Victor Hernandez Cruz
Biography of Victor Hernandez Cruz
Victor Hernandez Cruz was born in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico. He moved to New York City with his family when he was five years old, but he didn’t start learning English until two years later when his family bought a television set. He started writing poetry early and at seventeen self-published his first book, Papo Got His Gun! And Other Poems, on a mimeograph machine. Since then, more than a dozen collections of his poems—among them Snaps (1969); By Lingual Wholes (1982); Red Beans (1991); Rhythm, Content, and Flavor: New and Selected Poems (1989); and The Mountain in the Sea (2006)—have been published by traditional publishing houses. He is a member of the Nuyorican movement of writers.
Cruz writes from the observation point of traveler and city dweller; he is fluent in Spanish and English, and the poems reveal his familiarity with music, New York, California, the Caribbean, Puerto Rican history, and the immigrant experience. Of Red Beans, Jose Amaya wrote in the San Francisco Review of Books, “Cruz experiments with the vast linguistic and cultural possibilities of ‘indo-afro-hispano’ poetry and comes up with a strong vision of American unity.” Ann C. Bromley observed in the American Book Review, “Red Beans celebrates a migratory poetics that is self-reflective, lyrical, lush, and often dead-pan humorous as Spanish and English dance a lambada through its pages.”
Cruz commented in a 1990 interview that writing poetry is his way of traveling, and that his major concerns include “the history of immigration in a world-wide sense; the idea of civilization coming into other civilizations.” He often writes poems based on material he has recorded in notebooks. When asked why he seldom uses the first-person point of view in his poems, he explained, “The poetry’s not really about myself, it’s about my culture.”
Victor Hernandez Cruz was one of the founders of the Before Columbus Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes the recognition of multicultural writers. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Victor Hernandez Cruz Poems
The Empire State Building Is on 63rd Street Ramon wanted to bet Manolo Manolo said impossible
Latin & Soul
some waves a wave of now a trombone speaking to you a piano is trying to break a molecule
Two guitars were left in a room all alone They sat on different corners of the parlor In this solitude they started talking to each other
Three Songs from the 50s
Song 1 Julito used to shine the soul of his shoes before he left for the Palladium to take the wax
Next to white rice it looks like coral sitting next to snow Hills of starch
La luna Sang the miles por los palos de Nebraska You bunch of lights
The mountain have changed to buildings Is this hallway the inside of a stem That has a rattling flower for a head, Immense tree bark with roots made out of
Her voice comes out of her knees, her fingernails are full of sound, Birds are in her lungs, which gives her gargantuan flight,
Here Is an Ear Hear
Is the ocean really inside seashells or is it all in your mind? —PICHON DE LA ONCE Behold and soak like a sponge.
you are falling sun shine miracle your lips are wet rain
El Poema de lo Reverso
In which everything goes backwards in time and motion Palm trees shrink back into the ground Mangos become seeds
Through the Victorians spinning a wool of music the gang in the breeze Boys and girls headed toward the
In a city that now floats in a bottle, In a dimension outside of the census,
Problems with Hurricanes
A campesino looked at the air And told me: With hurricanes it's not the wind or the noise or the water.
Latin & Soul
for Joe Bataan
a wave of now
a trombone speaking to you
a piano is trying to break a molecule
is trying to lift the stage into orbit
around the red spotlights