Orion Magazine – Eleven Poetry Recommendations for Latin and Hispanic Heritage Month

EACH MONTH, OrionPoetry editor Camille Dungy and friends recommend eco-friendly poetry collections that they think our readers might enjoy. This month, we’re honoring Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month with a new list of excellent recent collections from new and familiar poets. Take note and add it to your reading list!

Camille Dungy recommends:

Transversal by Urayoán Noel

The fact that I am writing this mini-review in English only means that I will be leaving out huge parts of what makes Transversal such a wonder and whopper to read. Moving fluidly between English, Spanish, Spanish, and more, this book uses language as a tool (read: adjustable wrench; read: hammer; read: carabiner; read: steam engine ; read: love). If the place we call New York is an archipelago. . . If one of the worst hurricanes in history shares a name with our grandmother. . . So the weight and value of the bats under the Congress Bridge is immeasurable. . . If a short poem written on a plastic bodega bag is a bagku. . . If what at first appears to be translations tell their own stories. . . If the rigid adherence to the received forms allows a radical transformation. . . Then this. . . . (University of Arizona Press)

April in Olympia by Lorna Dee Cervantes

One of the major voices in Chicanx literature will publish a new collection this fall. April in Olympia is a highly observed, politically charged and uncompromising visit to the spirit of the poet and our world. “Save lives,” she writes in “Doomsday Instruction Manual.” The poems in this collection reveal which lives are most at risk and how we can protect them. “This is how you save the world,” Cervantes says at the end of a poem. This book could be the instruction manual we all need. (Marsh Hawk Press)

Guillotine by Eduardo Corral

From the Sonoran sands of the desert, the voices of these poems rise. Scarred and scared and thirsty, provocative or deceptive or dear to someone’s heart, the voices brought together in Corral’s second collection are full of complex passions, potential and pride. The landscape of this book is haunted and heartbreaking and rendered so honestly it hurts. (Grey Wolf)

To count by Valérie Martinez

Reading this book is like looking at the photo album of a well-traveled, warm and wise woman. In forty-three tense and tender poems, Martinez takes me across the world – to the Atacama Desert, Baffin Island on the Arctic Archipelago and the vast aspen groves of Utah – and across the time. She turns to websites and videos for information about the planet in one poem, and in another, she shares Wintun’s story of people first appearing on Earth. I learned things from these poems, not least of which is the amount of empathy, concern, and caring that a few verses can contain. (The University of Arizona Press)

X / Ex / Exis by Raquel Salas Rivera

In the first poem in this Academy of American Poets Ambroggio award-winning collection, lions turn into snakes turn into spiders. As their cages and tanks get smaller, captive animals continue to find new ways to escape. The poems here resist subjugation, colonization, rejection and destruction. The poems here, and their animal bodies, spill over from a militarized beach, where everything from seashells to seagulls has been slaughtered. They challenge what would silence them and deny them. More and more strong, they metamorphose. (Bilingual Press / Bilingual Editorial)

I still carry my bones by Félicia Zamora

The body is alive in these poems. The body is also, sometimes, dead. The body is the human body, and that of the Palo Verde beetle, the desert, that of a sheep, a tor of the GalapagosToise, the hummingbird, the coyote, many coyotes, human and inhuman. The body connects us to what we have always been and what we want to be and never can be, what we seek and what we are. Who are we? ”These poems also want to know the answer to this question. (University of Iowa Press)

Plagiarism / plagiarism by Ulalume González de León, with an introduction by Octavio Paz

The English title of a selection of this bilingual presentation of poems is “The Fantastic Animal That Was Sure To Play Another Game”. It seems like a good way to describe the fantastic, colorful and changing poems in this collection. Although they are all very short, these poems contain gardens, forests and dreams. Originally written between 1968 and 1971, published in 1978, again in 2001, and now, with English translations, in this 2020 edition, these poems contain what González de Leon calls “the spirit of language”, which means that they “speak bird”, “speak wind”, “speak sea”. (Sixteen Rivers Press)

Recommended collections of established poets:

Alberto Rios recommended Now in color by Jacqueline Balderrama

While this book often deals with ethnic identity struggles, it also embraces the environment and the physical land every step of the way, and why wouldn’t it? The book seeks to situate itself naturally in the real world, even when the real world includes the imaginary, the poems in the book sometimes speaking to the world and sometimes letting the world itself speak. As the poems continue their immediate work, a pervasive dialogue continues in the background – ocean, desert, fire, lions – and this echo adds a dimension to this book that literally roots us, whoever we are as readers. (Perugia press)

David Thomas Martinez recommend: Contemporary American Poetry by John Murillo

Contemporary American Poetry, like the geography of Los Angeles itself, is located near mountains, desert, and ocean. Winner of the Kinsley Tufts Poetry Award, this exceptional collection of poems has a climate for every reader and is grounded in an ecological heart. Through Murillo’s dystopian narratives, the lives of Latinxes and Blacks center on a multifaceted invocation to poetry. Heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time, this collection still has ten strong toes on the fertile LA turf. (Four-way books)

Gloria Muñoz recommended Deuda Natal by Mara Pasteur

Deuda Natal
calls on us to bear contempt and environmental neglect of Puerto Rico and our entire planet. It’s a loss we wrap and hold with care as we look at her face and marvel How? ‘Or’ What and what if and and now? Pastor’s poems are cards to help us make sense of our past and future migrations. Feminism and environmentalism intersect on pages that assess our relationship to nature, materialism, hope, and ourselves as byproducts of history and society. Laureate of the Ambroggio Prize 2020 of the Academy of American Poets, Deuda Natal is masterfully translated from Spanish by María José Giménez and Anna Rosenwong. (Arizona University Press)

Felicia Zamora recommended Its migratory by Sara Lupita Olivares

Sara Lupita Olivares writes: “Every little thing that disappears / takes up more space. The poems in Its migratory (winner of the CantoMundo Prize for Poetry 2020) evil of omitted landscapes, of a legacy of migration as “still singing before the opening”, and voices haunted by fields “chewed to the point of stillness”. The metaphysics, the socio-cultural and the environment merge in these pages, where the little and the silence are made up in worlds of hunger, interiority, non-place, desert and without. Worlds as instinctive as the woods that remind us of animals, and Fault is both the word and the action left to those who are haunted by etymologies, language and history. I carry the Book of Olivares with me like a spell to cast – a spell to prevent disappearance. (University of Arkansas Press)

Want more poetry recommendations from Orion poetry editor Camille Dungy? Click here.

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