Lisa Alvarado
Raw Silk Suture

Raw Silk Suture Cover


RAW SILK SUTURE: A diamond sharp collection of poetry by Lisa Alvarado

In this stunning collection, Lisa Alvarado wields the pen and cuts deeply to the heart of Chicanisma, female identity, the use and misuse of the body, its restoration, and the power of love. With finely etched free verse, each subject is explored to the depth without hesitation, and boldly revealed.


"Figures in black abound in Alvarado’s “perishable craft,” her words of and for the unseen...her intensities are relentless. Alvarado is a poet of the abyss...Such an artist was Frida Kahlo....Lisa does not offer an exit; this is one of her superb contributions. She conjures, that is all....Caress this book as you would hold your soul-to-be gasping for life. That is all." -- Juan Felipe Herrera, poet. Author of 187 Reasons Mexicans Can't Cross the Border and Half of the World in Light, New and Selected Poems; Professor, Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair, Department of Creative Writing University of California

"Alvarado's call for "a quiet remaking of cells" is nothing short of revolutionary. Read this book, look at yourself and the world around you and know: anything is possible." -- Demetria Martínez author, Confessions of a Berlitz-Tape Chicana

"I ache with memory" reads a revealing line in Lisa Alvarado's stark debut book of poems "Raw Silk Suture" (Floricanto Press, $11.95 paperback). From this pain, the poet composes heartfelt verses that reach for moments of clarity as the troubling dust settles: "Ashes, ashes, everywhere."

The speaker engages in three different conversations: a conflicted relationship with her parents, an eye-opening role as a domestic worker, and the yearnings for an unnamed significant other. Each of these threads help "suture" the wounds of a woman whose body is "a record of where rage came to rest."

Though the portrait of the father is unforgiving (the daughter "knows she hates her father") and the mother's is celebratory ("Everything I am today is because my mother gave me a parachute"), the speaker must make her way toward these emotions through the dangerous and blessed act of touch. From the poem "R.E.M.":

In the dark,
he splits her cells,
corrupts the marrow.
Her body will eat itself,
its remnants will explode.

And in "Limbic 1," the speaker self-administers a breast exam and connects with her mother through their shared mortality:

Now I stand
at the mirror
each month;
and find
you are closer
to me
than I could imagine.

The section titled "The Housekeeper's Diary" collects poems from Alvarado's critically acclaimed performance piece by the same name. Alvarado shatters the walls of silence and invisibility by giving language to the plight of women who are expected to disappear behind their domestic tasks.The voice in this section shines with politics and protest reminiscent of the late African-American poet June Jordan:

Women clean
every time
they picked up a pen
every time
they danced
broke their fingers
and bound their feet.

The poem "Tired" echoes that unjust suppression of the artist within the woman:

Metaphors, haikus, quatrains and sonnets,
sucked into a vacuum cleaner bag,
dumped with today's trash,
lost to me forever.

Not all succumbs to the scars of family skeletons and to the surrender of creative expression to labor. There is hope. But it is hard-won. The speaker, after an exhausting journey through the broken physical world, rises above it to reach the highest level of unconditional love with a significant other who is not salvation, not reward, but an opportunity for happiness cultivated by two people.

"Raw Silk Suture" lives up to its name. This book is the marriage between that which aggravates and that which soothes the body and soul. There's no picking and choosing; there's only the dealing with all things beautiful and all things hurtful. It's called life, it's called survival: "Yes, / I am here, / even now."

Rigoberto González is an award-winning writer living in New York City. His Web site is, and he may be reached at

Copyright (c) 2008 El Paso Times, a MediaNews Group Newspaper.

"Simply put, Raw Silk Suture is “a scar / that has / become a flower.” -- Francisco Aragón Editor, The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry Founding Editor, Latino Poetry Review (LPR)

"The poetry of Lisa Alvarado thunders across the page. Fiery and smoky, these are poems for midnight whiskey and pre-dawn espresso. These are poems for what ails us." -- Manuel Ramos, Author, Moony's Road to Hell, and Founder and Columnist, La Bloga


Lisa Alvarado is a poet, performer, and installation artist and is the author of two award-winning chapbooks, Reclamo and The Housekeeper's Diary; the latter also a one-woman performance which toured nationally. Lisa is also the co-author of the acclaimed young adult novel, Sister Chicas, written with Ann Hagman Cardinal and Jane Alberdeston Coralin. She is the recipient of grants from the Department of Cultural Affairs, The NEA, and the Ragdale Foundation, and is also a journalist, contributing reviews and interviews to La Bloga, and

If you are interested in booking Lisa to experience this groundbreaking work contact her at: For review copies or to purchase, contact: Roberto Cabello, Floricanto® Press 650 Castro St, Ste 120--331 Mountain View, California 94041-2055 415-552 1879 Fax 702-995 1410 Inter American Development Inc.

Lisa is pleased to share an excerpt from Raw Silk Suture.
 I am looking for you, mother