Sunday, September 26, 2010

location, location, location

What I've noticed, in general but also with this week's readings in particular, is that each poet writes about place- where they come from, but also where they are presently- with passion and fervor. Which makes a lot of sense, of course; places can be every bit as influential as one's background, genetics, etc. Where we live, work, drink, make love- 'place' shapes all of those aspects as well, and it can certainly be seen as influencing these poets work.

Willie Perdomo mentions 'downtown' in his poem "Nigger-Reecan Blues" right after refuting an assumption that he's black. Later in the poem, he references the Harlem River, and New Jersey. These references make the poem tangible, picking up the poet in our mind, and placing him succinctly in those places- we are able to see the lady clutching her purse, and the poet continually waiting for a taxi that won't pick him up. The next poem, "Reflections on the Metro North, Winter 1990" gives us a place right away in the title, and then mentions place names at least three times within the first ten lines: New Rochelle, points North, El Barrio, New York City. In fact, the poem is rife with names of places. Place- whether it's where you are, where you're headed, or where you're running away from as Perdomo is in this poem- gives the reader an image to give the poem context.

Jessica Hagerdorn also uses place names to conjure images for the reader. "Latin Music in New York" is named so that we arrive right there in the city with her, for the moment. Each time she repeats the phrase in the poem, we are brought back to "the alligator dream of a tropical night".

Nancy Mercado's poem Milla instantly transports her audience to Puerto Rico; we also travel- in a split second- with her abuela to the big city of Chicago. Mercado accomplishes this using two words in one line: "To Chicago". The effect is bound only by our imaginations.

At the same time, Rudolfo Anaya has us leaping from New Mexico, across the Mississippi, and over the Brooklyn Bridge with himself and Walt Whitman. As we do this, we comiserate with Anaya, and we begin to yern for a lost don Walt as well.

Most noticably, Francis Chung transports readers to Chinatown in her compilation "Crazy Melon and Chinese Apple." Her words, "some call it a ghetto, some call it a slum, some call it home" bring back the idea that where one hails from is different for everyone, but it's still just one place.

1 comment:

  1. Al Robles does this too but in a slightly different way as he pays tribute to the ancestors and the elements (nature, animals and spirits of the Philippine Islands.

    I can see and feel the spirits in his work, I can see the mountains, i can hear the rushing waters of the river, I can see the rice and vegetable fields of the farmers and I can also see the insanity of city life for those "manongs" who immigrated.

    location, location location