Cofer’s Early Work (1987-1997)

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Cofer’s early work includes the poems Esperanza, El Olvido, and The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica. The Latin Deli is the longest work in the group with a total of 301 words, followed by El Olvido at 122 and Esperanza at 75 words. Although the works are of varying lengths, they all have vocabulary densities that are close in size.

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One interesting aspect of the poems was the point of view from which she wrote them. Although most of her poems seem to be extremely personal, only Esperanza seems to be written in the first person, with the words I and my being used frequently.

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The Latin Deli and El Olvido both refer to the third person she, and The Latin Deli seems to be the most removed piece, as it also has mentions to her, etc. The Latin Deli is the only poem with the narrator completely removed. El Olvido the narrator is speaking to someone that they refer to as ‘you’. None of the poems are similar in the point of view that they are written from, and perhaps this is characteristic of Cofer’s writing.

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We were interested to see if there were any trends tied to Cofer’s mentioning of birth or death, and whether these concepts were repeated across all of the poems. All three poems have at least one instance of mentioning either birth or death. Esperanza seems to be the most upbeat poem, with the mentions of both life and birth. Birth is also mentioned in El Olvido as is the word dead. The Latin Deli also mentions death in the form of the word die. Although two of the poems mention death, we were unable to find any overwhelming trends in this data.

In order to be able to discover trends in Cofer’s early writings, we decided to widen the scope of the Voyant analysis. We continued with a total of 10 of Cofer’s works. The three previously mentioned, plus other poems all written from the 1980s-1990s; El Encanto, La Envidia, La Fe, La Maldad, Quinceneara, The Changeling, The Other.

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One of the first things that becomes apparent from the word cloud is the prevalence of the words me, my, or I in Cofer’s works, which translates to most of these works being largely autobiographical. Almost all of the poems used in this analysis have at least one mention of a first person pronoun. Cofer writes much of her poetry from personal experiences and she explains a lot about herself through this medium. The poems that do not have any use of a first person pronoun- El Olvido, La Envidia, La Maldad, and The Latin Deli- all make references instead to she or her.

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Cofer’s focus on women has turned into a theme that can be found in almost all of her poems. In the poems that we are analyzing, the word mother is used in almost every single one. Cofer writes about the important influences in her life, and her mother was obviously a huge part of her childhood and transformation into adulthood. The prevalence of Cofer’s mother in her own life translates over into her poems and readers are left with a recurring mother figure that might serve to provide a familiar comfort in her poems.

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Cofer seems to discuss her past, or the past of her narrator, in several of her poems. We looked at moments where she mentioned her childhood and were surprised to find that it occurred a surprisingly few amount of times. Another theme, of love and the union of lovers, appeared more often than mentions of children or childhood but was still relatively low compared to what was expected.

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Because of the difficulty of doing a comparison of all of the Spanish words used, we decided instead to focus on the appearance of the Spanish articles la and el that precede a Spanish word. Keeping with typical Cofer fashion, almost all of the pieces had an instance of la or el, and if they didn’t the piece otherwise was titled with a Spanish word. This shows the importance that Cofer puts on pulling her culture into the work that she is doing. Every poem contains Spanish words, phrases, or references, as Cofer remains true to herself and her heritage.

In these early stories, focused on life, death, and everything that comes in between, Cofer pays particular attention to the elements that have shaped her life. She discusses the influences of mothers and Spanish culture, among other things, to give an illustrative account of her background and the backgrounds of the characters that she creates. Femininity and love are also themes that can be found in her poems, as these images are combined with cultural imagery to give an idea of who Cofer really is.


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