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This collection is a love letter to language with poems that are drunk and filled with references to the hyperkinetic world of the twenty-first century. Yet Zeus and Hera tangle with Leda on the interstate; Ava Gardner becomes a Hindu princess; and Shiva, the Destroyer, reigns over all. English is the primary god here, with its huge vocabulary and omnivorous gluttony for new words, yet the mystery of the alphabet is behind everything, a funky puppet master who can make a new world out of nothing.
Brian Sousa leaves sentiment and saudade behind in Almost Gone, a linked collection spanning four generations of a Portuguese immigrant family. In this hardscrabble world, the youth struggle with the secrets left behind by their elders, as their parents fought through the pain and joy of assimilation. Told through various perspectives, Almost Gone is a working-class tale of survival that finds no easy answers, but cuts straight to the bone.
The Alphabet Conspiracy takes its name from a 1950s-era school filmstrip of the same title. With a cast that includes patron saints for country girls and criminals, a Revolutionary War hero, the Wolfman, a sin-eater, John Wayne, and Johnny Cash, these poems swagger and sulk through an educational film turned film noir, replete with femme fatales in love. The Alphabet Conspiracy is about the ways in which language itself can function as a plot, keeping us estranged from ourselves, but also about the way it can be used as a tool for recovering our truest selves.
This is the first book published in English by of the work of Brazilian poet Adelia Prado. Incorporating poems published over the past fifteen years, The Alphabet in the Park is a book of passion and intelligence, wit and instinct. These are poems about human concerns, especially those of women, about living in one's body and out of it, about the physical but also the spiritual and the imaginative life. Prado also writes about ordinary matters; she insists that the human experience is both mystical and carnal. To Prado these are not contradictory: "It's the soul that's erotic," she writes.
As Ellen Watson says in her introduction, "Adelia Prados poetry is a poetry of abundance. These poems overflow with the humble, grand, various stuff of daily life - necklaces, bicycles, fish; saints and prostitutes and presidents; innumerable chickens and musical instruments...And, seemingly at every turn, there is food." But also, an abundance of dark things, cancer, death, greed. These are poems of appetite, all kinds.
This selection and its somewhat haphazard direction of how so many of us interact romantically—on the surface—is a gentle reminder that be it fate, chance, or will, we appear destined to carry out our mission to couple and partner, no matter what the cause or effect. If we truly desire companionship, at all cost, there is probably someone out there seeking the same measure—for better or worse. Whether it is simply ourselves, or the likes of Nathanael West (“Day of the Locus”), Amadeus Mozart (“The Dogs of Amadeus”), Mark Twain (“Mark Twain’s Cigar”), Natalie Wood (“The Late Natalie Wood”), or the poor children who haunt the camps at Terezin and Auschwitz (“ Little Ghosts”), we are all in need of the dose of kindness that love’s dispensary provides if we are fortunate enough to find it, hidden or not, among us. Whether or not a higher power is at work to guide us and grant us “The Word,” or we are determined to discover a path towards salvation through the generous acts of others—or ourselves—we follow an unconscious path, at times, and seek refuge, where possible, in places and locations we might have never imagined to investigate and bear witness. It may be upon “The Road to Jerusalem,” aboard “The New Train,” or in “The Terminal of Grief,” yet we still search for solace and speak the only common language we understand, this pursuit of love we may even try to escape—but never deny.
Always Danger offers a lyrical and highly imaginative exploration into the hazards that surround people’s lives—whether it’s violence, war, mental illness, car accidents, or the fury of Mother Nature. In his second collection of poems, David Hernandez embraces the element of surprise: a soldier takes refuge inside a hollowed-out horse, a man bullies a mountain, and a giant pink donut sponsors age-old questions about beliefs. Hernandez typically eschews the politics that often surround the inner circle of contemporary literature, but in this volume he quietly sings a few bars with a political tone: one poem shadows the conflict in Iraq, another reflects our own nation’s economic and cultural divide. Always Danger parallels Hernandez’s joy of writing: unmapped, spontaneous, and imbued with nuanced revelation.
New Queer Latino Writing
As the U.S. Latino population grows rapidly, and as the LGBTQ Latino community becomes more visible and a more crucial part of our literary and artistic heritage, there is an increasing demand for literature that successfully highlights these diverse lives. Edited by Lázaro Lima and Felice Picano, Ambientes is a revolutionary collection of fiction featuring stories by established authors as well as emerging voices that present a collective portrait of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender experience in America today. With a preface by Picano and an introduction by Lima that sets the stage for understanding Latino literary and cultural history, this is the first anthology to cross cultural and regional borders by offering a wide variety of urban, rural, East Coast, West Coast, and midwestern perspectives on Latina and Latino queers from different walks of life. Stories range from sensual pieces to comical romances and from inner-city dramas fueled by street language to portraits of gay domesticity, making this a much-needed collection for many different kinds of readers. The stories in this collection reflect a vibrant and creative community and redefine received notions of “gay” and “lesbian.”
In American Busboy, a wry anti-mythology, the anti-hero busboy in an anonymous Clam Shack! tangles with the monotonous delirium of work, the indignities and poor pay of unskilled labor, the capricious deus ex machina of mean-spirited middle management, the zombified consumption of summer tourists, while jostling for the goddess-like attentions of waitresses and hostesses—all battered up in sizzlingly crisp wit and language, and deep-fried in a shiny glaze of surrealism. —Lee Ann Roripaugh