vocalisms #35: Demetria Martinez

vocalisms is a regular feature that presents selected tracks from Voca, the Poetry Center's online audiovisual archive of more than 800 recorded readings, spanning from 1963 to today. 

Demetria Martinez

In this 2009 reading at the Tucson Festival of Books, Demetria Martinez reads “Song,” a poem which mourns and celebrates the many indigenous languages lost with the Spanish conquest of the Americas. Martinez connects that loss of language with the contemporary urbanization of the western United States, including her home state of New Mexico: The land paved over, “the topsoil with all my words blew away,” she reads, invoking the vital connection between land and language. But even amid those ruins, Martinez refuses to give up, reclaiming what has been lost and crafting a “sad, triumphant, beautiful song” with what remains.