Exercise provided by Margaret Randall, human rights activist and author
Carmen Tafolla’s poems refer to historical characters in ways not always found in our history books. In “La Malinche” we see how one can interpret certain actions and motivations in different ways so that one person’s hero can be another person’s traitor. We meet a young Indian girl whom some see as a traitor to her people and others see as the mother of a new race; we meet an Emperor whom some see as a doomed and tragic hero and others see as vain, bloodthirsty and foolish. We meet a invading soldier whom some see as a bringer of civilization and others see as vain, bloodthirsty and greedy. Choose one of these persons and imagine meeting him/her today. Then write a dialog you might have with that person. Choose some other controversial historical figure and do the same thing.
Exercise provided by Kamala Platt, author of On the Line
Like “Voyage,” Carmen Tafolla’s “La Malinche” rewrites a familiar story from Spain’s encuentro with the Americas from a perspective that is often unheard. Arguably, the most promi- nent woman of that encuentro narrates “La Malinche.” How is this narrator’s identity important to building the poem? What names do others give her? How have the meanings of these names changed since the poem was written (in the late 1970s)? What names does she give herself? Over- all, how do languages (at least three) and naming figure in this poem?
Write a poem that sees history (long ago, not-so-long ago, yesterday) from the margins, from a perspective not likely to be found in a history book or newspaper. Find and use words from languages that represent those perspectives.