Sunday, November 6, 2011

Review Roundup--November 6, 2011


Publisher’s Weekly reviews Aracelis Girmay’s Kingdom Animalia (Boa, 2011).

Back in 2007 when Curbstone Press released Aracelis Girmay’s debut collection of poems, Teeth, Aracelis quickly established herself as brave and refreshing new voice in American poetry. Of Teeth, Martin Espada wrote: “In the title poem, Girmay describes a woman’s teeth as “bullets of ivory,” a fitting description for the poems in this collection: hard, cutting, brilliant, beautiful.” Bullets indeed. And in Kingdom Animalia Aracelis keeps on firing her bullets in celebration of life from the exact center of death and sadness. And this November 8th at Harvard University’s Woodberry Poetry Room, Aracelis Girmay along with Rosa Alcalá and Eduardo C. Corral will kick-off installment one of Letras Latinas’ multi-year reading series Latino/a Poetry Now—a collaborative initiative with the Poetry Society of America. 

Here is what Publishers Weekly had to say:

Girmay’s poem “Arroz Poetica,” from her 2007 collection Teeth (2007), continues to catalyze antiwar sentiment. This six-part book of verse ends with a short “Ars Poetica”—“May the poems be/ the snail’s trail.// Everywhere I go,/ every inch: quiet record// of the foot’s silver prayer./I lived once./ Thank you./ It was here”—that points up its simultaneous strengths and limitations. On the one hand, there’s nothing as clear and timely as “Arroz” here; it’s almost as if Girmay needed an entire book to write past it and back into a voice that can reflect her own life. On the other, the “foot’s silver prayer” of the “Ars” seems, in this collection, to take in a great deal of America and its global history. Girmay has Eritrean, Puerto Rican, and African-American roots; the section titled “a book of erased cities” brings a poignant, multifaceted sense of loss to poems like “Mississippi Burial, On the Ferry to Algiers”: “it is possible to wear your ghosts like a face,/ which is to say, my face has been here before.” So while there’s nothing as immediately gripping and galvanizing here, the book’s “snail’s trail” offers plenty for the patient.

The full review can be found here.
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Pansy Poetics reviews Rigoberto González’s Black Blossoms (Four Way Books, 2011)

In Other Fugitives and other Strangers (Tupelo Press, 2006) Rigoberto González presents us with a compelling recollection and a fierce homage to the lives of men and their sexuality and in his third collection of poetry Black Blossoms, González follows up Other Fugitives and Other Strangers by presenting us with a beauty of diametrical equivalence: Black Blossoms—a brave exploration into the lives of women of color and their journeys: A collection that I look forward to reading as Letras Latinas prepares to offer an interview with Rigoberto González who is slated to read at Macalester College in installment three of Latino/a Poetry Now.

Here is what Pansy Poetics had to say:

I believe the dead listen to us. After his poetic mentor, Ai, died, Rigoberto Gonzalez wrote quite movingly about her: "Even in my third book (which I dedicate to her memory) I can still detect traces of her influence--we shared a love for the dark and disturbing narratives and gave them homes on the page."

Never mawkish in his elegiac statements regarding Ai, Gonzalez has always appeared respectful and honorable. No doubt Ai appreciates his prose tributes, but I strongly believe what would matter most to her is the development of his poems. With Black Blossoms, his new collection, Gonzalez has performed the ultimate tribute: he has made his poems better than hers. I have no doubt she is still listening and learning from his work.

The full review can be read here

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Rigoberto González reviews Dagoberto Gilb’s Before the End, After the Beginning (Grove Press, 2011)

Rigoberto is not only an accomplished writer but also a generous and visionary man. As book reviewer for the El Paso Times, Rigoberto González has been hard at work promoting and enhancing the visibility and appreciation of Chicano/Latino writers for the last ten years. In his latest review Rigoberto writes of Dagoberto Gilb’s newest collection:

The lives of Chicano men caught in the struggle between the classes is the dominant theme of Dagoberto Gilb's resonant third collection of stories, "Before the End, After the Beginning" (Grove Press, $24 hardcover).

For the penny-pinching musician in "Cheap," what begins as an effort to save money on having a room painted turns out to be a battle with his conscience as he witnesses a contractor's exploitation of undocumented workers. The bilingual musician can speak to all parties involved, yet nobody's able to translate his good intentions when he makes kind gestures toward the Mexican workers and attempts to teach the Anglo boss that "you and me are lucky to be born on the rich side of the border." As a middle-class Chicano, he's perceived by all as a disengaged outsider.  

The full review can be read here

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William Archila’s The Art of Exile (Bilingual Review, 2009) is reviewed in Voices Education Project.