Literary Dialogs with Nina Serrano featuring Naomi Quiñonez
In this video, I welcome Naomi Quiñonez to Literary Dialogs. We review her background as a Professor of Chicana/o History, Ethnic and Women’s Studies, a poet, and activist. Naomi reads from her books of poetry which include Exiled Moon, Hummingbird Dreams and Smoking Mirror. The interview closes with Naomi’s new poem “The New Warsaw Ghetto.”
Recording the poems and comments of poet scholar Naomi Quiñonez impacted me strongly. Her vibrant being, framed by a head full of beautiful silver curls, is rooted in history, the Chicana/o movement, activism. spirituality, bilingual poetry and feminism. Naomi’s words carry a punch as she presents her poems with passion. It is easy to get swept up in them whether they speak out against racism or evoke the ancient deities with complex Nahuatl names.
As her personal story unfolds, she interjects poems written in the various periods we are discussing. She has lived in 33 different communities and is now retired in Oakland, CA, from a teaching career in Ethnic, American and Feminist studies. Her activism continues as does her poetry which she sees as cultural as well as political.
Naomi began writing poetry in childhood. As a teen she inadvertently left her mother’s day poem in a copy machine at a copy store. The owner found it and phoned to say that customers wanted copies of her poem for their own mothers. She realized the value of poetry.
In college in the mid seventies, she gave her first poetry reading as the Chicano movement was gaining strength. She joined “a merry band of poets” who included Lorna Dee Cervantes, Javier Pacheco, Juan Antonio Burciaga, Ramon Pinero, and Bernice Zamora. They gave readings and spoke out against racism and injustice. In her retirement, she currently conducts local moon ceremonies for women of color. See Naomi Quiñonez Facebook to join.
She ends our interview with a new poem linking the Warsaw Ghetto of WWII in Poland with the current situation at the US border. In Poland, Jews were rounded up and as Naomi says, “left to rot” in the Warsaw ghetto. Today on the US border, children are separated from their parents and left alone in cruel detention centers. And yet, we hear little about them. Naomi’s poem ends with a grim warning to haters that with the current climatic crisis they too can become refugees.