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My BOOKS & Edited Anthologies

TRACE More Info
Trace: Poems

Through image-rich poems regarding migration, transcultural identity, loss, connection, dream, and aging—some translingual, some ekphrastic responses to ephemeral and surreal works of art—Brenda Cárdenas’ Trace explores conditions of displacement, liminality, and mutability. These poems transgress illusory borders between lands, languages, humans and the rest of the natural world, waking and dreaming, and the living and the dead as they unearth traces of experience that shape and haunt us, traces we leave behind for others to encounter. Although elegy resurfaces throughout this collection as does a poetics of social consciousness, Cárdenas also embraces moments of levity, story, and an effervescent internal music that balance her steps through fraught yet bewitching terrain.


“This remarkable collection migrates from outward to inward—ekphrastic poems charged with ars resistencia to biographical poems of childhood wonder, teen rebelliousness, middle age dreams. Throughout, we are immersed in the ‘morphology of dream, the moonmilk of words.’ Cárdenas loves language—each turn of phrase radiates the power of the word to mean, resonate, and transcend. These poems, like a ‘flatbed full of cempazuchil,’ light the way.”
Valerie Martínez, author of Count, Each and Her, and World to World

BoomeranG: POEMS

In Boomerang, Brenda Cárdenas creates a vibrant, syncretic space open to many voices, perspectives, and tongues. Here, whatever is made is in motion. Cárdenas casts a line of English, and it returns to her in Spanish. She spins lyrically taut free verse; sculpts prose poems, sapphics, and sonnets; and punches the rhythms of spoken word in what Juan Felipe Herrera has called "a sonic calligraphy, hand-thrown spirals of spirit." Whether telling stories of displaced peoples and places, responding to Chicano art, or meditating on language itself, Cárdenas strikes a deliberately tenuous balance between self-assurance and loss, all the while on a journey toward the interconnectedness that she calls home.


“Brenda writes with the serious and sensual delight of a belling-dancing bruja shaman woman…There are no borders between the dead and the living, lovers and strangers, intellect and body heat, Nahuatl and Caló, official text and love-sound…Cárdenas is a synthesizer tuned to Lorca, Anzaldúa, Guillén Celan, Cortázar, Burciaga, and Coyote. At a time when minimalist text and line are the dominant poetics, Brenda Cárdenas dissolves ancient monuments and sets the meter for the new boom!”

--Juan Felipe Herrera, United States Poet Laureate, 2015-2017


“Cardenas' bilingual poems are very skillful; the Spanish weaves seamlessly with the English. I think her poem, ‘Abuelo y sus cuentos: Origin of the Bird-Beak Mole’ is a perfect bilingual poem and my favorite in the collection. Other favorites are ‘Sound Waves: Tono-D,’ ‘Cartoon Coyote Goes Po-Mo,’ and ‘Feast.’

-- John Olivares Espinoza, author of The Date Fruit Elegies, on Goodreads


From the Tongues of Brick and Stone

“This is a brave and beautiful book in which we are invited to partake in an unflinching look at how language divides us and brings us together much like the political strife that Cárdenas writes about. Cárdenas bear witness at a time when many want to look the other way. We can only be grateful.“

--Demetria Martínez

Co-Edited Anthology:


"...While the literary voices of U.S. Puerto Rican poets and fiction writers and their Chicano/a counterparts on the West Coast and in the Southwest have been anthologized, duly canonized and even mainstreamed by the Anglo literary market, very little is heard about Latinoa /a writers and poets from the Midwest... Between the heart and the Land/Entre el corazon y la tierra encompasses a rich array of women of various national origins--Dominican, Cuban, Cost Rican, Bolivian, Salvadorian, Columbian, Argentinian, Mexican, Chicana, and Puerto Rican--as well as of diverse socioeconomic and work experiences, sexuality, sexual identities, age and generational experiences..." ---From the foreword by Frances Aparicio, Ph.D. Latin/American Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago "Between the heart and theLand/Entre el corazon y la tierra is a poetic and bold testament of the undeniable Latina presence in the heartland of the united States." --- Ana Castillo

Co-Edited Anthology:

Resist Much/
Obey Little: Inaugural Poems to the Resistance

Michael Boughn and Kent Johnson brought together eighteen editors, of which Cárdenas is one, from diverse aesthetic and cultural backgrounds to solicit and curate the work of more than 350 poets in roughly two months. They note in their introductory essay “Poetry and Resistance,” that this book “is first and foremost a collective, insurgent call that is part and parcel of a sovereign people’s challenge to a narcissistic oligarch and his lackeys, who smirk now from their temporary perches of power. Its pages are bound in direct, literal ways, to the historic worldwide marches of January 22nd—and they stand as evidence that the vast majority of American poets (and artists and writers of all kind) revile the new reactionary dispensation.”

“This anthology represents a model for activism and mobility in a time of political emergency.”

Dante Di Stefano

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