“It’s the Poverty” by Cher’rie Moraga

The poem “It’s the Poverty,” by Cher’rie Moraga, which appears in the fall 1979 issue of the periodical, Sinister Wisdom, explores the importance of preserving stories and culture from generation to generation. Moraga is a lesbian, Chicana poet and in her poem, she struggles with how to find the right language to express herself. If Moraga chooses to express all that she has lost due to the oppression she has faced, she risks “losing everything” (Moraga Lawrence 84). By using a language that doesn’t allow her to fully represent herself, she might “create a monster” from “the word’s length and body” (Moraga Lawrence 84). That monster might begin “swelling up colorful and thrilling” (Moraga Lawrence 84). The power that is born from Moraga writing how she feels is symbolized by the monster created from the word.

Section of the poem, “It’s the Poverty” by Cher’rie Moraga, from the fall 1979 issue of Sinister Wisdom

However, this power has unintended consequences. The monster begins “looming over [her] mother” and makes her mother’s voice “unintelligible” and “illiterate” (Moraga Lawrence 84). Moraga’s mother is Mexican and the language she grew up with was Spanish (Anderson 6). Because of her cultural and linguistic background, Moraga’s mother’s stories don’t fit into this version of language and the monster looks down on her mother because of that language difference. But Moraga’s mother’s stories are a fundamental part of Moraga’s identity. Moraga sees her mother’s stories and her own identity being lost if she chooses to use a language that doesn’t allow for the full expression of her mother, herself or her culture. Moraga’s poem highlights the struggle and importance of embracing multiple cultures. The Lesbian Herstory Archives also works to preserve the stories and identities of all lesbians, across cultures and generations. This preservation leads to connection between generations and cultures, which is vital to the success of the feminist movement.

Works Cited:

Anderson, Kelly. “Cher’rie Moraga.” Voices of Feminism Oral History Project, June 6-7, 2005, Oakland, CA, https://compass.fivecolleges.edu/object/smith:1342644.

Moraga Lawrence, Cher’rie. “It’s the Poverty.” Sinister Wisdom, no. 11, Oct. 1979, pp. 84-85, https://jstor.org/stable/10.2307/community.28044739.