Empire of Dreams (poetry collection)

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Empire of Dreams (Spanish: El imperio de los sueños, 1988) is a postmodern poetry epic on love by Puerto Rican author Giannina Braschi, who is considered "one of the most revolutionary voices in Latin American literature today".[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

Love, liberty, and creativity are the main subjects of Empire of Dreams, an ode to New York City.[2]

Subject, structure, themes[edit]

The narrator journeys through a "phantasmagoria of internal and external trials in order to experience the center—of political power, of meaning, of feeling, and of personal identity".[8]

The central axis is the immigrant's new life in the "Big Apple", which is dramatized by Braschi as the epicenter of the American Dream. Social and linguistic references to Latin American cities also abound, such as "the Latin American Quarter in Paris, the barrio chino barcelonés, the zaguanes of Borges's Buenos Aires, and the colonial houses in Old San Juan".[9]

There are three parts and a total of six books of poetry within Empire of Dreams. This structure, which nestles books within books, has been compared to the concept of a Chinese box and the Matryoshka doll.[10] The work is a hybrid of genres: prose poetry, drama, musical theater, manifesto, gossip, autobiography, diary, literary theory, and antinovel.[11]

Part One: "Assault on Time"[edit]

"Assault on Time" muses on love lost and the ineptitude of language and grammar to communicate emotions.[12] The work debuted in 1980 as Braschi's first book of poetry in Spanish (Asalto al tiempo, Barcelona).[13] The book begins with the breaking of silence: "Behind the word is silence./Behind what sounds is the door".[14] Letters take on a life of their own, roaming the streets of New York, and punctuation marks, such as colons and semicolons, denote pivotal points in a relationship.[15]

Part Two: "Profane Comedy"[edit]

La Comedia profana debuted in Spanish as Braschi's second poetry collection in 1985.[16] The works pays homage to the evolution of poetry and performance, especially comedia dell'arte.[17] "Profane Comedy" is composed of four books of poetry, each with humor and a flair for the grotesque: 1. "Book of Clowns and Buffoons", 2. "Poems of the World; or The Book of Wisdom", 3. "Pastoral; or, The Inquisition of Memories", and 4. "Song of Nothingness".

Braschi mixes television jingles and pop songs by The Beatles and Madonna with poems of the English and Spanish Golden Age. References include Luis de León, Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Luis de Góngora, Garcilaso de la Vega, and Francisco Quevedo, while cameo appearances are made by poets, painters, philosophers, and composers, such as: César Vallejo, Rimbaud, Goethe, Nietzsche, Shakespeare, Breughal, Beethoven, Van Gogh, and Picasso. She liberally quotes from classical poets, transformed by her use of the "sampling technique of rap music" and hip hop.[17] Braschi writes from a literary tradition and an erudite standpoint, but "she imbues her text with jollity and a brilliant energy".[12]

The text unfolds through a series of violent and surreal[18] theatrical scenes performed by clowns, buffoons, shepherds, lead soldiers, magicians, madmen, witches, and fortune tellers. These gender-bending immigrant characters attack and occupy the American mainstream, including business centers and tourist attractions.[19] In a climactic episode of "Pastoral; or, the Inquisition of Memories", shepherds cause traffic jams on 5th Avenue during the Puerto Rican Day Parade, ring the bells of St. Patrick's Cathedral, and take over the observation deck of the Empire State Building.[20] There they dance and sing: "Now we do whatever we please, whatever we please, whatever we damn well please".

Part Three: "Intimate Diary of Solitude"[edit]

The Intimate Diary of Solitude is a lighthearted antinovel about a poet's search for love and fame during the Cold War of the Reagan Era. The work is a mash-up of flash fiction, pop songs, tabloid, commercial, diary, and manifesto, closing with a philosophical treatise on the writer's role in the modern age.[2] The heroine Mariquita Samper, a Macy's make-up artist who dreams of being a star, calls for a revolution of "poetic eggs" and shoots the narrator, who keeps rewriting her own diary in order to turn it into a bestseller.[21] The work pokes fun at the narrative techniques and somber tones of Latin American Boom and dictator novels.[22] The debate between quality and originality versus fame and fortune is a comic refrain in Empire of Dreams[23]. Braschi writes, in the chapter entitled "Mariquita Samper's Childhood":

"The Narrator suggested I write a book entitled Mariquita Samper’s Childhood. He’d pay me a million dollars for the rights. I’d have to say that I had a miserable childhood. In short, I portrayed myself as an orphan. My parents are thugs—I said in Mariquita Samper’s Childhood. Of course, I became a heroine to the American public. Little Orphan Mariquita. Daughter of those filthy thugs who stripped her of her American citizenship. And yet, in spite of all its lies, the book was a best-seller in the U.S. and Russia. Remember—said the Narrator—that Mariquita had asked for asylum at the Russian embassy. She wrote a letter to the Russians stating that she wanted to be a communist. She had been mistaken. She had realized the value of Russian citizenship, especially as a Puerto Rican. My confusion lies in the fact that I’m a sad colony."

The work closes with a quotation from an anonymous poem of Medieval Spanish literature, a line from "El Conde Arnaldos": "I only sing my song/to whomever follows me".[24]


Braschi credits T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" as the single most influential English-language poem to inform the rhythmic shifts and the inspiration from which she creates a chorus of anonymous voices to capture the collective conscience of the masses.[25] Alicia Ostriker notes in the introduction to Empire of Dreams that the poet's voice sounds decidedly "macho" and yet it can be theoretically "paired with Luisa Valenzuela, Clarice Lispector, Luce Irigaray, Helene Cixous, and Marguerite Duras, and obviously she owes a great deal to Gertrude Stein".[11]

Braschi has published scholarly articles on Spanish-language poetry by Cervantes, Garcilaso, Antonio Machado, Federico García Lorca, and César Vallejo; and a book on Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer.[26] In an interview with NBC Latino, Braschi identified her favorite poet as César Vallejo: "Vallejo is a jack-in-the-box who performs the movement of my spirit. No matter how much you push him down into the box, the poet always bounces back to affirm his love for life".[27]

Giannina Braschi[edit]

Giannina Braschi, a National Endowment for the Arts fellow, is considered a revolutionary voice in contemporary Latin American literature.[2][1][28] She is also the author of the Spanglish novel Yo-Yo Boing!, and the postcolonial novel United States of Banana (2011). Her collective work explores the politics of empire and independence, while capturing the trials and tribulations of the Latin American immigrant in the United States.[29][30] She has won awards and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, PEN American Center, Ford Foundation, InterAmericas, Danforth Scholarship, Reed Foundation, El Diario, Rutgers University, and Puerto Rican Institute for Culture.[26][5] Empire of Dreams was translated by Tess O'Dwyer as the first volume of the Yale Library of World Literature in Translation in 1994.[7] With the publication of United States of Banana, CARAS Magazine named Braschi one of the most influential Puerto Ricans in 2012.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Giannina Braschi". National Book Festival. Library of Congress. 2012. Braschi, one of the most revolutionary voices in Latin America today.
  2. ^ a b c d Aldama, Frederick Luis (2020). Poets, Philosophers, Lovers: On the Writings of Giannina Braschi. Pittsburgh. ISBN 9780822946182.
  3. ^ "Modern Language Association Presents Giannina Braschi". Circumference Magazine: Poetry in Translation, Academy of American Poets. January 1, 2013. Considered one of the most revolutionary Latin American poets writing today, Giannina Braschi, author of the epic prose poem 'Empire of Dreams'.
  4. ^ "World Literature in Translation: Giannina Braschi's Empire of Dreams". Yale University Press. August 1994. Archived from the original on 2015-05-18. Retrieved 2015-05-09. Braschi's book is a modern classic, informed with all of the major concerns of our contemporary culture.
  5. ^ a b "PEN: Free Expression/Literature". PEN American Center. November 2012. Giannina Braschi, one of the most revolutionary voices in Latin America today, wrote the postmodern poetry classic EMPIRE OF DREAMS.
  6. ^ D'Amore; Anna Maria (2009). 'Translating Contemporary Mexican Texts: Fidelity to Alterity'. New York: Berkeley Insights in Linguistics and Semiotics. p. 104. In the stakes of literary acclaim and respectability is Giannina Braschi, considered by many to be Puerto Rico's premier poet.
  7. ^ a b Barnstone, Willis (1994), Literature of Asia, Africa, and Latin America: From Antiquity to the Present, Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, p. 1954, Empire of Dreams is an epic length sequence of poems published to acclaim".../"brightest new voice in her generation in the Spanish language.
  8. ^ "Yale University Press Reviews". August 1994. Archived from the original on 2015-06-19. Retrieved 2015-05-09. New York City becomes the site of liberation for its marginal citizens, as the narrator is led through a seeming phantasmagoria of internal and external trials in order to experience the center—of political power, of meaning, of feeling, and of personal identity.
  9. ^ Carrion, Maria Mercedes (1996). "'Geography, (M)Other Tongues and the Role of Translation in Giannina Braschi's El imperio de los sueños'". Studies in 20th Century Literature. 20: 167–192. "the Latin American Quarter in Paris, the barrio chino barcelonés, the zaguanes of Borges's Buenos Aires, and the colonial houses in Old San Juan".
  10. ^ "Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Literature". Encyclopedia of Hispanic-American Literature. 5. Infobase Learning. August 31, 2008. p. 429. ISBN 9781438140605.
  11. ^ a b Ostriker, Alicia (1994), Empire of Dreams, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, pp. x–xxi
  12. ^ a b Kuebler, Carolyn (August 1994), "Empire of Dreams" Review, Dalkey Archives, Champaign, Il: Review of Contemporary Fiction, Braschi writes with a strong poetic tradition behind her, and from her erudite standpoint she forges an odd mixture of poetry, prose, drama, and a little of what could be considered music. She imbues her text with jollity and a brilliant energy.
  13. ^ "The Washington Post". November 2012. "Giannina Braschi's first published work was a book of poetry, 'Asalto al tiempo'.
  14. ^ Braschi, Giannina (1994). 'Empire of Dreams' translated by Tess O'Dwyer. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. p. 1. ISBN 9780300057959. Behind the word is silence./Behind what sounds is the door
  15. ^ "Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Literature". Encyclopedia of Hispanic-American Literature. 5. Infobase Learning. August 31, 2008. p. 429. ISBN 9781438140605.
  16. ^ Fuentes, Yvonne; Parker, Margaret R. (2006-03-01). Leading Ladies: Mujeres en la literatura hispana y en las artes (in Spanish). LSU Press. ISBN 978-0-8071-3082-7.
  17. ^ a b Ostriker, Alicia (1994), Introduction to Empire of Dreams, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, pp. x-xx1, Profane Comedy is an homage to performance, especially comedia dell'arte.
  18. ^ Barnstone, Willis (2002), Literature of Latin America, Princeton: Prentice Hall, p. 460, Braschi is a Spanish Arthur Rimbaud reinventing surrealism, creating a modern classic
  19. ^ Cruz Malave, Arnaldo (2015). "Under the Skirt of Liberty: Giannina Braschi Rewrites Empire". American Quarterly. 66.3: 801–818.
  20. ^ York, Hispanic New. "Puerto Rican Day Parade: A Prose Poem - By Giannina Braschi". Retrieved 2020-05-02.
  21. ^ Marting, Diane (2010), New/Nueva York in Giannina Braschi's 'Poetic Egg': Fragile Identity, Postmodernism, and Globalization, Indiana: The Global South, pp. 167–182
  22. ^ "Arellano, Jerónimo. Magical Realism and the History of the Emotions in Latin America. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2015. Print. 211 pp". escholarship.org. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
  23. ^ Loustau, Laura R. (2002). Cuerpos errantes. Argentina: B Viterbo Editora. ISBN 9508451181.
  24. ^ Braschi, Giannina (2011). Empire of Dreams. Seattle: AmazonCrossing. p. 197. ISBN 9781611090659.
  25. ^ Braschi, Giannina (2014). "52 Weeks / 52 Interviews: Week 34: Giannina Braschi" (Interview). Interviewed by Rathke, Eric J. London. I've studied music all my life. I've sung songs in foreign languages and learned those languages through those songs. I memorized T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land from tapes before I (mis)spoke English and discovered in Eliot's dramatic shifts my own music—the anonymity of the voices that come from no where—the Greek chorus that captures the conscience of the people.
  26. ^ a b Poets, Academy of American. "About Giannina Braschi | Academy of American Poets". poets.org. Retrieved 2020-05-02.
  27. ^ "8 Latino Poets Disclose Their Favorite Lines of Poetry". NBC Latino. 2013. Nuyorican spoken word poet and author Giannina Braschi's favorite line from a poem is by César Vallejo: I want to live always, even on my belly/because, as I was saying and I say it again/so much life and never! And so many years/and always, lots of always, always, always!" (Translation by Tess O'Dwyer) "Vallejo is a jack-in-the-box who performs the movement of my spirit," says Braschi. "No matter how much you push him down into the box, the poet always bounces back to affirm his love for life.
  28. ^ Johnson, Hannah (May 26, 2011). "#BEA11: Books on Display, the Amazon Publishing Booth". Publishing Perspectives. 'Braschi is Puerto Rico's most influential and versatile writer of poetry, fiction, and essays'
  29. ^ Jacobson, Matthew Frye (September 15, 2012). "American Studies Association President's Overview: 2012 ASA Convention Archives" (PDF). ASA.
  30. ^ Jacobson, Matthew Frye (March 15, 2013). "American Studies Association News From the Editors: Reflections on the Annual Meeting". Archived from the original on 2015-12-22. Retrieved 2015-05-09.
  31. ^ de la Torre, Patricia (December 2012 – February 2013). "CARAS 2012: Los grandes protagonistas de Puerto Rico". TELEVISA.

Further reading[edit]

  • Augenbraum, Harold and Stavans, Ilan (eds.). Lengua Fresca: Latinos Writing on the Edge, Mariner Press, 2006.
  • Barnstone, Willis and Barnstone Tony (eds.). Literature of Asia, Africa, and Latin America: From Antiquity to the Present, Prentice Hall, 1999.
  • Barnstone, Willis, Literatures of Latin America, Prentice Hall, p. 460, 1991.
  • Bidaseca, Karina. "Written in racialized bodies. Language, memory and (Post)colonial genealogies of femicide in Latin America." Journal of Latin American Communication Research 3.2 (2014): 135-161.
  • Castillo, Debra A. ReDreaming America: Toward a Bilingual Culture (Hinojosa-Smith, Prida, Braschi), State University of New York, 2005.
  • Carrion, Maria Mercedes. "Geography, (M)Other Tongues and the Role of Translation in Giannina Braschi's El imperio de los sueños", Studies in 20th Century Literature, 20:1 (1996), 167-192
  • Cruz-Malavé, Arnaldo. "Colonial figures in motion: globalization and translocality in contemporary Puerto Rican Literature in the United States." Centro 14 (2002): 4-25.
  • Cruz-Malavé, Arnaldo Manuel. "Under the Skirt of Liberty: Giannina Braschi Rewrites Empire." American Quarterly 66.3 (2014): 801-818.
  • Daniele, Daniela. Review of United States of Banana, Evergreen Review, Issue #128, New York, November 2011.
  • Echeverría, Miriam Balboa. "Mirada y marejada en" El imperio de los sueños" de Giannina Braschi." Confluencia (2002): 98-103.
  • Garrigos, Cristina. Review of United States of Banana, Evergreen Review, Issue #128, New York, November 2011.
  • Gonzalez, Christopher Thomas. "Hospitable Imaginations: Contemporary Latino/a Literature and the Pursuit of a Readership", doctoral dissertation, Ohio State University, 2012.
  • Gray Díaz, N., "Performing Soledad: the Demythification of Identity in Giannina Braschi's El imperio de los sueños, Romance Notes, 37:3 (1997), 331-338.
  • Goldstein, David and Thacker, Audrey (eds.), Complicating Constructions, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 2007.
  • Gonzalez, Madelena. "United States of Banana (2011), Elizabeth Costello (2003) and Fury (2001): Portrait of the Writer as the 'Bad Subject' of Globalisation", Études britanniques contemporaines, Volume 46, July 2014.
  • Gonzalez, Madelena and Laplace-Claverie, Helene. Minority Theater on the Global Stage: Challenging Paradigms From the Margins, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012. "Puerto Rico's premier poet and novelist."
  • Haydee Rivera, Carmen. "El poder de la palabra y la experiencia transnacional: una entrevista con Giannina Braschi," Op-Cit: Revista del Centro de Investigaciones Históricas, Puerto Rico, 2013.
  • Haydee Rivera, Carmen. "Embracing alternate discourses on migration: Giannina Braschi's and Luisita López Torregrosa's multi-dimensional literary schemes," Umbral, University of Puerto Rico, April 2014.
  • Horno-Delgado, Asunción. "Imperiosa y Anti-imperial: Giannina Braschi," Hispanic Poetry Review: HPR 4.7-10 (2002): 37.
  • Gonzalez, Christopher. "Permissible Narratives: The Promise of Latino/o Literature (Piri Thomas's Down These Mean Streets and Giannina Braschi' Yo-Yo Boing!)," The Ohio State University Press, 2017.
  • Kuebler, Carolyn, "Empire of Dreams Review," Review of Contemporary Fiction, vol 15, no. 1, Spring 1995.
  • Loustau, Laura. "Nomadismos lingüísticos y culturales en Yo-Yo Boing! de Giannina Braschi", Revista Iberoamericana, volume 71:211, 437-448, 2005
  • Loustau, Laura. Cuerpos errantes: literatura Latina y latinoamericana en Estados Unidos (Luisa Valenzuela, Giannina Braschi, and Cristina Garcia). Viterbo Editora, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2002.
  • Loustau, Laura Rosa. Cuerpos y textos en tránsito: un acercamiento a la literatura Latina y latinoamericana en Estados Unidos. University of California, Berkeley, 2000.
  • Marting, Diane E. "New/Nueva York in Giannina Braschi's 'Poetic Egg': Fragile Identity, Postmodernism, and Globalization", The Global South, volume 4:1., 2010.
  • Morris, Barbara. "Paradoxes of Postmodernism in Giannina Braschi's El imperio de los sueños." Conflictos Culturales en la Literatura Contemporánea. 17 ensayos y una discusión: 44-53.
  • Ostriker, Alicia. "Introduction to Empire of Dreams," Yale University Press, New Haven, 1994.
  • Perisic, Alexandra. "Precarious Crossings: Immigration, Neoliberalism, and the Atlantic, The Ohio State University Press, 2019.
  • Popovich Ljudmila, Mila. "Metafictions, Migrations, Metalives: Narrative Innovations and Migrant Women's Aesthetics in Giannina Braschi and Etel Adnan," International Journal of the Humanities, 117–128, 2010.
  • Sommer, Doris, Introduction to Yo-Yo Boing!, Latin American Review Press, Pittsburgh, 1998.
  • Ramos, Francisco José. Postfacio. El imperio de los sueños, Anthropos Editorial del Hombre, (1988): 233-253.
  • Riofrio, John. "Falling for debt: Giannina Braschi, the Latinx avant-garde, and financial terrorism in the United States of Banana," Latino Studies, January 2020.
  • Remeseria, Claudio. "Summer reads: brilliant takes on Nuyoricans, random murder and narco-literatura," NBC Latino, August 2013.
  • Rivera Monclova, Marta S. "Discrimination, evasion, and livability in four New York Puerto Rican narratives". Doctoral dissertation, Tufts University, 2010.
  • Rodriguez Matos, Jaime, "Unmothered Americas: Poetry and Universality (on Alejandra Pizarnik, Charles Simons, Giannina Braschi)". Commons Digitalis at Columbia University Dissertation, 2005.
  • Waldron, John V. "Killing Colonialism's Ghosts in McOndo: Mayra Santos Febres and Giannina Braschi,Cuaderno Internacional de Estudios Humanísticos y Literatura, 2011.
  • Zimmerman, Marc. Defending Their Own in the Cold: The Cultural Turns of U.S. Puerto Ricans, University of Illinois, Chicago, 2011.

External links[edit]