Lorna Dee Cervantes, the judge of the 2014 Letras Latinas / Red Hen Poetry Prize, which supports the publication of a second or third book by a Latino/a poet residing in the United States, had this to say about the manuscripts she designated as runners-up. She selected four:
1. First Runners-Up (a tie):
THE FABLE OF THE PADDLE SACK CHILD
by Mia Leonin
A compelling integral whole, this book tells the tale of Micaela’s mother from the hand of a child and shimmers like a single multifaceted crystal while comprised of individual poems and prose poems, seamlessly faceted and set semi-precious stones of poems, each one polished to its own perfection. Nothing is extra or out of place in this chiseled and inventive collection. This is a unique and distinct manuscript from a distinct and unique voice.
A CAMERA OBSCURA
by Carl Marcum
Heady and full like a hearty glass of Petit Sirrah, this intelligent collection of poems displays the best of “American” fusion. Both aged and fresh, these poems blanket the tongue with their flush of lush language. “High” and “low” culture blend with the Native Spanish of the Southwest in this poetry of sanguine saquaros set in the windows of Chicago high-rises and the spoils from academic Ivory Towers of “robots” “less than human, more than semiotic ghost” — all woven together into A CAMERA OBSCURA which holds: “every heavenly hypothesis.”
PLANNED AND SUDDEN JOURNEYS
by Gina Valdés
This book spells, holds you as you come to Earth pulled by the intimate geography of language and the love of place wherever it is homed, be it this imaginary border or that. Here, “Chaplin and Cantinflas/ waddle up a hill, roll down,” and “English Surely Latinized” takes over in the hidden history and talk-story of those who cross for a living — “only the heart/ of all things throbbing.”
A PLACE THAT NO LONGER EXISTS
These poems, as in the poem, “A Kind of Chemistry,” “extract a kind of chemistry that unifies it all.” From Pizarro “ready to maneuver Manco like brittle bones/ spat to the ground” to the “Underdogs” “smelling failure” and “thinking instead/ of this hiss of anti-war, shock and awe,” these poems ask if the “occupation…is anything like the Incan revolt that failed.” “How can I not believe what they believe?”
We will be announcing the winner tomorrow night. Our gratitude to all who submitted a manuscript.