Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.
– Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath
Morristown, N.J. (November 19, 2014) – It was this stanza that inspired San Antonio's Poet Laureate Laurie Ann Guerrero to pursue serious study of poetry. "I wanted to be like this woman who could write with such confidence," she said on Monday night's master class for students at the College of Saint Elizabeth. "I discovered that she attended Smith College in Massachusetts and decided I would go there too." But this was not going to happen for some time.
Laurie Ann Guerrero visited CSE on Monday, November 17, to offer a master class to a group of writing students and a reading and book signing open to the public. Her life story is told through her poetry and in her writing she tells the story of who she is and from where she comes.
She grew up on the south side of San Antonio, Texas, as the only daughter of parents of Mexican descent. As a child, she saw the abuse endured by women around her and the importance placed on sons above daughters. Feeling as if she did not have a voice, she turned to writing her thoughts in a journal at the age of eight. Her grandfather was an inspiration in that he provided a stable environment and love that she craved.
At the age of 11, she won a district-wide poetry contest. "This was very empowering to me as a female," she explained. "Now everyone was listening to me." While she longed to go to college, she married and had children at a young age thinking that this was the life she was destined to lead. "Then I saw my mother, who went to college after divorcing my father, walk across the stage to accept her degree. I was nursing my newborn daughter and realizing what a strong woman my mother is," she explained. "I decided that my turn had come and I would go to college as well."
Her history is full of overcoming the expectations others placed on her as a female, as a mother, and as a Latina. Against all the stereotypes, she did graduate from Smith College and went on to graduate from the Master of Fine Arts program at Drew University. She feels that these experiences allowed her to step back and look objectively at her background as a Latina and Tejana.
The questions from the students were insightful. "Why is your writing so dark?" "I only know the good in life through the bad, which I put on the page to get it out of my body. Otherwise I would be full of rage," Laurie Ann explained. "What is your writing process?" "I notice everything around me and poems exist everywhere," she counsels. She allows all her senses to participate in the creation of her work.
"I am determined to make a change in my community as an educated woman, to bring awareness of what we have inherited as women."
The evening of the master class, reading, and book signing was sponsored by the Saint Elizabeth Visiting Writers Gift Fund.