American Literature 75.4 (2003) 882-883
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Miguel López's Chicano Timespace will be a welcome text to scholars of Chicana(o) poetry. Sánchez is one of the earliest, most important, and most prolific of the poets who emerged during the Chicano movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s, alongside Alurista, Antonio Burciaga, Abelardo Delgado, Angela de Hoyos, and Raúl Salinas. López's text is the first extended, book-length discussion in English of any of these poets and will surely bring about a reevaluation of Sánchez's place in Chicana(o) literary history. (The only other book-length study of a single Chicana(o) poet I'm aware of is Erminio Corti's Da Aztlán all'Amerindia: multiculturalismo e difesa dell'identità chicana nella poesia di Alurista.) López sets out to counteract a perceived neglect of Sánchez and to rescue his work from misunderstandings that have relegated it to the category of "mere" protest poetry. He achieves this, while also producing an important critical biography and comprehensive readings of Sánchez's two most important books, Canto y grito mi liberacìon (y lloro mis desmadrazgos. . . .) and the often ignored Hechizospells.
The central goal of Chicano Timespace is to reveal, through a careful reading of Sánchez's life and work, the hidden depths of a poet who has often been dismissed as unsophisticated. To the contrary, López argues, Sánchez's corpus is a highly philosophical body of multigenre works that seek to theorize the linguistic and phenomenological reality of Chicana(o) subjects. López does not break any new theoretical ground here, but his use of literary analysis, historical context, and close reading is excellent. The book is roughly organized into two halves. The introduction and first two chapters reconstruct Sánchez's life and address the history of literary critical treatments of his work. The last three chapters offer close thematic readings of Sánchez's two major works.
Chapters 1 and 2 contain some of the most contentious claims of the book. While López argues convincingly that Sánchez was as much a critic of the Chicano movement as he was a mouthpiece for it (if not more so) and shows the importance of Mexican thought to Sánchez's work, he sometimes veers toward hagiography in his attempt to rehabilitate Sánchez's reputation. While Sánchez was often viewed as difficult and egotistical by other Chicana(o) poets, in López's account, Sánchez could do no wrong. López also makes a questionable correlation between Sánchez's diminished reputation in the 1990s and the rise of Chicana(o) studies in English departments, going so far as to characterize critics Cordelia Candelaria and Rafael Pérez-Torres as "apologists for English-only censorship" (36). Interestingly, it was precisely such rhetorical provocations that alienated Sánchez from many of his Chicana(o) intellectual contemporaries.
The final three chapters offer what will prove to be of use to most readers: the kind of extended analysis of Sánchez's poetry that has been missing from Chicana(o) literary studies. López identifies three organizing "timespaces" in [End Page 882] Sánchez's work—the pinta (prison), the barrio, and the migrant stream—that provide both organizational and thematic unity to Canto y grito mi liberación and Hechizospells. These three timespaces enable Sánchez to link his autobiographical story to the fate of the Chicana(o) community. López also provides a compelling reading of the role of tragedy in Sánchez's work, relating it to notions of liberation and entelequia (or creative evolution) that were important to him.
Chicano Timespace is valuable as a major study of one of the most important Chicana(o) poets. Along with the recent reissue of Raúl Salinas's poems by Arte Público...