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advanced praise for


“To read the poems in Trace is to journey through tierra, myth, wound, and love. With her richly textured imagery and a language layered with music and truth, Brenda Cárdenas paints the ceremonies of the living and the realms of the dead. There is a visceral sense of place and much elegy in this collection; there is also a soulful imagination that seeks healing, as seen when the Mayan moon goddess Ix Chel appears to anoint the bodies of the drowned, or how a funnel of bees hum with ‘the work of finding home.’ For Cárdenas, that quest is everywhere.”
        —Emma Trelles, author of Tropicalia and poet laureate of Santa                   Barbara


“Brenda Cárdenas flexes, topples, and surrenders to the ‘gathering of ghosts’ who have returned in these resolute and electrifying poems as ‘bright as a quintet of monarchs in milkweed flickering.’ A constellation of ‘brujas, chavalas, carnales, cabrones, rucas, locas, comadres . . . una vieja y sus recuerdos,’ Cárdenas refuses to root herself into solitary complacency and reveals a voice as ‘bright as chrome.’ This collection is a journey of faith and memory tracing a path toward a life lived like a ‘trapeze artist, contortionist, upsidedown, insideout, wracked with sweet pain.’ These poems are a gift of lyrical intensity that move us optimistically toward something yet to be imagined.”

        —Ruben Quesada, editor of Latinx Poetics: Essays on  the Art of Poetry and author                        of Revelations  and Next Extinct Mammal

“We enter Brenda Cárdenas newest book, Trace, through an excavation of ‘the ruins / of our purple terrain,’ and so enter the speaker’s configuration of a named-past ever alive in the present as a catalogue of inspiration. Cárdenas resurrects the little joys with which we may all eclipse latent despair, a ‘deer’s skitter,’ ‘xocoatl spiced with chili / y vanilla,’ ‘every instrument and its music.’ Trace shines light into every corner as Cárdenas reimagines the project of ekphrastic lyric not only as a call and response with the artist and the writer, but also as collective construction that informs the speaker’s vast interiority, thereby creating a treasury of souls who harness the creative and transmuting power of art and language. Her arc here is measured and yet playful, mournful only within the context of that happiness which eventually returns. The speaker’s levity often obscures the formal complexity of the stunning craft here, creating a ‘scintillating music’ that ‘crickets / vertiginous missives’ throughout the book which I am not only happy to enter, to languish within, but to which I feel compelled to return with gratitude, again and again.”
            —Ruth Ellen Kocher, author of Third Voice: Poems, domina Un/blued, Goodbye                               Lyric:The Gigans and Lovely Gun, and Desdemona’s Fire

“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

“I remember as a child spinning a metal top in my abuelos’ basement with the lights off until I made the universe whir, release star-sparks. That’s the sort of energy that Brenda Cárdenas generates in her capacious, code-switching collection which, by turns, is ekphrastic, combative, nostalgic, elegiac, oneiric, odic, comic, romantic. Put on your safety glasses, ese. Trace is poetry in motion.”
         —Mauricio Kilwein Guevara, author of Poema, Poems of the River Spirit,  and The                              Autobiography of So-and-So

“Brenda Cárdenas’ masterful command of Chicano Caló, USA English, and Mexican Spanish weaves a brilliant celebration of the senses captured by a woman rich with artistic inspiration and keenly aware of her sensual and intellectual worth; it is the core of her new collection Trace. Cárdenas holds us close while providing insight to her childhood explorations, adolescent temptations, or rebellious explorations. She shares her mature mediations of love’s carnal and spiritual dimensions across a multitude of captivating connections to our culture’s ‘literary archaeologists’ and our place on beautiful and brutal earth and cosmos. I guarantee, you will return to Trace, time and again.”
                   —Carlos Cumpián, Author of Human Cicada, Armadillo Charm, and Coyote Sun

“Brenda Cárdenas’ Trace is an invitation to transform a plastic world of accumulated excess from ‘all our granular wreckage.’ Trace conjures up a multi-layered language attentive to the ‘cumulous algae’ and ‘skunky ruckus’ dreams of artists and workers and celebrating all that we come from—a lineage that ‘refuse[s] to flinch,’ ‘a chorus resounding for acres.’”
                                            —Ching-Inn Chen, author of Recombinant and The Heart’s Traffic

reviews + interviews


"Listening to Brenda Cárdenas is, on its own, an exercise in crossing borders."

                               -Kurt Heinz, April 2002

praise for


“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

praise for

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, author of Breathing Between the Lines,

                  Mother Tongue, and Block Captain's Daughter

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