My review of Metztli by Xánath Caraza, as published at la bloga

Metztli review published in la bloga

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Metztli Edición bilingüe by Xánath Caraza (Capitulo Siete; Coacalco de Berriozábal, Estado de México, 2018)

Translation by Sandra Kingery and Kaitlyn Hipple

Review by Donna Snyder

2 Final Metztli_forros solapa (3)

In Aztec mythology, “Metztli” is a god or goddess of the moon. Gender is fluid. In some traditions, Metztli fears the Sun’s fire, in others, they wed. Today the Nahuatl word is primarily used as a feminine name. Make a crazy leap from Nahuatl, a living language originating with the pre-Columbian Mexica people of Central America, to the Urban Dictionary. Here, Metztli is identified as a moon goddess, but also as an energetic and artistic girl who is romantic and sensuous, yet innocent. Curiously, I did not research the meaning of the word until after I had already read Metztli, Xánath Caraza’s recent bilingual collection of stories. Knowing makes all the difference in seeing.

Caraza wrote Metztli in Spanish then worked with Sandra Kingery and Kaitlyn Hipple to translate each story into English with the support of a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and funding from the Lycoming College Student-Faculty Research Program. Kingery has collaborated with Caraza before, and she and Hipple appear to have developed a clear understanding of how Caraza’s poetic mind works.

As noted in my previous review of Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings, an earlier fiction collection, Caraza often appears in her own narratives, as a character with a fictional name or as an unnamed author referenced in stories. In Metztli, one of Caraza’s narrators falls in love with a character in a book being written within the same story. The writer enters the book and interacts with the other characters while the story shifts to the story within the story. As described by a narrator in one of the pieces in Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings, Caraza’s characters possess the power to “dissolve from this dimension to reappear on the printed page.”

In “Thursday,” midway through Metztli, the main character, a writer, could be describing Caraza’s book.

My book is laden with sorrow.

I tried to convince the publishers that it was a book about traveling, a book of metafiction. But I knew it was actually laden with sorrow, with losses I collected over the years, sometimes as their protagonist, others as mere spectator, all of it persisting through time. Sorrow that I safeguarded within the lines, that remained in the design of the letters, that I exorcized as I wrote each of them on paper.

In my review of Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings, I noted that Caraza’s stories are imbued with Federico García Lorca’s aesthetics of duende, “a fascination with both death and great erotic desire…precipitating a momentary experience of the sublime.” García Lorca tells us that the duende is found when “Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents….” As an immigrant and a traveler, Caraza has internalized a multiplicity of identities as well as the constant pulse of loss and departure.

In “Citizenship,” two brothers left behind their widowed mother to attend university, not seeing her for several years until they unexpectedly appear to witness her swearing in as a United States citizen after working as a dishwasher for most of 20 years. The story reveals a kaleidoscope of memories and emotions: the complexity of grief following the death of an abusive husband, the longing for her sons, the struggle with learning a new language and culture, the decision to become a naturalized citizen. The repeated ruptures in connection mirror the lives of real immigrant workers and asylum seekers, already sorrowful to be forced to leave home, only to have their families ripped apart at the U.S. border. Here in the borderlands of Mexico and the U.S.A., these separations are real, wrenching, and daily.

 

Metztli’s characters parallel the author’s migrations. They leave their homelands only to feel years later an anguished longing for the details of daily life. Originally from Xalapa in the state of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico, she has lived many years in the U.S.A., while frequently travelling throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. In “Lemongrass,” a woman receives a box of gifts from what could be Caraza’s own homeland:

[A] dress with colorful flowers embroidered on the chest, canned mangoes in syrup, epazote for frijoles, acuyo leaves to wrap tamales rancheros, dried beans, and a peasant blouse with embroidery on the cuff. [She finds that her] departure from Mexico has helped her remember. She’s spent her first year far from the smell of fresh tortillas….

The mammoth sense of loss felt when a lover leaves is broached several times in the collection. In “Prelude,” college students revel in an unconsummated desire born of a mutual devotion to Bach, Scarlatti, and Nietzsche. Their world is filled with near magical sensory details such as a room inexplicably filled with green lightning bugs. The girl is devastated when the boy disappears, only to bepied with another girl weeks later. In another story, “Thursday,” the narrator reveals the extent of her pain after being left.

I cried in the car. In the office. At home. Before walking into a meeting. Between classes. I cried while showering, while cooking. I cried until the table where I was writing these lines flooded, and the sound of my tears mingled with the sound of the rain…The night is neon-blue cold. Metallic rain continues to fall….

The growing friendshipetween women who are grieving the loss of their lovers is beautifully described in “Gentle Breeze.” “Without realizing it, without making an effort, little by little, they stopped saying those names.”  Caraza’s format reminds us that time is an artificial construct. Perhaps we experience loss in this reality, yet physicists tell us that we may continue to exist in another universe. In the other universe, we may not suffer that grief.

The fire of first love is always unique but can hint of banality when viewed from outside. Consequently, the last story in the book, “Voices in the Sea,” was a small disappointment in an otherwise stimulating and pleasurable collection. Taken as a whole, however, Metztli dazzles the reader with the interconnectivity of its stories and intrigues us when the fiction is juxtaposed with its writer’s own life. In the title story, the narrator is a Mexican who has lived abroad many years.

She had traveled in Morocco for five years, dancing in different cities. . . . Before dancing, she would prepare her iridescent feathers, seashells, jade necklaces, and turquoise rings. She made sure that the pre-Hispanic instruments she used in her show, like the huehuetl drum, were ready to vibrate like a living heart. She carefully inspected the clay pots that she filled with varying amounts of water to turn them into percussion instruments, and she confirmed the depth of sound of the teponaztli drum. As time went by, while she danced, she began to feel Morocco flow through her veins. Two rhythms began to beat within her, perhaps three now, indigenous, Moroccan, and Spanish.

In addition to writing poetry and fiction, Caraza teaches at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and writes for various scholarly publications related to Latinos/Latinas and their shared, yet disparate, cultures. Caraza has won honors in Central America, Europe, and the U.S.A, such as receiving the 2014 Beca Nebrija para Creadores, from the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares in Spain. She has been translated into English, Italian, and Greek; and partially translated into Nahuatl, Portuguese, Hindi, Turkish, and Romanian.

Caraza was a finalist in the Multicultural Fiction category of the 2013 International Book Awards. Also in 2013, her book Conjuro won multiple international awards. Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings won several international awards. Her book of poetry, Sílabas de viento/Syllables of Wind, received the 2015 International Book Award for Poetry, as well as other prizes. In the 2018 International Latino Book Awards, Caraza’s Lagrima roja won First Place for Best Book of Poetry in Spanish by One Author and First Place for Sin preámbulos/Without Preamble for Best Book of Bilingual Poetry by One Author. The book at hand, Metztli, won second place in the 2019 International Latino Book Awards for Best Short Story Collection.

While the names of characters change, the stories in Metztli are interwoven, with repeated motifs such as winged insects, birds of portent, and references to the keen pleasure of drinking a cup of tea and reading. Most importantly, each main character presents another face of the same moon.

“I usually think in colors, feel colors, smell colors, see images. . .” says the narrator in “Thursday.”  Both Metztli and Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings describe this anomaly known as synesthesia, the triggering of one sort of sense impression when a different sense is stimulated. Both books are saturated with color and sensuality. In Metztli, Caraza’s subject is sorrow, yet she catches readers in a storm of eroticism, emphasizing that the sadness of life can be redeemed by art and the pleasures of the physical world. The senses counterbalance life’s inherent sorrow, and only through embracing the duende is there hope to encounter the sublime.

Donna Snyder para la Bloga

Donna Snyder

Donna Snyder founded the Tumblewords Project in 1995 and continues to organize its free weekly workshop series and other events in the borderlands of El Paso, Texas. Her poetry collections include Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal from Chimbarazu Press, I Am South from Virgogray Press, and The Tongue Has its Secrets from NeoPoiesis Press. She previously practiced law representing indigenous people, people with disabilities, and immigrant worker

Poem published in Fearless

page 8 of the newest issue

Fearless Poetry ‘zine # 67

Reality of flesh and chair

Patterns of organic energy on a sub-atomic level

not ruled by cause and effect-

by looking we change the outcome.

Change is inherent in observing.  The closer

we look the less precise we become.

Light bumps against flesh, moves backward

to mark where flesh was.

I try to define the reality of flesh and chairs,

become distracted by the buzz and bounce.

Newtonian physics.  Einstein’s theories on relativity.

The more we try to comprehend the less they have meaning.

The theory of everything implies that we don’t exist.

The chair is new today but the wood is ancient.

Light bounces from tree to retina and I say chair,

but chair is nothing more than an artificial construct,

an approximation of a limited mind’s effort to name a reality

seeming to exist.  Our orbits exceed experience of finite flesh.

By merely looking I have changed chair.

A non-existent mover makes me think tree.

I am lost in a forest of holes that leads me nowhere.

Out of nothing, everything.

Out of dying flesh, I find never ending,

the most vast nothing,

free of who I was.

Free of flesh.

Free of table.

Free of chair.

Free of words

 

 

 

Nothing is never nothing published in Setu

Setu is a bilingual Hindi and English monthly journal of of Pittsburgh. This poem and two others were included 8n a special issue called Western Voices, selected by guest editor, Scott Thomas Outlar.

 

Re post

poetry from the frontera

Nothing is never nothing

A message

written for a bottle with no ocean

The body atremble, the mouth a desert

Sirens so far away but still the jaws grind

Not even the dogs know what dogs always know

Hands thrust into what becomes a salivating mouth

Birds fall, frozen, from the sky to unyielding ground

Words without meaning

Ask the women, they all will tell you

An utterance shuts out objective meaning

Oxygen sucks the life out of a lying mouth

Not even the shadow knits truth from facts

The first page missing, the first line begins

. . . but that was long after Night arose from nothing

Chaos,

Dark void of space

counter-intuitively comprising Earth, Wind,

Water, and Fire, the gods both spirit and being,

but their answers illusory, begging the question

Something from nothing, they say

yet nothing was ever made of something

Chaos,

the first something…

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Review of The Tongue Has Its Secrets in Yellow Chair Review

Review of The Tongue Has Its Secrets reviewed in Yellow Chair Review

The Tongue Has Its Secrets

Donna Snyder

NeoPoiesis Press, 2016

Reviewed by Eric A. Cline

The Tongue Has Its Secrets by Donna Snyder is a poetry volume rife with spirituality, sensuality, mourning, violence, and prayer. The language utilized throughout the books possesses what may be the most important criteria for establishing strong voice in writing: uniqueness glossed in polish. Snyder actualizes her vision for her work through meticulously crafted execution, resulting in the sense that the book’s many words, lines, and stanzas have all been cradled and cared for at length by the artistic mother who birthed them.

 

During my initial reading of the work, the most consistent theme to catch my attention was Snyder’s frequent evocation of the religious. More specifically, Snyder references a myriad of feminine deities, from the Corn Maiden to Athena to Mother Crow. Even when not referencing a specific deity, Snyder envisions God as a woman. One example of this can be found in the poem “Creation Myth,” excerpted below:

          “A fairy whispers in my ear that God

            is a woman at all times being pleasured.

            Out of her pleasure unfolds the world.”

 This union of spirituality and sensuality weaves throughout many of Snyder’s poems. The result is an affirmation of not only the femaleness of God as a concept, but also of the ways human sexual energies can result in something almost like worship. This worship can be of the self, or of others one is attracted to, as in this segment from the poem “Fat beauty:”

            “…Boys slipped

            you grins like magic potions, charms for your altar,

            offerings to the image of la Roseanne.”

 Snyder’s examination of femaleness further extends beyond the divine. In “The Muse of Juárez,” Snyder turns her attention toward violence against women. The poem details the sad phenomenon of femicide through gruesome images of the rape and murder of innocent women in Juárez, Mexico. The poem is one of the volume’s darkest in tone, and rather than try to express humanity’s horrified reaction to the subject matter, Snyder ends the poem with the sounds of blackbirds:

            “The world silent. A dead stone.

 

            Nothing but the sound of blackbirds cawing,

            crying out in grief.”

 

Snyder’s verse cries not only for human victims, but also for animals that have suffered at mankind’s hands as well. The poem “The Sunday news” describes dolphin mutilations and the resultant tears of God. The grief found within this piece and others sharing its theme provide the book with a theme of sorrow and hurt that make the book’s other themes of divinity and holiness through sexuality all the more important. Snyder is not content to simply write about pain without offering alternatives or remedies, and though her work transports the reader to places of great misery, it also reminds them why she has bothered to write at all. “Invoking the muse,” a short poem about the power of language, closes with the following description of a female wordsmith:

            “maker of kings

            caster of spells

            inciter of riots

 

            she who wields the power of words”

 

Donna Snyder wields the power of words, and hers is quite the weapon to behold. I would recommend The Tongue Has Its Secrets to anyone interested in female spirituality, sexuality, struggle, or hope. Though dense with references to gods the reader may not possess immediate knowledge of, the book makes all time spent researching its subject matter worth it for the experience of Snyder’s artistic divinations.

Review of The Tongue Has Its Secrets

Michael R. Wyatt’s review in the El Paso Times

BOOKS

Review: New poetry by Donna Snyder

Michael R. Wyatt, Special to the Times

“The Tongue Has Its Secrets” by Donna Snyder

 

El Paso performance poet and human rights activist Donna Snyder has published a new book of her poetry, “The Tongue Has Its Secrets” (NeoPoiesis Press).

The slender volume holds some very powerful imagery and might be thought of as setting forth Snyder’s ontological theory of poetry. After all, Snyder is a poet, and what is poetry but the deliberate revelation of secrets held by the tongue? And, closer to home, what proof is there that a poet exists, but for this revealed poetry, and what the poetry reveals?

The book contains 57 poems, equally divided between three parts. The first poem, “The tongue has its secrets,” precedes Part 1 and is in the nature of a foreword. In it,  Snyder begins to lay the foundation for the universe she later develops.

Her deity is conceptually female: “Praise Her in five songs.” Her creation myth begins with a thought, which requires the tongue to express it; until told, it is just a secret. And her existence of the self is mouthwateringly sexual: “The spurt of the mother / a creamy desecration of the dark.” And, as is true in most maternalistic ontologies, she expressly acknowledges the cycles of life: “Out of devastation new growth green as a jungle / A verdant blanket.”

To set forth such a vibrant and vivid world-view in a mere 30 lines of text on the first page of her new book demonstrates the power of Snyder’s mental and expressive capacity, as well as the tenacity of her work ethic.Snyder, a lawyer by profession, an activist by inclination and a poet by compulsion, has an extensive list of published work to her credit, including “Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal” (2014 Chimbarazu Press), a lamentation in three parts commemorating the lives, and untimely deaths, of three men central to her life. The three parts of her new book are not as clearly delineated, although one can sense a flowing movement from themes of Nature to Voice to Prayer. Throughout each movement, the Tongue, as a necessary component of the voice that guards the Secrets, and as a sexual organ, provides a constant point of reference.

In the first movement, Snyder introduces the Corn Maiden, one of numerous mother-gods she invokes, and draws out for the reader an explicit connection between Nature, sexuality, and the thoughtful, deliberate act of creation. In “Masa on the tongue,” she writes:

I want to feed on Corn Maiden’s flesh

caramelized in the embrace of mother earth

let it melt on the tongue like agave nectar

rain in the mouth of years to come

Other goddesses featured in this work include Dea Tacita, Ixchel, Mother Crow, Epona and Oshun. The reader may be excused for an occasional Wikipedia break.

This also holds true for Snyder’s references to her non-deified muses, which include various fauna of the Southwest (mariposa, colibri, jaguar, eagle, coyote, deer, bear, serpent); a couple literary lights (Walt Whitman, Gertrude Stein); and a deep well of half-hidden languages women have invented to share their secrets in plain sight (Lingua Ignota, Nu Shu poets and the so-called “Venus of Willendorf”). In each case, the poet invokes the muse to give voice to the secrets of the tongue, and thereby creates her world.

Snyder’s keen social awareness also requires her to express alarm. Somebody has killed the muse of Juárez, severed the tongues, silenced the girls, left a dead stone: “Nothing but the sound of blackbirds cawing, / crying out in grief.” And her concern reaches beyond the femicides of Juárez to the planet herself. This collection contains a series of contemplations on the environmental degradation man has wrought, which include “Bitter poison of history denied”; “Earth Day”; “The Sunday news”; and “Agua de mi sierra madre(TM).”

But the poet remains sanguine, both in spirit and flesh tone. In “Struggling with fragile” she expresses her conviction, in a most personal fashion, that spilled blood signifies life to come: “bones of the broken moon turn verdant / flesh and sinew become roaming beasts / spilled blood becomes life. …” The moon “quivers / calls forth the waters to flood and surge / makes the blood rush forth between the legs / the fragile moon / her body broken / her bones and body become life.”

And even though life is but a long wait to die (in “Carmine”), the poet concludes with a prayer (“Supplication”) in which she asks that particular “great and beneficient energy flow” to cleanse her soul, heal and protect her, and restore her vitality.

In the morning, feed me honey with fresh yogurt,

and mint or sage tea at noon.

In the evening, stroke me

with the peacock feathers

of your benevolence.

In the afternoon, love evokes remembrance, and in “Minnow slip of the finger” the artist’s sexuality drips from the page: “humidity sudden in the desert heat / monsoon season of the wet country …,” where “a beard of thorns waits to be trimmed / the ruby flash of tuna / anticipation of eager teeth / dripping sweet.”

In the end, she is prepared to ululate! The reader may be forgiven for discerning a secret meaning from the text, and for allowing the Tongue to suss it out.

Michael R. Wyatt is an assistant El Paso County attorney and has practiced law in El Paso for 28 years.

 

Make plans

What: Poet Donna Snyder will read from “The Tongue Has Its Secrets” during a BorderSenses-sponsored book release event. The event also will include an all-ages open mic.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Rock House Cafe and Gallery, 400 W. Overland.

How much: No cover charge.

Information: Snyder, 328-5484 or donnajosnyder@gmail.com, or Richie D. Marrufo, facebook.com/BWOMS.

 

 

 

Kushal Poddar – Quarantine Diaries

via Kushal Poddar – Quarantine Diaries

 

Day One, Lockdown

Blame my neighbor’s titillating apparition
who has drained her stock of Botox
by the first day of isolation – I feel
the hairs of my nape whisper, and at first
I know not how to recognise her,
then words form a sighing communication.

The first of the days of isolation. A gust of larks
and common pigeons sweeps the lane in-between.
She talks from her porch and I from mine.

There seems nothing else to talk about but
this, nowhere to go but here,
no man exists save those we see.
For one who takes pride in tales of her
exotic traveling she hides her thoroughfares well.
From an unseen corner howls of the pariahs say –
Truth passes the place. Then silence.

Later I call Donna, “How are the things over there?”
Noise of sneezing and coughing answers.
“How are you?” Yet my mouth utters, “All
will shine back to summer high.”
Droplets of hope traverse the length of ether.

Excerpt: Forward from ‘The Vanishing Poet,’ Upcoming from Michael Aaron Casares

Pointed and an always timely reminder.

Virgogray Press

We are conscious energy. We are energy having a ‘human’ experience. Everything is energy, condensed wavelengths or particles determining how heavy or how light the energy. Energy that pulses with vibration, low or high, negative or positive, does not die, it changes. And the first, and possibly the most important, task on our to-do list:

To remember.

Once we’ve remembered, everything else begins to fall into place in fulfillment with the divine contracts, the promises, we made to ourselves before setting out on this journey. And everyone, every bit of aware energy, has a purpose; and the purpose is different for everybody. Whether the gatekeeper to an invaluable innovation, whether to learn from the lessons of transgression, or to be a cog in the wheel, we all have individual purpose. We all have choice. We have autonomy. It is up to us to choose if the sun will set in…

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Degenerate Art in the Time of Facebook

My post on Facebook jail at El Paso News

El Paso News

The El Paso News is committed to freedom of expression.  Such venues as this blog are more important today than they were just a few years ago, as social networking platforms become more censorious than a small town’s watchdogs on the contents of libraries.

Around 3:00 am, a fit of insomnia had me hanging out on Facebook reading poetry and news.  As I attempted to share a post about Harper Lee, I was suddenly unable to add a comment crediting the source of the link.  Immediately a screen flashed up, informing me that I am banned from unspecified actions in Facebook.

Capture+_2020-02-20-03-13-07

I clicked on “let us know” and was informed that such actions had to be taken “to keep Facebook safe.”

Capture+_2020-02-20-09-50-42

Despite the unabashed admission Facebook does not read such responses, I filled in my complaint that their action was nuts considering I had just shared a post about Harper…

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Medusa Is My Avatar

My poem Medusa Is My Avatar in El Paso News

El Paso News

Medusa on BigTree, MoonCourt, Blue Mountains – Photo by Glenys Livingstone

Medusa on BigTree, MoonCourt, Blue Mountains close up glenysMedusa is my avatar

Her moon mouth opened in a scream, whether in agony or passion is hard to discern.

The stone face is pocked with marks caused by the process of becoming.

Brows writhe in rhythm with the mass of unbrushed hair.

This is a face that turned small men to stone, so terrifying her gaze and howling mouth that they were forced to kill her.

Yet even severed from her soured body, her head lives. Not as a trophy, but as a scourge.

by Donna Snyder

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