Thursday, August 9, 2018 |
Here is my truth: I don’t read poetry often, but I wish I did. I want to be that person who reads poems and religious texts and essays on important cultural topics regularly. And it’s not because I think that sort of person is better or more serious. No, I just know that when I read more widely, because I had to (school, for so many years), I was a more interesting on the inside. I absorbed it all and tried on different ways of thinking and my dreams were varied and colorful.

So every now and then I try to make myself into that person again. I try. I read poetry, I linger on a prayer, and I purchase a book of essays. And when I do, I sometimes come across a text that is… abstruse? I can’t get into it at all, though I enjoy the language and drink in the words with my eyes. They just end up traveling right through me without leaving a permanent mark. When I read novels, if they are any good, they scoop out my feelings with a spoon, and that is its own delightful pain/pleasure. I return to that over and over. Lighting up my brain with poetry takes more effort (usually), and I am loath to loan myself the time if the pleasure is fleeting. In this case I took as long as I needed to. And my reading experience turned into something meaningful.

I asked my library to order Marcelo Hernandez Castillo’s volume of award-winning poetry, Cenzontle, because I read a lovely review of it in Shelf Awareness. And then, because I kept it so long, the library declared it lost (don’t worry, I eventually returned it). I finished it, and though I don’t think I “got” all of it (poetry is hard), I enjoyed it. I tried. I am maybe becoming the person I want to be. I adored the way Hernandez Castillo’s words made me play with mine (even here in this “review”), and I’ll be amazed by the vivid dreams I’m probably going to have for the next few weeks because those words painted the inside of my brain in electric neon.

Hernandez Castillo writes about growing up, and sex, and birth and death, and birds and honey and words and dreams. He writes about having a brown body, and sorrow (unrelated)(?), and being an undocumented immigrant. His poems are peppered with prayers, and internal/external juxtapositions. Maybe I didn’t absorb it all, but I could appreciate the lyricism and flights of fancy and maybe I understood a few metaphors. I understood enough to like, to keep reading. I think it was beautiful. I kept rereading one line here, maybe two, pondering if that one or this one was something I’d copy down and keep. Okay, I know it was beautiful.

God, I don’t have anything else to say. Read that Shelf Awareness review. Read the book yourself (it’s compact). Let me know what you think of it. I am going to work on reading more poetry and I plan to come back to Cenzontle again. I’ll even buy my own copy this time so that the library doesn’t think it’s lost.

cenzontle by marcelo hernandez castillo book cover
In this lyrical, imagistic debut, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo creates a nuanced narrative of life before, during, and after crossing the US/Mexico border. These poems explore the emotional fallout of immigration, the illusion of the American dream via the fallacy of the nuclear family, the latent anxieties of living in a queer brown undocumented body within a heterosexual marriage, and the ongoing search for belonging. Finding solace in the resignation to sheer possibility, these poems challenge us to question the potential ways in which two people can interact, love, give birth, and mourn―sometimes all at once.

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