I have a long list of books I hope to read over summer, many that I picked up during #AWP16 in Los Angeles or recently arrived in the mail. These are just a select few that I will be reading first.
Look by Solmaz Sharif (Graywolf) — I read Solmaz’s poem from Reaching Guantánamo a few years ago and was completely unraveled by her subversion of governmental redaction. As our society moves toward more surveillance and drone strikes to create perpetual war, this debut collection feels necessary in working toward our collective liberation in facing cost of our humanity at the hands of war. (Bonus: Solmaz will read at Fresno State this fall.)
Boy with Thorn by Rickey Laurentiis (Univ. of Pitt. Press) — Shortly after #AWP16, I sat down to read this collection, winner of the 2014 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. I read the first poem, “Conditions for a Southern Gothic,” and I was immediately crushed under the weight and voice of the poem and could not continue. I knew I had to reflect upon the final line of the poem: “If God made us in his image, it was the first failure of the imagination.” And that line has become a quiet meditation over the last few months, a gift from a single poem and a poet.
The Big Book of Exit Strategies by Jamaal May (Alice James Books) — I recently met Jamaal after purchasing his latest collection. We hugged and spoke for a few minutes. The love, passion and presence he shared with me in that moment reflect the care and focus of his narrative-style that serve as both an homage to Detroit and a resistance against the failures of our society. When I read his poems, I think of Fresno, my own ailing but beautiful hometown, and know I must move forward.
Buzzing Hemisphere / Rumor Hemisférico by Urayoán Noel (University of Arizona Press) — I have read with Ura on three separate occasions. Once along a river in Austin, Texas at CantoMundo in which he inspired the audience in a kiddie tease call and response between stanzas. Once in a NYC Park, where he delivered a passionate manifesto that had passers-by stopping to consider joining the revolution, or perhaps afraid the revolution had started without their own participation. And once, down under the Manhattan Bridge in Brooklyn at Berl’s Poetry Shop, where he programmed his phone to ring every few minutes to every few seconds to mimic the noise and distraction of technology in our life, as if a train rattling overhead was not enough. Which is to say, that there are many identities buzzing within Ura, and as such, many hemispheres within his poetics. A poetics that I find liberation in reading, as he unabashedly owns the sonics and code-switching that are part of his voice.
Mucha Muchacha, Too Much Girl by Leticia Hernández-Linares (Tia Chucha Press) — In her writing, you are reminded of the multitudes: that song is poem, that poem is song, and that movement is both dance and battle. Leticia reminds me that I write to honor what has come before, and that other times writing is survival, and that too is how we honor, to resist. At CantoMundo, I had the chance to work alongside and learn from Leticia, and her voice asks me to search for the song in my own work.