| The Heath Anthology of
American Literature, Fifth Edition
Victor Hernández Cruz
Born in Aguas Buenas, a small mountain town in
Puerto Rico, Víctor Hernández Cruz moved with his family to the States when he
was five. He attended Benjamin Franklin High School in New York City and was
associated with The Gut Theater on East 104th Street. He published Snaps, his
first collection of poetry, when he was twenty. From the early 1970s, Hernández
Cruz lived in San Francisco; in 1990 he returned to Aguas Buenas, where he
continues to write in both English and Spanish.
poetry has been described as “the most conscious of literary forms, and the
most influenced by present tendencies in American literature” among Puerto
Rican writers in the United States. It is, indeed, highly introspective and
abstract, preoccupied with form, rhythm, and language. His poems lack the
referential context to popular culture and life in El Barrio which
characterizes the work of Tato Laviera and Miguel Algarín, for example. Rather,
his intellectualizing voice exhibits influences of various literary movements,
such as minimalism and concrete poetry, among others. Nonetheless, his poems
and prose pieces capture Hispanic images and symbols in the urban milieu.
distinguishing feature of Hernández Cruz’s poetry is its conscious language
choices. The poet plays with both English and Spanish words, with spelling and
phonetics, suggesting at times simultaneous American and Puerto Rican readings.
The title of his book By Lingual Wholes illustrates his playful and witty use
of language. By Lingual echoes the word “bilingual,” and the concept wholes,
which implies both totality and absence—(w)holes—unifies the poems in this
collection. The book itself is a collage in which spatial and visual signs are
part of the poem’s meaning, as they are in the work of the Brazilian concrete
poets. Poetry and prose are intertwined with one-word poems, haikus, short
stories, prose poems, and an empty appendix. The epigraph to the book signals this
playful yet serious hybridization: “Speech changing within space.”
Cruz’s vision of the transformation of literary English because of its contact
with Spanish is his unique contribution to American literature. Just as Spanish
in the States has been transforming itself into the distinct dialects of the
various Hispanic groups who live here, English also has been affected by
Hispanic writers. Hernández Cruz believes that the English syntax is being
changed through the Spanish influence. His work is substantially enriched by
the mixture and interplay of the two languages, and by the meaningful
intersections between English and Spanish. However, in Panoramas, he proposes
that English and Spanish not be mixed.
poetry has evolved from the fragmented and often violent images of urban life,
experiences with drugs, and existential beliefs during his youth—as in Snaps—to
a dynamic and sometimes profound expression of biculturalism and bilingualism.
Cosmopolitan and urban, his poetry stands without sacrificing images of
Hispanic origin, culture, and tradition. His is the language of the urban,
intellectual Latino who nevertheless cannot survive without transforming the
past into the present.
Frances R. Aparicio|
University of Illinois at Chicago
In the Heath Anthology
Table of Contents
By Lingual Wholes
Rhythm, Content and Flavor
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Home Is Where the Music Is
A review of Panoramas.
Etext of Cruz's kobayashi issa.
Victor Hernandez Cruz
Includes a biographical sketch, selecte d bibliography, and photograph.
Frances Aparicio, "On Sub-versive signifiers" in Tropicalizations, 1997
Edna Acosta Belen, "The Literature of the Puerto Rican National Minority in the United States," 5:12 The Bilingual Review (Jan.-August 1978): 107-116
Arnaldo Cruz, "Teaching Puerto Rican Authors: Modernization and Identity in Nuyorican Literature," ADE Journal published by The Modern Language Association, December, 1988
William Luis, Dance between Two Cultures: Latino Caribbean Literature Written in the U.S., 1997
Where Poems Come From (video), 1991
Marc Zimmerman, U.S. Latino Literature: An Essay and Annotated Bibliography, 1992