Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Chicana poet Bernice Zamora is best known for her collection of poems, Restless Serpents. First published in 1976, this collection established Zamora's reputation as an important poet. Zamora was born on January 20, 1938, in the small rural community of Aguilar, Colorado, where her family roots extend back several generations. Her parents, Victor and Marjorie Ortiz, eventually moved the family to Pueblo. The influence of the southern Colorado landscape and its rugged terrain of mountains and volcanoes would become a lasting feature in her work, as would the regional culture.

Zamora received her bachelor of arts degree from Southern Colorado University in 1970, her master of arts degree from Colorado State University in 1972, and her doctorate from Stanford University in 1986. In addition to her career as a poet, Zamora has taught classes in Chicano studies, ethnic studies, and literature at the University of California at Berkeley, University of San Francisco, Santa Clara University, and Stanford University. Zamora has also coedited anthologies of Chicano writing. Her collected poems in Restless Serpents were republished with a series of new poems under the title, Releasing Serpents, in 1994.

A variety of themes and influences culminate in Zamora's poetry: Chicano cultural traditions, gender discrimination, cultural suppression, labor exploitation, spiritual questions, identity conflict, and love. The regional setting of southern Colorado and, more generally, the American Southwest, figures prominently in her work as she explores such questions. Chicano writers often locate Aztlan, the homeland of the Aztecs, within the region of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Zamora integrates Aztec references and images in her writing as she explores themes and questions about cultural heritage and the effects of colonization in the contemporary world of the American Southwest.

Sharla Hutchison University of Oklahoma

Bruce-Novoa, Juan. Chicano Poetry: A Response to Chaos. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982.

Sánchez, Marta Ester. Contemporary Chicana Poetry: A Critical Approach to an Emerging Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

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