Friday, 14 October 2011

Luz María Umpierre, Poet, scholar, human rights activist

b. October 15th, 1947

Luz María Umpierre-Herrera (born 1947) is a Puerto Rican poet, scholar, and human rights activist who lives in the United States. She is also known as Luzma Umpierre. She is widely recognized for her open exploration of her lesbianism, immigrant experience, and bilingualism, and for her poetic exchange with leading Nuyorican poet Sandra María Esteves. Umpierre has experienced a number of well-documented legal struggles due to workplace discrimination. She currently resides in Orlando, Florida.

Umpierre has published six books of poetry and two chapbooks or "hojas poéticas". She has received significant critical attention, particularly from women and feminist and queer scholars.Her work has not received the same kind of attention in Puerto Rico, where she is not commonly included in leading anthologies or mentioned in literary histories.

Umpierre is a bilingual poet who writes in English and Spanish and sometimes mixes both languages in the same poem. In her work, she establishes a conversation with many American, Latin American, and Puerto Rican women poets and writers such as Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Ana Castillo, Julia de Burgos, and Sandra María Esteves.

Umpierre started out her poetry career with the publication of Una puertorriqueña en Penna (1979), whose title can be translated as "A Puerto Rican woman in Pennsylvania" or "A Puerto Rican woman in pain." In this book, the author offers poems that comment on the discrimination that the Puerto Rican community faced in Philadelphia. She also comments on the prejudice against Puerto Ricans in institutions of higher education, particularly in Spanish departments that judged Puerto Rican Spanish as deficient or incorrect. She also explores these topics in her second and third books, En el país de las maravillas (Kempis puertorriqueño) (1982) and . . . Y otras desgracias/And Other Misfortunes. . . (1985), which shows a marked turn towards more bilingualism.

Umpierre's best-known book is The Margarita Poems (1987), where she openly discusses her lesbianism and offers highly erotic poems about lesbian love. The book also discusses issues of feminist sisterhood, madness, Puerto Rican independence, and immigrant experience. In the 1990s she published her book For Christine (1995). In the first decade of the 2000s, she published two chapbooks or "hojas poéticas": Pour toi/For Moira (2005) and Our Only Island—for Nemir (2009). A volume of her complete works edited by Carmen S. Rivera and Daniel Torres was published in 2011.

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