Mexican-American poet, writer and essayist Sandra Cisneros spoke about her most recent poetry book Woman Without Shame: Poems at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall Saturday morning. She was joined by Northwestern Associate Professor of English Daisy Hernández.

“Read poetry that makes you run for your pen,” Cisneros said. “Every book is medicine. You just have to find your right prescription.”

Cisnernos' conversation was one of the over 60 events taking place for the Chicago Humanities Fall Festival, an annual tradition focused on challenging contemporary knowledge.  Cisneros took the stage to discuss conquering shame, her identity as a Mexican woman, and her views on poetry. She also spoke about her book which discusses pleasure, spirituality and aging as a woman.

“The best writing you’ll do will be the one you can’t show anyone,” Cisneros said.

The renowned author said it took her 28 years to recognize that her poetry could help others. This is what motivated her to release poetry again.

Hernández said she resonated with many of Cisnero’s books because of their shared Latina identity.

A group of women on a stage

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Mexican-American poet, writer and essayist Sandra Cisneros and Associate Professor of English Daisy Hernández stand before the audience. Photo by Jezel Martinez / North by Northwestern

Cisneros read multiple poems in English and Spanish from her book for the audience, inviting guests to help her with the recitation of a prayer-style poem.

Hernández and Cisneros then opened the floor to take questions from attendees. Cisneros answers were both humorous and insightful. At some points, she brought out laughter from her audience, and at others, she  offered sharp advice for those writing poetry and navigating questions of identity.

“Writing is the thing that has saved me and transformed me,” Cisneros said. “You never know what you are going to get with poetry.”

The founder of the Macondo Foundation, a writer’s association, said to look for a chosen family of writers and a “limpia” or a cleanse to motivate yourself to write poetry.

Cisneros’ recommendation for people seeking connection with their culture is to travel.  She said her own traveling allowed her to find parallels between Mexican culture and other cultures around the world.

“The sky is free and the clouds are always trying to get our attention so focus on that,” Cisneros said.

Author and journalist Hernández said she was honored to be in conversation with trailblazer Sandra Cisneros, who inspires her as an educator.  

“It was incredible to see so many teachers and students brave the winds and the rains to be in connection with Sandra,” Daisy Hernández said. “Much of what I bring to students at Northwestern is thanks to Sandra and her books, teaching and community spirit.”