. . . . Books.
I look forward every gift season to brightly wrapped packages revealing books people want to share. December 24th and 25th came without unwrapping any of those tell-tale rectangular packages.
No harm done. January arrives in full force and I’m contenting myself with Urrea’s The Hummingbird’s Daughter and Saenz’ In Perfect Light, along with Littell’s Legends, when the mail brings me Calaca’s 2005 collection, mahcic.
El movimiento comes alive in Riley’s hand. This is work that might have been of that earlier era. Riley’s barrio is a lost and ruined homeland, peopled by junkies,winos, and people of little hope.
Reading Riley is to find a writer about to burst into full voice. That Riley is a poet in transition is seen those pieces where the poet turns for subject to language, poetry, or autobiography. Riley uses poetry like an artist uses a camera to capture moody landscapes and hard-focused portraits of his hometown. “Gray Grease” subtitled, “For Raulrsalinas” acknowledges Riley’s most obvious poetic influence. “X. You Didn’t Come Gently” uses Dylan Thomas’ words to launch the fullness of Riley’s meditation on fatherhood.
As much as I enjoyed seeing connections between Tomas Riley’s work with the consequently ongoing tradition of Chicano movimiento poetry, there is some material I simply do not understand:
let the beat drop
toward the center
of ciphers come lately
and empty bottles
off the r.p.m.
Must be I don’t dance anymore. There’s more than enough gratifying writing to make an hour with these eighty-two pages rewarding. There’s the huge surprise in the mundane domestic repartee that breaks out in a homicidal daydream before settling back into uncomfortable reverie in “V. Good Neighbors.” Riley catches my eye with the image of billboards taking effect in the masterful, “Barrio Logan. Under the Bridge” that echoes la Logan of Alurista’s work.
Calaca Press is a notable independent Chicano publisher. To get your hands on mahcic., don’t wait for next Christmas because you might be shut out like I was. Contact Calaca at www.calacapress.com. Calaca’s excellent spoken word series is fast going out of circulation. Already, Raza Spoken Here I and When Skin Peels are gone. Two gems of chicana chicano poetry available only by pirate and snippets at Calaca’s website. macic is readily available today.