A Review by Donna Maria Alexander
Ciento: 100 100 Word Love Poems by Lorna Dee Cervantes was published by Wings Press, September 2011. This vibrant new collection from the acclaimed Chicana poet bears testament to her experimental style and far-reaching voice. The collection was born out a writing challenge the poet set for herself: Every week Cervantes would receive a new word from the website “One Word,” and with this she would to write a 100-word love poem. The image on the front cover is a photograph of the remains of a young man and woman buried in a lover’s embrace c.4,500BC, near Mantua, Italy. This image, evoking the longevity of human love, is as timeless as the collection itself. Furthermore, the title, Ciento is a spirited play on the Spanish words, “ciento” which means “hundred” and “siento” meaning “I feel.”
A quick scan through the table of contents reveals the range and diversity of Cervantes’s love poems: “100 Words Towards Possibility”, “100 Words to Win You”, “100 Words for My Ass”, “100 Words to Nail You”, “100 Words to the Oddities of You”, “100 Words to Google.” This echoes the experimental style of Cervantes’ landmark collection, Drive: The First Quartet (2006) in which the poet experiments with a range of styles and genres from the traditional haiku to free verse and elegy.
The poems in Ciento vary in tone from serious to passionate, from playfully humorous to zestfully erotic and hopelessly romantic. The most mundane and unusual words are transformed in an energetic poetic dialogue of love, passion and humour. See the video below for a reading from the collection by Cervantes in Galaria de la Raza, San Francisco:
Again, Cervantes writes with the zeal, sincerity and focus that is so evident in her previous collections. Ciento is a versatile collection that the reader can indulge at their own pace. Whether it is read from start to finish or dipped into sporadically, its luminosity will seduce you again and again. Ciento is a collection that calls out (in Cervantes’s words from “100 Words to Content”) “Come. Come content, and contend with me.”
– by Donna Maria Alexander