my immediate audience was graduate students and professors from the Spanish department. Lesbians were in the back of my mind, of course, and lesbians are ultimately the target audience, especially Spanish-speaking lesbians.
For the Hard Ones/Para las duras is a book of poetry that crosses various literary themes and social boundaries; how would you describe your poetry? Does your work fit the genre of “New American Lesbian Fiction? “
I’ll call this “poetry” because it’s the category it comes closest to, but in reality, Para las duras is a philosophical treatise on lesbianism written in poetic prose and in literary snapshots. It’s not fiction, though, it’s realistic and fanciful. And I don’t think I’d tag it “New American Lesbian” (though others might). It’s more like old-fashioned jota-ism.
How can a library cataloger accurately describe your book? Do you care?
I care deeply about cataloguing. It’s one of my areas of research. The way a book is catalogued determines, in part, how it can be accessed. I sat down with a senior cataloguer, Judith Hopkins, at the University at Buffalo so that we could provide the publisher with suggested Library of Congress Subject Headings. That was enlightening! While the subject headings we selected were “accurate,” they were also lacking. I also wanted subject headings that reflected the bilingual and bicultural nature of the book.
What are some of the common themes found in your poetry? Which theme in particular did you find most enjoyable and/or challenging when writing the book?
Erotica, identity and activism are the main themes in my writing. Para las duras made me recreate the roots of my lesbianism, and this was great fun, going back to a time when the world was one big women’s music festival. The challenging aspect was the language itself—the Spanish and then the translation into English. I had El Pequeño Larousse at my fingertips the whole time. The best part of this is that I did it all para divertirme, as a creative experiment, never knowing it would become a book. So it wasn’t like grueling work, it was more like a puzzle that I had to solve.
Why the need to publish?
I had my first poem published in junior high school, and I was a columnist and features editor for my high school paper, the South Dade Scene. Later on, I published the latina lesbian magazines esto no tiene nombre and conmoción and I’ve had my writings published in journals and anthologies since 1985. I think I was born to publish and be published. A destiny thing.
What authors do you feel have significantly influenced your work?
Music is really what influences my writing (and my spirit) the most—especially the lyrics. Songwriters that I dig include contemporary salseros and roqueros like Shakira, Willy Chirino, Ana Gabriel, Springsteen, and Juanes, along with veteranos like Lucho Bermudez, Rafael Escalona, José Alfredo Jiménez, Jorge Villamil, Jairo Varelo, José A. Morales, Luis Felipe González, Miguel Matamorros. I could go on and on. I love vallenatos and salsa most of all, with a fondness for musica colombiana, of course. As far as writers, I’ll just mention my number one—Hernándo Téllez. Es colombiano. He was quite the craftsman and is my literary idol.
Do you need to live a lesbian lifestyle first, before attempting to write about it?
Do you have any additional comments?
I think that lesbianism is still regarded as a type of deviancy in Latino culture. It’s often presented as a scandalous thing, or at least as something that should be kept calladito. Para las duras is a celebration of lesbianism, and I just hope that it gets into the hands of lesbians who can appreciate and maybe even need to celebrate themselves.
Interview by Pedro Reynoso Valdez; published in the REFORMA Newsletter, Fall 2003, p. 11+.
Flowers Received by E-mail from Readers All Over
Yo adoro tu libro. Lo he leido y requete leido en ingles y en Spanish. ¡Que buen trabajo bilingue!!! Tu libro is exciting, thoughtful, fun, and sexy! I absolutely love it! Te quiero, Virginia; Portland, Oregon; 10 de diciembre de 2002
Sin conocerte me tomo la libertad de escribirte y decirte: incredible. Por fin palabras que habian desde lo que ha sido nada más y nada menos que un gran boquete en la literature. Como si no existieran lesbianas hispanas americanas escritoras atrevidas abiertas (¿o no?). Yo no escribo pero si escribiera me gustaría haber escrito tu libro. Me contento con darle las GRACIAS! Por haberlo escrito. Saludos, Lizanne, big fan; Los Angeles, California; 16 de octubre de 2003
…Leimos tu libro con mucho agrado y diversión.. Hay algunas partes que a mi me resultaron particularmente interesantes, otras reveladoras, otras bastante divertidas. Me gusto por su diversidad en la exposición del texto, por el juego de palabras…Saludos afectuosos, Lilian; Buffalo, Nueva York; 15 de octubre de 2003
Acabo de recibir tu magnífico libro Para las duras… y me ha fascinado… Saludos a todas las mujeres que regresan a sí mismas y no me quites la huella de tu pie de mi cara, por favor. Un abrazo, Oscar; Pinar del Rio, Cuba; 15 de Julio de 2003
…I loved every word of it. I also loved all the notes you included on the literature that you drew on and the process of creating the document. –Darla; Staten Island, New York; 10 de abril de 2003
Your book is dangerous. I start having sex or wanting to within a page or sooner of reading…Karleen, Toronto, Canada; 19 de noviembre de 2002
Tu libro…is truly beautiful. Es toda una obra de arte…Congratulations on a beautiful book, Manuel; El Paso, Texas; 22 de noviembre de 2002
¡que chevere! felicitaciones en la salida de este libro. la verdad es que es un libro, fisicamente, muy entre-tenido. I mean this word, in the sense of its folds. As in the fold of the Spanish and English in this first sense, and then, ad infinitum, o para decirlo mejor en usda Spanish/spanioluzado: por ahi pabajo. –Luis, New York City, 21 de noviembre de 2002
a lesbian phenomenology…is great reading out loud to a good lesbian friend or lover…it’s sensual, down to earth, and right on. It moves well and if you are a lesbian the words will move right into your soul. I am impressed, I am inspired. I want to share it with every lesbian I know…it moves me…a true classic for any lesbian. The poetic style and awareness of lesbian is powerful and full of depth. I can’t say enough. I will continue to tell all my friends about it and read it again and again. Dare I say there are major universal truths there in. Thank you for this treasure, Barbara; Utah, 29 de marzo de 2003
Estoy muy contenta con tu libro. Me lo he leído de una sola sentada ayer; no pude dejarlo hasta que lo terminé. Me encantó. Me hiciste reír y pensar. Pero me hiciste reír mucho… Tu mariposeada amiga, Odette, Mexico, DF, 30 de enero de 2003
Thank you… for your fabulous book Para las duras…I enjoyed and absorbed its ideas and familiar yet erotic images…–Amelia; Chicago, Illinois; 13 de abril de 2004
I have to tell you, I have finally read your book and it is beautiful. Pale words for what I head and experienced reading it, but it is the simple truth. Do you care to know my impressions?… Butterflies and enchantment. I know myself in some of your images evoked with words, yet I don’t identify as a lesbian… Marcie, Syracuse, New York; 9 de mayo de 2004