RIP Nicanor Parra, Chile’s anti-poet

Nicanor Parra always had the last laugh. By living to 103 and winning the Cervantes Prize – the highest award for a writer working in Spanish – he became “eminent” when all his life he’d been a contrarian. Parra dragged Latin American poetry into the streets. Rejecting all Romantic and flowery sentiments, he fashioned a…

“The Crown Ain’t Worth Much” by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib

This debut collection sings. Forged in the fires of Columbus, Ohio, the poems are about childhood memories and community. If much of the work feels autobiographical, the collection transcends individual experience and speaks to anyone who’s ever watched friends fall apart, or got nostalgic over a piece of music, or been cheek to cheek with…

“Chinatown a toda hora y otros poemas” by Andrea Cote

Andrea Cote-Botero is a much garlanded poet and prose writer, having won The National Poetry Prize from the Universidad Externado de Colombia (2003), the Puentes de Struga International Poetry Prize (2005) and the Cittá de Castrovillari Prize (2010). Her work has been translated into a dozen languages. Cote-Botero grew up in a Colombia that was…

RIP Irina Ratushinskaya 1954-2017

Irina Ratushinskaya, the Soviet dissident poet and novelist, was a legendarily defiant figure. Sentenced in 1983, on her 29th birthday, to seven years in a labor camp for “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda,” she not only survived, but wrote poems on bars of soap with the burnt ends of matchsticks. She memorized and erased them before…

“Another Door Calls” by Elise Stuart

Elise Stuart’s debut collection shimmers in the rain, gets snagged on the cholla, frees itself in the night winds, and goes rolling down a flooded arroyo. This terrific collection couldn’t have been written anywhere but New Mexico, Stuart’s spiritual home. Her familial roots lie elsewhere, but her narrative voice and sensibility reside firmly in the…

An evening with the maestro: Juan Felipe Herrera comes to town

The 21st Poet Laureate of the Unites States came to little Silver City this week. The place will never be the same. Herrera was a hurricane of ideas, poetry, stories, music and love. In front of a packed house, he talked (and sang) about his childhood, about his days tending farm animals, about his father’s…

“Notes on the Assemblage” by Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera is a protean figure, a one-man dynamo: an actor, activist, professor, musician, author of thirty books, and now the first Latino Poet Laureate of the United States. His personal story is extraordinary. His parents were migrant workers, constantly on the move across California. He found an alternative path when he won a…

Rapture – by Sjohnna McCray

McCray’s themes in this first poetry collection are desire, identity and memory. He excavates his past and dredges up images and motifs that form a personal mythology. Many of the poems seem autobiographical. There is a particular focus on the imperfections of the human body: the stump of a father’s amputated leg; “flabby buttocks” and…

60 years of Howl-ing

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night, *Ginsberg wrote his seminal poem “Howl” in 1955. It was utterly…