Reed Johnson reviews The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry
This hefty volume shows the ethno-linguistic breadth of what we lump under the monolithic term "Latin American" poetry. Like Walt Whitman's poetic Self, the bards of Latin America "contain multitudes." This volume includes works originally written not only in Spanish and Portuguese, but also in French, slangy Caribbean patois (for example, Nicolás Guillén's wonderful "Brief Ode to a Black Cuban Boxer") and indigenous tongues, such as the Nahuatl of Mexican poet Natalio Hernández Xocoyotzin and the Mapuche of the Chilean Elicura Chihuailaf.
Full review can be found at The Los Angeles Times
Rigoberto González reviews Martín Espada's The Trouble Ball
Espada has the admirable ability to compress extraordinary gravity into a single stanza through which he can display his political leanings with undisguised sentiment ("Somewhere a convict sobs into a book of poems / from the prison library, and I know why / his hands are careful not to break the brittle pages.") or gesture subtly to a startling scene that speaks for itself.
Full review can be found at The El Paso Times
Sueyeun Juliette Lee reviews Urayoán Noel's Hi-Density Politics
Noel’s various explorations in word play and poetic structures become means for sussing out the dynamic, collective identities that arise in response. He writes in ottava rima, tercets, palindromes, scripts, lists, journal entries, notes, games, flarf, and various modes of translation. This virtuoso performance suggests that both the object of Noel’s poetry and the subject positions from which he writes are in flux. It seems, then, that the city embodies both our ailments (fragmentation, information overload, velocity) and a cure: for Noel, the answer is to continue roving and transforming—in an effort to outpace globalization’s own circuitry, perhaps.
Full review can be found at the Constant Critic
Here’s a sentence I never thought I would write in a review: Jimmy Santiago Baca writes adorable poems about cute babies. But indeed he does, and often, in The Esai Poems, a collection about his youngest son's first years. In the preface, "25 In/25 Out," Baca reviews his tough-guy ex-con past, "twenty-five years in the system, brutal, corrupt, hate-filled, and frenzied with violence . . . beatings, shock-therapy, abandonment, terror, death threats, stabbings." But, somehow, after he learned to read and write, Baca got out: "To all of the above horrors I say: I have outlasted you. This September 2010 marks the time that I have been more free than imprisoned."
Full review can be found at Rain Taxi Online
In his work, Martinez displays such humility, honesty, and awareness of the blank page-the ability to document-as privilege, cultivating an American existence, simultaneously building up and stripping down the flood of narratives from which he was born: "The Chicano shapes identity like a an icicle fingering down from / the roof's edge" (from "Aporia").
Xicano son of the American Southwest, with ancestral ties spanning Mexico, New Mexico, Texas, this Colorado native transforms each page into a map, into a tool, into art, embodying the thorny and complex examination of the modern Chicano/a identity. Martinez leads the reader through historical, cultural, and familial investigation via the body of his foremothers, to the Spanish colonization of the Aztecs and the birth of the Mexican people, and back again as he ultimately is faced with his own fear of acting on his love for a woman of another race.
Full review can be found at Boxcar Poetry Review