Giannina Braschi

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Giannina Braschi (born February 5, 1953) is a Puerto Rican poet, novelist, and essayist who writes in English, Spanish, and Spanglish. She is the author of the postmodern poetry collection "Empire of Dreams" (1988), the bestselling Spanglish novel "Yo-Yo Boing!" (1998), and the postcolonial dramatic novel "United States of Banana" (2011) on the collapse of the American empire.


  • Tragedy is all about losing. And humor is all about gaining perspective. Humour returns our gladness. And with gladness comes generosity. Humor returns us to the light and makes us light—it kills grudges, buries bodies–buries revenge—buries blame and guilt—fear and dread. Laughter, like hiccups and sneezes and farts and burps, relieves us of severity.
  • …I think it’s something that Puerto Ricans do to castrate their children in a way. As a reality check. Because they know the colonial systems will not allow their children to achieve all the things that they want in life because of the way the system is. I saw that in my childhood. I saw this impotence that was imposed on me since my childhood. But I said, “I’m going to build an empire of uselessness. I’m going to take from the Americans the ingenuity, and I’m going to take from the Spaniards the wisdom.” And that’s what I do. I mix wisdom and ingenuity.
  • Imagine, ever since I was a little girl in Puerto Rico, I heard, oh, we don’t want to be like Haiti, we don’t want to be like Cuba. The fear was with being poor like Haiti and being poor like Cuba, and that’s why Puerto Rico never became free because it was afraid of being poor…
  • I want to take poetry to walk other genres. I want poetry to walk through other genres. When I started writing, this was my main concern: get out of poetry. Let poetry walk the streets of New York. Make her cosmopolitan. See the world. Not in these estrofas, not in these stanzas, which are camisas de fuerza.I have to get out of poetry. I have to do what James Joyce did to the novel: he took the novel out of the novel…

Empire of Dreams (prose poetry, 1988)[edit]

  • 'Gods are condemned to live the dream of the imperishable."
  • 'Read me, read me. Love me, love.'
  • 'Questions don't change the truth, but they give it motion.'
  • 'The star wasn't poetry until the madwoman discovered it.'
  • 'Acabo de proverbiar la vida. La acabo de matar.'
  • 'I have just turned life into a proverb. I just killed it.'
  • 'Behind the word is silence, behind that silence is forgetfulness.'
  • 'What does winter or autumn or spring or summer know of memory. They know nothing of memory. They know that seasons pass and return. They know that they are seasons. That they are time. And they know how to affirm themselves. And they know how to impose themselves. And they know how to maintain themselves, What does autumn know of summer. What sorrows do seasons have. None hate. None love. They just pass.'
  • 'Only what is fated to die is capable of living. Only what dies lives. Why do you think Christ was killed? They killed him to prove that he wasn’t a god. But in killing him, they immortalized the perishable and transformed man into a god.'
  • 'I am egg and always will be, and we are eggs and always will be. Fried eggs. Or rotten eggs. Boiled eggs. Or scrambled eggs. Poached eggs. Or round eggs. Eggs. Eggs. Eggs.'
  • Poetry is this screaming madwoman.
  • 'Let's begin by affirming that poetry has died.'

Yo-Yo Boing! (Spanglish novel, 1998)[edit]

Poets and anarchists are always the first to go. —Where. — To the frontline. Wherever it is.
  • Poets and anarchists are always the first to go.
    —To the frontline. Wherever it is.
  • If I respected languages like you do, I wouldn't write at all. El muro de Berlín fue derribado. Why can't I do the same? Desde la torre de Babel, las lenguas han sido siempre una forma de divorciarnos del resto de la humanidad. Poetry must find ways of breaking distance. I'm not reducing my audience. On the contrary, I'm going to have a bigger audience with the common markets — in Europe — in America. And besides, all languages are dialects that are made to break new grounds. I feel like Dante, Petrarca and Boccaccio, and I even feel like Garcilaso forging a new language. Saludo al nuevo siglo, el siglo del nuevo lenguaje de América, y le digo adiós a la retórica separatista y a los atavismos.
  • "I can understand Spanish but I can't understand Puerto Ricans."
  • "We have a similar problem. I can understand English, but I cannot understand Americans."
  • "If you want to know what love is, have a child. If you want to know what pain is, bury him".

United States of Banana (2011)[edit]

  • I fear freedom. I, above all, fear the freedom that is above all feardom.
  • This is a vicious circle. This is the fishmarket. This is working for survival. This is survival of the fastest. This is the Darwinist capital of the capitalist world. A head afraid is a head haunted. A head haunted is a head hunted. Run for your life. Run from the guillotine to a head hunter who saves your head and raises your salary—so you’ll be caught in the red of the fishmarket buying gadgets to distract your fragile imagination that is cut in the red market of blood—running and escaping—running again—changing your resume to update the fear you feel of being unemployed tomorrow—in the streets—and from there to welfare—and from there to begging.
  • The suicide bomber is an explosion of a contradiction in its paradox, victim and victimizer, yin and yang, two sides of the coin, fire bomb and fire extinguisher, prosecutor and defendant, hangman and hanged.
  • Originality is going back to the place where you were what you were—and finding an empty chair. Would you gladly sit on it? No, thank you. It is empty for a reason. That’s where my ass was. Not where my head is now.
  • It’s the end of the world. I was excited by the whole situation. Well, if everybody is going to die, die hard, shit, but what do I know? Is this an atomic bomb--the end of the world--the end of the millennium? No more fear of being fired--for typos or tardiness--digressions or recessions--and what a way of being fired--bursting into flames--without two weeks notice--and without six months of unemployment--and without sick leave, vacation, or comp time--without a word of what was to come--on a glorious morning--when nature ran indifferent to the course of man--there came a point when that sunny sky turned into a hellhole of a night—with papers, computers, windows, bricks, bodies falling, and people running and screaming...
  • I saw a torso falling--no legs--no head--just a torso. I am redundant because I can’t believe what I saw. I saw a torso falling--no legs--no head--just a torso--tumbling in the air--dressed in a bright white shirt--the shirt of the businessman--tucked in--neatly--under the belt--snugly fastened--holding up his pants that had no legs. He had hit a steel girder--and he was dead--dead for a ducat, dead--on the floor of Krispy Krème--with powdered donuts for a head--fresh out of the oven--crispy and round--hot and tasty--and this businessman--on the ground was clutching a briefcase in his hand--and on his finger, the wedding band. I suppose he thought his briefcase was his life--or his wife--or that both were one--because the briefcase was as tight in hand as the wedding band."
  • When the Twin Towers fell—I felt a dentist had pulled out my two front teeth. I could not laugh anymore. And I have the smile of a smiling damned villain. But I also felt the hole in my mouth became a garage, and entering that garage were terrorists in trucks full of explosives and French diplomats—to f*ck us more with other nations—to run over our dead bodies.
  • The United States of America will become the United States of Banana. And Puerto Rico will be the first half-and-half banana republic state incorporated that will secede from the union. Then will come Liberty Island, then Mississippi Burning, Texas BBQ, Kentucky Fried Chicken—all of them—New York Yankees, Jersey Devils—you name it—will want to break apart—and demand a separation—a divorce. Things will not go well for the banana republic when the shackles and chains of democracy break loose and unleash the dogs of war. Separation—divorce—disintegration of subject matters that don’t matter anymore—only verbs—actions. Americans will walk like chickens with their heads cut off.
  • English is a language of mass destruction. Lady Macbeth is a queen of mass destruction. Lear is a king of mass destruction. Hamlet is a prince of mass destruction. Shakespeare is a bard of mass destruction. And Moby Dick is a whale of mass destruction. Why are you a culture of death and destruction? Why do you obliterate villages, cities, and civilizations with your language of mass destruction? Is the destruction worth the destruction? For what purpose did you destroy my language? To impose the sovereignty of your rule of law with weapons of mass destruction—to then say: --I offer you my lifesaver. Now, we can communicate in the same language. English only, please.

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