Sunday, November 25, 2012

Review Roundup: November 25, 2012

Laurie Ann Guerrero reviews Carmen Tafolla’s Rebozos

Fifth-edition Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize winner, Laurie Ann Guerrero reviews San Antonio Poet Laureate and CantoMundo co-founder, Carmen Tafolla’s Rebozos.

Rebozos is a collaborative book of sixteen poems by Carmen Tafolla and sixteen paintings by Catalina Gárate García. As the title of the collection implies and as Laurie Ann Guerrero astutely remarks, this is a collection the uses the rebozo’s intricately woven patterns, to “weave together” the “sometimes-undocumented” stories of women. Stories written in poems that have volition of their own, following their own linguistic logic and playfulness:

“These are not translations, Tafolla notes in her acknowledgements, but individual poems composed of their own volition: "I wrote each poem authentically in its own language, and insisted … that each poem should have its freedom to be unique, even from its counterpart in the other language." Once again, Tafolla has created a space where many can exist — as she does in both the community and on the page. She uses the rebozo as a metaphor for that which weaves us together. "The rebozo itself carries our history and our sometimes-undocumented stories," Tafolla said. "And so many of the people whose stories it carries were illiterate or had no access to make their stories known. So there is a special responsibility to let those many, many generations of human voices speak out."

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New Pages reviews Fred Arroyo’s Western Avenue and Other Fictions

During my time here at Notre Dame one of the most memorable Letras Latinas-sponsored events has been for me the visit and reading by Fred Arroyo this past month of October; when he read from his collection of stories Western Avenue.

One of the things I admire about Fred Arroyo, both as a person and as a writer, is his insistence that while he is writing and in turn creating fictitious characters, he is also writing about the lives and stories of real people. These are real stories of real people that in life labored and loved and were at best ignored by the communities they served and often were in death forgotten by history:

“Don’t let the title of Fred Arroyo’s latest collection of short stories, Western Avenue and Other Fictions, fool you. “Fiction” is hardly the right word for what Arroyo has done here. If these insightful, living, breathing stories are fiction, I’d be hard pressed to imagine what reality must look like.

As a Midwest native and Chicago transplant, I can attest firsthand to just how lifelike Arroyo’s descriptions of North Clark Street and the factories along Lake Michigan in Northwest Indiana are. The snapshots of poetry peppered throughout the collection paint a portrait of urban immigrant life even more vividly than a photograph could. “

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Todd Thorpe reviews Roberto Tejada’s Mirrors for Gold

Latino/a Poetry Now featured poet Roberto Tejada (who along with Carmen Giménez Smith and J. Michael Martinez , is slated to kick-off the penultimate installment of the multi-year national reading series in April of 2013 at the University of Arizona’s Poetry Center) is currently featured in edition two of Latino Poetry Review, in an older but still very much relevant book review of Tejada’s Mirrors for Gold.

Mirrors for Gold is a fascinating social critique of the “nexus where “history, sexuality, and and language collide.” Rendered through the phrase “mirrors for gold,” the title of the collection references the unequal exchange of European trinkets for the mineral wealth of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, a moment which marks the beginnings of a history of expropriation and cultural destruction:

“Though mirrors are themselves simple, they have a complicated literary and mythical history. They might be calm pools of water, polished metal or stone surfaces, a sheet of clear glass capturing a spectral image, or a piece of glass backed with a silver tain in which a discrete image may be seen. The mirrors referred to in the book's title are of the last type; European baubles exchanged for New World wealth. The unevenness of the exchange is masked by the verisimilitude of the mirror's reflection. At last, the New World's indigenous inhabitants could hold the mirror up to nature and see their true reflections, such a gift! As with true reflections, so with true religion, conquest brought instruction on the nature of the soul and path to salvation. Gold is the tain of the truth brought by the godly conquistadors from Spain, and when Tejada holds his mirror up it is not nature that he finds but history with its irrational drives, its passionate adventures, its endless negotiations. Clearly, Tejada has read Lacan. Tejada's poems carefully query the conditions of possibility of historical reflection.”

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