Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers by Gloria Anzaldúa

Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers by Gloria Anzaldúa

21 de mayo 80

Dear mujeres de color, I feel heavy and tired and there is a buzz in my head—too many beers last night. But I must finish this letter. My bribe: to take myself out to pizza. So I cut and paste and line the floor with my bits of paper. My life strewn on the floor in bits and pieces and I try to make some order out of it working against time, psyching myself up with decaffeinated coffee, trying to fill in the gaps.

Leslie, my housemate, comes in, gets on hands and knees to read my fragments on the floor and says, “It’s good, Gloria.” And I think: I don’t have to go back to Texas, to my family of land, mesquites, cactus, rattlesnakes, and roadrunners. My family, this community of writers. How could I have lived and survived so long without it. And I remember the isolation, re-live the pain again.

“To assess the damage is a dangerous act,” writes Cherríe Moraga. To stop there is even more dangerous.

It’s too easy, blaming it all on the white man or white feminists or society or our parents. What we say and what we do ultimately come back to us, so let us own our responsibility, place it in our own hands and carry it with dignity and strength. No one’s going to do my shitwork, I pick up after myself.

It makes perfect sense to me now how I resisted the act of writing, the commitment to writing. To write is to confront one’s demons, look them in the face and live to write about them. Fear acts like magnet; it draws the demons out of the closet and into the ink in our pens.

The tiger riding our backs (writing) never lets us alone. Why aren’t you writing, writing, writing? It asks constantly till we begin to feel we’re vampires sucking the blood out of too fresh an experience; that we are sucking life’s blood to feed the pen. Writing is the most daring thing I have ever done and the most dangerous. Nellie Wong calls writing “the three-eyed demon shrieking the truth.”

Writing is dangerous because we are afraid of what the writing reveals: the fears, the angers, the strengths of a woman under a triple or quadruple oppression. Yet in that very act lies our survival because a woman who writes has power. And a woman with power is feared.

What did it mean for a black woman to be an artist in our grandmother’s time? It is a question with an answer cruel enough to stop the blood. – Alice Walker

I have never seen so much power in the ability to move and transform others as from that of the writing of women of color.

In the San Francisco area, where I now live, none can stir the audience with their craft and truthsaying as do Cherríe Moraga (Chicana), Genny Lim (Asian American), and Luisah Teish (Black). With women like these, the loneliness of writing and the sense of powerlessness can be dispelled. We can walk among each other talking of our writing, reading to each other. And more and more when I’m alone, though still in communion with each other, the writing possesses me and propels me to leap into a timeless, spaceless no-place where I forget myself and feel I am the universe. This is power.

It’s not on paper that you create but in your innards, in the gut and out of living tissue—organic writing I call it. A poem works for me not when it says what I want it to say and not when it evokes what I want it to. It works when the subject I started out with metamorphoses alchemically into a different one, one that has been discovered, or uncovered, by the poem. It works when it surprises me, when it says something I have repressed or pretended not to know. The meaning and worth of my writing is measured by how much I put myself on the line and how much nakedness I achieve.

Audre said we need to speak up. Speak loud, speak unsettling things and be dangerous and just fuck, hell, let it out and let everybody hear whether they want to or not. – Kathy Kendall

I say mujer mágica, empty yourself. Shock yourself into new ways of perceiving the world, shock your readers into the same. Stop the chatter inside their heads.

Your skin must be sensitive enough for the lightest kiss and thick enough to ward off the sneers. If you are going to spit in the eye of the world, make sure your back is to the wind. Write of what most links us with life, the sensation of the body, the images seen by the eye, the expansion of the psyche in tranquility: moments of high intensity, its movement, sounds, thoughts. Even though we go hungry we are not impoverished of experiences.

I think many of us have been fooled by the mass media, by society’s conditioning that our lives must be lived in great explosions, by “falling in love,” by being “swept off our feet,” and by the sorcery of magic genies that will fulfill our every wish, our every childhood longing. Wishes, dreams, and fantasies are important parts of our creative lives. They are the steps a writer integrates into her craft. They are the spectrum of resources to reach the truth, the heart of things, the immediacy and the impact of human conflict. – Nellie Wong

Many have a way with words. They label themselves seers, but they will not see. Many have the gift of tongue but nothing to say. Do not listen to them. Many who have words and tongue have no ear; they cannot listen and they will not hear.

There is no need for words to fester in our minds. They germinate in the open mouth of the barefoot child in the midst of restive crowds. They wither in ivory towers and in college classrooms.

Throw away abstraction and the academic learning, the rules, the map and compass. Feel your way without blinders. To touch more people, the personal realities and the social must be evoked- not through rhetoric but through blood and pus and sweat.

Write with your eyes like painters, with your ears like musicians, with your feet like dancers. You are the truthsayer with quill and torch. Write with your tongues of fire. Don’t let the pen banish you from yourself. Don’t let the ink coagulate in your pens. Don’t let the censor snuff out the spark, nor the gags muffle your voice. Put your shit on the paper.

We are not reconciled to the oppressors who whet their howl on our grief. We are not reconciled.

Find the muse within you. The voice that lies buried under you, dig it up. Do not fake it, try to sell it for a handclap or your name in print.


Zine Mobile needs to Make it to the RGV

Dear community of friends, familia and supporters:    Ways to Donate:  1-A check can be mailed to us: Noemi Martinez, PO Box 1606 
Weslaco, TX 78599. A check means we get 100% of the donations with no fees deducted. We are a grassroots movement and do not have a bank account in this project’s name.  2-Paypal donation/gift card? We can work with that 3-Have an item we can use as a perk or for a future raffle fundraiser? We’d love this option too 4. Gofundme fundraiser

The Fly Away Zine Mobile needs to make its way to South Texas and needs you to make it happen. This is the first leg of our fundraising campaign-where we get the free lending library, mini-reading room and resource ready to tour in and around South Texas. We would greatly appreciate any donation you’re able to give, and we would equally appreciate your help spreading the word!

We need help covering the following costs:
At the moment we need donations for the fees for transportation of the zine mobile, title& transfer-registration plus insurance, food while traveling back down to the RGV. This is a grassroots and independent project. Any amount is greatly appreciated. 
Perks will be added soon

More on the Fly Away Zine Libraryhttp://zinemobile.wordpress.com/what/ 

More about the transition can be read here and here

When to see the Fly Away RGV Zine Mobile: You can send us a message http://zinemobile.wordpress.com/contact/

Noemi was selected as the next curator and care taker of the zine mobile in March of this year. 

Read the rest of Noemi’s Bio here: 
Noemi lives in the texas/mexico borderlands, birth place of Gloria Anzaldua.

I’m a long time zinester interested in alt.media, diy, edupunk, veg*n baking, indigenous issues, queer theory and reclamation, mestiza identity, borderland studies, women of color in alt media, raising brown boys, invisible disabilities, Mexican American/chican@ history, Texas/mexico border history, raising spitfire chicanas, single parenting in alt cultures.

those letters I wasted

I guess you can burn the letters I sent
I guess you can burn them
because I regret sending them
like I regret telling you
all my secrets I wasted on you
all those secrets I wasted on you
and my word I gave you
so you can burn those letters
I regret sending them
I regret you
I regret you
and that one safety letter
well keep that one unseen
but burn the rest burn the rest
and that one that one
where I told you, you were the best
you could sleep next to me forever
burn that one last

lost in a brittle star: blackout poetry & paper poems



Earlier this year, I organized an event with blackout poetry as an exhibit, that included the crowd trying their hand at doing blackout poetry and leaving it for each other to read. I told them that it was a way to use up old media, old books we have from dead white men that we bought for a class and couldn’t resell, and books that were water damaged and just plain books that sucked. Folks seem to think that gutting a book is like gutting a bible, and my growing up in the church self knows that its not the same thing. It was mostly an idea that was born out of a desire to do poetry events again but knowing that I have anxiety and thinking is there a way to work with it? What can I do so I won’t be the same nervous poet fumbling on stage?

@ our event Paper Poems
in Edinburg, Paper Poems, Thanks to Vikki and Sophia at the House That Must Not Be Named for being super chill with us and our exhibit

But it was also about January when I found out my friend Mateo died, someone I came to know through zines and we’d eventually visit each other, him here in South Texas and me over in Durham, North Carolina. I even went to live in Durham for a few months, renting the apartment next to his.  and the kids played in the snow and saw squirrels and it was different and not the valley and it was nice

Avocado Hand Grenade
Avocado Hand Grenade

And when I heard of his passing and that of his husband passing, I felt that life had played a cruel joke on us. Life had told me that you can find love and be in love and have this shining couple but be it because of sickness or poverty or the way life is not fair, things like this happen. And I couldn’t write or read the usual way in which I healed, reading Audre Lorde or Anzaldua or the stack of books next to me because the words didn’t make sense.

(I didn’t get shots of the other acts: Farias, Secrets Told in Silence, Jesika and the Pajama Blues and Starla)










Avocado Hand Grenade
Avocado Hand Grenade









And I couldn’t eat. And I didn’t want to either. I didn’t want to do anything but cry and stare out a window and not understand life. Good people in good relationships do not die and do not die together.  I came across blackout poetry online and I thought, mmm. Now there’s a thing.



the city canal ghosts

And I went to bed with a few books that were just god awful and ended up spending five hours trying to come up with poems. The next day I dug around my garage and found books that had been water damaged after my washing machine overflowed. It passed the time and took my mind off that hurt in your heart for a bit. It activated this mental block that had formed in my head, this idea that I had formed against poetry, that I was out of poetry (can one be out of poems?)–











poems arranged outside on top of an old tv
poems arranged outside on top of an old tv




Then I started thinking about rape the way assault comes up in every day life. Music, a tv show. Someone on facebook will  mention someone and that someone will happen to be the person who casually didn’t know what no meant or didn’t understand agreed upon things. And said sexual assaulter will keep on popping up on your dashboard as if the world was there’s to spoil and take.








she thought he would come to one of the windows

And for years I struggled with the idea of what is a violation? what is the definition of assault? Because of this person who by the gods I had figured had been killed off by the universe already or poisoned by his own hand via drugs or alcohol. But no.

Paper Poems
Paper Poems

There is the universe making fools of us all. So then everything I picked up was about violation and rape and revenge and that’s what would come out. The above

set tells a loosely fragmented story of assault/rape.

back into the room












 I told one photography person who showed up that it’s  a way to show how poetry can be done with just about anything and how it doesn’t take a creative type person to do it, it’s not a stuffy professor type thing or a drinking tea with your pinkie raised sort of thing (I type this as I sip on tea, but you get my point). But take the controlled thought of what poetry is out of classrooms and how poetry can be created, and let it unfold, rather organically, in rooms  and corners and on the floor-where folks listened to no one talk about what is and what isn’t poetry, or how poetry should not or should be constructed, and see how they thrive. And me, this nontraditional teacher, just nodding my head and saying, this is pretty bad ass how this came to be. 

lost in a brittle star we are possible
lost in a brittle star
we are possible

Zine Moble for the RGV

I was so happy (Yes I cried) when I received word that my proposal to bring the zine mobile to South Texas & be the curator (I do love that title) was accepted. This is exciting news for the Rio Grande Valley and alt.media. I’ve never been more committed to bringing nontraditional forms of education &media and creative media making to our community. Read more about the Fly Away Zine Mobile project here.
What’s next? Collaborations, zine making parties, fundraisers, tamales, loteria nights, readings and zig zagging trips across South Texas.

To read more about the Fly Away Zine Mobile project, go here
or check out their announcement:

THANK YOU to everyone who proposed a new vision for the Fly Away Zine Mobile. It was an honor to read and imagine so many beautiful scenarios from people who share a passion for freely spreading the love and skills of zines and other do-it-yourself media.

THANK YOU to everyone who weighed in and helped direct the decision-making process. Your perspectives were invaluable and I appreciate you so much.

With apologies for the delay and gratitude for your patience, I’m thrilled to announce that the Fly Away Zine Mobile will live on in these magnificent ways:  From April to July, the Zine Mobile will support the inaugural tour of SoMove, a collective of independent historians, producers, journalists, activists, and artists who’ll be traveling across North America, documenting and sharing social movement oral histories and resources, and offering trainings in media/audio production. When SoMove’s inaugural tour ends in July, the Zine Mobile will go off to South Texas where, under the guidance of Noemi Martinez, it will travel the land between Texas and Mexico. Providing access to voices of immigrants and people of color, the project will evolve into a mobile bicultural and bilingual resource while conducting workshops, teach-ins and readings.While working with both SoMove and Noemi to determine the best place for the zines in the collection, I’ll also be working with Adela C. Licona and Jamie Lee on behalf of the Arizona Queer Archives, an emerging and nonconventional archive at the University of Arizona, who’ll be receiving zines relevant to their curatorial guidelines (which, similar to the Fly Away Zine Mobile’s, are intended to be queer[ed] themselves).

While passing on the vehicle and the zines, I’d also love to pass on some seed money to the two projects that’ll be utilizing the van, to go towards fuel, repairs/maintenance, and future vehicle expenses (which, at least for SoMove, will be happening in July). IF  YOU VALUE INDEPENDENT/MOBILE/DIY MEDIA AND CONTRIBUTING FINANCIALLY IS AVAILABLE TO YOU, PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE; all money raised within the next month (by April 21st, 2014) will be split evenly between the two mobile projects (after that date, I’ll no longer be monitoring the website). Messages of support and encouragement are also always appreciated for this work; and/or, of course please watch for requests for support and participation from the respective projects. THANK YOU! 

Finally, there are two HONORABLE MENTIONS that I hope you’ll join me in supporting:

Pioneers Press and the Hard 50 Farm Zine Mobile! Pioneers Press is a family-run independent publisher and distributor based at the Hard 50 Farm in Kansas, focusing on sustainability, health/wellness, and food and farming politics. The folks behind Pioneers Press have been doing amazing independent publishing/distribution work for a long time now, and last year received a grant to start the Hard 50 Farm Zine Mobile, a trailer/tent zine gallery that displays literary and visual arts zines. PLEASE support their work in whatever ways they’re asking, look for them when they’re out on the road, and order zines through their catalog!

Green Branch! Green Branch is an emerging nonprofit social justice children’s library in Oakland, California. They’ve been operating out of a pop-up tent reliably and consistently for a while now and recently created an adorable fundraising video that details their hope and search for an Airstream trailer. Please help them get this!

Thanks, everyone, for reading, for supporting and participating, for everything.  Stay tuned for where you can continue to follow the Zine Mobile in its new evolution, and maybe I’ll see you again out there someday/somehow?