Sunday, June 10, 2012

Review Roundup: June 10, 2012

Kristin Dykstra reviews Urayoán Noel  

Kristin Dykstra of Jacket 2 reviews The Wind Shifts featured poet, Urayoán Noel. The review titled “On equal footing” is a review of Noel’s most recent works: Hi-Density Politics (BlazeVOX, 2010) and Kool Logic/La logica kool (Bilingual Press, 2005).  This multi-book review successfully condenses the defining aspects of Noel’s work: his double fluency, where Spanish and English “are on equal footing,” his playful take on language and traditional forms, his adept use of performance and his courageous tackling of the “stateless,” a place of flux in-between the U.S. and Puerto Rico as well as in-between textual forms (print, web, etc).

Here is what Kristin Dykstra had to say:

“The author of several books of poetry and translation, Urayoán Noel brings a satirical voice and a contemporary urban consciousness to the traditional notion that the poet will entertain and enlighten. The results, in his hands, are a well-done weird. Inevitably, they’re also compelling, and then a penny drops, and they provoke.”

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J.D. Schraffenberger reviews Martín Espada’s The Trouble Ball (W.W. Norton and Company, 2011).

J.D. Schraffenberger of RAINTAXI reviews former-Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize judge, Martín Espada’s The Trouble Ball in a review for the Spring 2012, online-edition of RAINTAXI. Martín Espada, along with Luis Rodriguez, were the first “Latino/a” poets I encountered. I read both poets in high school, I still don’t remember how I came upon their work but the recognition I felt in their work and in their names was incredibly gratifying. 

Here is what J.D. Schraffenberher had to say:

The title poem of Martín Espada’s The Trouble Ball is dedicated to the poet’s father, Frank Espada, who is pictured on the cover of the book as a young ballplayer in 1947, his leg kicked high, his arm reaching back with the ball mid-pitch, as though it’s the book itself he’s delivering, the poems in its pages meant to “trouble” something inside us. The poem recounts a trip Frank took as a child to Ebbets Field, where he expected to witness the pitching of the great Negro League player Satchel Paige: “¿Dónde están los negros? asked the boy. Where are the Negro players? / No los dejan, his father softly said. They don’t let them play here.” Among the intriguing and playfully named pitches Satchel Paige invented were “The Trouble Ball, / The Triple Curve, The Bat Dodger, The Midnight Creeper, The Slow Gin Fizz, / The Thoughtful Stuff,” this last pitch so called because it gave hitters something to think about as the ball crossed the plate. Over the course of his career as a poet and a poetic “troubler” of official narratives wherever they assert themselves too emphatically or unjustly, Espada’s stuff, like Paige’s, has been nothing if not thoughtful. Here he recognizes the national shame of racial segregation, but the poem does more than simply point out injustices of the past, filling in some historical blank or other; rather, it transforms the past so that “It is forever 1941,” and we’re asked as readers to try our hands at pitching, or catching, or taking our best swings at Trouble Balls of our own.”

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Thelma T. Reyna reviews Lorna Dee Cervantes’ Emplumada (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1981).

Another review ( a new one) of an older but classic work by Lorna Dee Cervantes. Lorna Dee Cervantes is of course another luminary of Latino/a letters, her influence on American letters extending now for over thirty years despite authoring only three poetry collections besides Emplumada. These are: From the Cables of Genocide: Poems on Love and Hunger (1991); DRIVE: The First Quartet (2006); and the most recent Ciento: 100 100-Word Love Poems (2011).

Here is what Thelma T. Reyna:

“Her poetry makes us weep in recognition. Or weep for the deep slashes to humanity that she lays bare in her unvarnished way, capturing the pain we often inflict on one another in unconscious or purposeful ways. Her book begins with one of the more powerful poems, “Uncle’s First Rabbit,” a compressed retelling of 50 years of misery. At the age of 10, Uncle is forced by his drunken, violent father to shoot, then bash to death, an innocent rabbit. The rabbit’s dying cries remind the child of the night his father kicked his pregnant mother till her aborted baby died, his tiny sister’s cries like the rabbit’s. Throughout his military years and his own marriage, the Uncle is haunted by his father’s abuse, and he can’t escape the “bastard’s…bloodline” within himself, a man tormented by demons who one night “awaken[s] to find himself slugging the bloodied face of his [own] wife.” The Uncle’s humanity gasps its last breath as he watches his dying wife in bed and thinks: “Die, you bitch. I’ll live to watch you die.”

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Nick Depascal reviews Fred Arroyo’s Western Avenue (University of Arizona Press, 2012).

Fred Arroyo, fiction writer and Letras Latinas Oral History Project interviewee, speaking (in this blog-post) of his novel The Region of Lost Names (Camino del Sol, 2008) and which chronicles the submerged stories of Puerto Rican and Cuban immigrants laboring at the Green Giant cannery in the region of Michiana—an intersection of sorts of northwestern Indiana and southern Michigan:

“I can remember as a child driving in a car out to Green Giant (I assume to pick-up my mother’s sister from work), and in the glass lobby being enchanted by the tall jolly Green Giant reaching to the ceiling, his body clothed in vines and leaves. As an adult, long after the cannery had closed, I would drive past and be filled with a loss in the face of those ruins. There were stories there—still lingering in the strong stench of manure from growing mushrooms that never went away—I wanted to listen to and write.”

Arroyo has followed that novel with a collection of short fiction which painfully and beautifully captures the immigrant work experience in the United States.

Here is what Depascal had to say:

“Throughout Western Avenue, the same characters reappear at different times and stages in their lives. Arroyo—an assistant professor of English at Drake University in Iowa—could have created a novel given the overlap, but couching these vignettes as stories rather than chapters in a novel allows him some freedom with chronology and development. Indeed, each of the recurring characters gets developed, some more than others. Since the stories are linked mostly by character and not causality, the reader is generally willing to give the author more leeway in the associative leaps between stories. Arroyo also gains the reader's good graces with his ability to swiftly develop characters in great and meaningful detail.”

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