It’s work, then, that engages history and politics through art. “The Sound of Glass is Unmistakable” (p. 54), another emblematic piece in this vein, reads like a metaphorical micro history of South America, where Bolívar’s dream of a united continent ends, shattered:
Sisters, brothers, cousins, uncles, even my mother who normally avoids the atomic sunlight like a movie star, scurry out of a hundred holes to witness the splintered cart and mangled horses, the twin condors circling, the shards of blue sky everywhere.
The range of artists and eras Guevara engages is admirably ample, and the sensibility throughout—its engagement with what I’ll call more avant-garde techniques in that they resist facile narrative, and the allusions to various events in the history of the region—places the collection, in my view, within a tradition that is arguably as Latin American as it is American. Put another way, Poema establishes the Colombian-born Guevara as the most “Latin American” of Latino poets in the United States, if not simply one of our most cosmopolitan poets, period.
And yet: if the city of Pittsburgh was a more predominant presence in Guevara’s earlier volumes, the city of steel and bridges, where Guevara was raised, continues to hold an indelible place in his imagination. “Bright Pittsburgh Morning” (p. 17) begins:
This must happen just after I die: At sunrise
I bend over my grandparents’ empty house in Hazelwood
And pull it out of the soft cindered earth by the Mon River.
Even here, though, his method insists on a narrative logic of its own—divorced from a more conventional reality.
02 September 2009
The Latin American Review of Books has new content up for September, including a review of Maurice Kilwein Guevara's Poema by Francisco Aragón: