Scholarship later in my graduate school career, and I hung out in libraries all over England, researching at Senate House, the British Library, and Oxbridge. In truth, I was looking for anything unusual, say, a monk’s shopping list or a map to buried Viking treasure (I was often in the , and along the way I devoted much energy writing a very academic dissertation on the little-known but much-praised English Benedictine monk named Ælfric.
But, no matter where I traveled, nor what arcane subjects I studied, I never forgot the kind dark eyes of Judith Ortiz Cofer that day in the Black Dog Café. They were the kind of eyes I as an Acevedo grew up gazing into, but I had never seen them in the face of a female poet. That moment was kismet. It surfaced in my mind over the years, reminding me that a Latin-American woman such as I myself could dare write with the intent to publish, and not solely cook, clean house, care for a man and children, or enter the “safe” career path of teaching. Over the years, including one sunny husband and two lively children later, I lost my loneliness and insomnia (though young children are not a couples’ Club-Med vacation), and I found the nerve to write. Even as a stay-at-home mom, I pursued a career in freelance writing, though not with the same success as Cofer, obviously, and even now while teaching Old and Middle English courses and linguistics at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia, I still write non-scholarly poems and essays. And I send them out for publication or post them on my blog (www.carmenbutcher.com) or read them at Shorter.
Cofer’s wide-ranging book about the lives of Barrio women, The Latin Deli: An Ars Poetica (1993) articulates my own (more modest) struggles as a Cuban-American writer and teacher. And that is because Cofer is not, after all, a divine being; she is something even better—she is a real woman writing, and her writings are a witness to anyone who can read that putting-fingers-to-keyboard is one way to truth, to healing, to love, to a new kind of openness and