Friday, January 6, 2012

Review Roundup--January 6, 2012

Rigoberto González reviews Luis Rodríguez’s It Calls you Back (Simon & Schuster, 2011) 

I have to confess that I have still to read It Calls You Back. And this confession comes from one who considers Luis Rodríguez’s work—both in deed and word—bedrock in his literary formation. When reading Luis Rodríguez’s work I am often reminded that if one discovers a writer in a felicitous hour—in the wakefulness of spirit, in a moment of uncommon joy or suffering—that poet becomes for that reader a tutelary and redemptive spirit. For me this first encounter with Rodríguez came sometime back in 2005: Luis was giving a reading at Sonoma State University, I was a junior in high school and without a clue to the world that lay beyond a precarious upbringing. Luis read “My Name is Not Rodríguez.” That evening was my first on a college campus and that poem a baptism into the world of poetry. I went home with a copy of Always Running: La Vida Loca and a sudden urge to write: I don’t know from where or how this came to me but that night I wrote my own version of that poem—pure fire, pure nonsense.  Years later now and at different crossroads, it is with this same sense of urgency and redemption that I find myself coming full circle and returning to It Calls You Back.

Here is what Rigoberto González (who is slated to read at installment three of Latino/a Poetry Now Macalester College in October of this year) had to say:

In 1993, Luis J. Rodríguez released "Always Running: La Vida Loca," a best-selling memoir that's been celebrated for its honest portrayal of a youth on drugs and involved with gangs in Los Angeles. The impetus for the book was an attempt by the author to save his son Ramiro from succumbing to the temptations that compelled Rodriguez to join a gang by age 11 and end up in jail as a teenager.

In a long-awaited sequel, "It Calls You Back" (Simon & Schuster, $24.99 hardcover), Rodríguez confronts another stark reality: his failure to spare Ramiro that devastating fate -- including prison time. The author takes a closer look at his own life journey after his release from jail, to understand why that crucial second chance was not an option for his firstborn.

Click HERE to read the review.


The Write Christine reviews Ruben Quesada’s Next Extinct Mammal (Greenhouse Review Press, 2011)

Of Ruben Quesada’s debut collection D.A. Powell writes: “Like Whitman, Quesada is a poet of motion—journeying to the center of the US, where the traditions and innovations of first-generation Americans transverse the meditative starbursts of hills…. From Costa Rica to Los Angeles and across the continent, Quesada’s poems chronicle one family’s history…carries us toward “that seam in space” where dream and experience intersect.” But not everything in this collection is sheer movement. Two of my favorite poems in this collection are “My Parents Meet” and “Father.” In “My Parents Meet” Quesada writes: “He cuts in/ on her./ His parted hair absorbing the lights,/ nesting wings of a carrion…. Bodies tangled, curve vanishes,/ against curve; fitting into each other, a human/ jigsaw: ear to temple, nape/ to palm, forearm cradles/ hip, lips enters face—.“  In “Father” the speaker is moved by the details on his father’s face: the “aquiline/ nose, the mole above/ your right eyebrow that rises/ when you laugh.” There are also moments of unexpected tenderness and playfulness that act as kind of anchors to a reader that may suddenly find herself transcribed to a place of being, a place far from constant movement and withering. What Ruben evokes over and over again in this collection is the ever elusive and endangered animal of memory. His poems, portraits of neighborhoods and its people are above all poems of moving toward memory, toward the edges of beauty, of “the alpenglow of tomorrow and tomorrow.”

Here is what The Write Christine had to say:

Ruben Quesada’s début collection of poetry, Next Extinct Mammal, is a rare treat of imagery and frankness. At a time when plain, unadorned, weird and disjointed poetry is celebrated and sought, and after so much effort has been put, for so many years, into the rejection of style – into undoing Symbolism, undoing Romanticism, undoing Confessionalism, undoing Imagism – and into reform and political awareness and academic snobbery, reading the work of a poet who is not afraid of himself or of the life and thoughts he keeps company with is a welcome change of pace.

If there is a flaw in Quesada’s writing, it’s a touch of immaturity and simplicity and perhaps an overabundance of the aforementioned frankness, but if the book is green around the edges, the middle of it is in full blom. As a unit, it paints the story of a first-generation American and his family, and breathes to life a vivacious stranger in an even stranger land dreaming not only of belonging to blood and place but of belonging to the cosmos and the edges of time and beauty. Poem to poem, Quesada delivers surprising portraits of neighborhoods, rooms, and women, of changing seasons and cities, of mothers and fathers and sisters. Soft images with sharp hidden edges appear around the corners of sentences where we don’t expect them to appear, releasing us as readers from our expectations and evicting us from our own surroundings, transplanting us into another, less judgmental place.

Click HERE to read the review. 


Heather Treseler reviews Deborah Parédez’s This Side of Skin (Wings Press, 2002)

Keeping up with what is quickly becoming a Letras Latinas Blog tradition (the re-posting and re-appreciation of already published reviews) in these Review Roundups, and taking advantage to wish happy tenth birthday to Deborah Parédez’s collection This Side of the Skin (2002) I present you here with a review of Deborah Parédez’s This Side of the Skin by Heather Treseler and which first appeared in issue
2 of Latino Poetry Review.

Here is what Heather Treseler had to say:

As her title suggests, Deborah Parédez's first collection of poetry plumbs liminal worlds. From the classical epic to the epidermal quick, Parédez explores a roughly hewn, unhybridized world in which stories from Hades perpetuate in the minds of the living, and elegies—for forsaken loves, childhood sublimity, veterans of violence, and the characters of nostalgia—offer a shapely sadness, a rhythm ultimately heartening in the courage of its returns. In over forty dramatic lyrics, Parédez's work unfolds a mythology of her own making. Engaging with tropes from Greek fable and German poetry, Texan heartlands and salsa dance-floors, Parédez's major themes of exile and divisionary worlds evince an admirable breadth, a restless picaresque verve that dares its critics to assign this collection to any single category.

Click HERE to read the review.  


Andrea (Andee) Beltran said...

I loved "Always Running" and am happy to read about "It Calls You Back." It is going on my reading list for this year.

Ruben Quesada's "Next Extinct Mammal" is a wonderful read. Happy it made this post!

Thanks for all the great content you provide!

Francisco Aragón said...

Thank you, Andrea, for your positive feedback on our content. Lauro has been a great addition to the Letras Latinas team, and we will soon be featuring another semi-regular contributor.

Andrea (Andee) Beltran said...

Wonderful. I always look forward to your posts. Hope you all enjoy your Sunday!