When skimming the pages of, Heredities, and reading the blurbs, a few random expressions and words caught me off guard and sent me to the dusty OED hibernating on my bookcase. Additionaly, I must mention that the copying and pasting of vocabulary like Corporeity and Occipito has not been a familiar habit of mine when reviewing Chicano poetry books. Fortunately, the wonderment of whether I would enjoy or simply comprehend J. Michael Martinez’s book was short lived as I returned to my senses while reading the fourth poem titled, He Name Me Miklo. In it I discovered the vibrant lenguaje of a modern Chicano scribe destined to find his place in the fraternity of America’s finest poets.
In, Heredities (LSU Press; 2010, $17.95), J. Michael Martinez surgically dissects Chicanismo into three sections; Etymology, Corporeity and Archetype, each which translates into an authentic and more modern examination of the mental and physical existence of Chicano identity. In the poem sub-titled, To Possess Identity, Difference Must Be Gathered, Martinez writes, “I said. I am Mexican, next I can be a Chicano, she with the hole at the end of identity.”
As you will find in this collection, Martinez does not waiver in his quest to define and or revise the Chicano state-of-being. And although la voz del movimiento reverberates loudly inside his corazon; Martinez (by delving deeper) abandons traditional salutations to the likes of the plumed serpent, las curanderas, and the warm tortillas often found inked within stanzas of many a Chicano poeta before him. “I said light peels from the sky like callused skin. You said the last name must be sung: Martinez, mar, teen, is, mart, I nest, mar I nest, which is to say the nest is to is to I to nest to mar the I,” writes Martinez. “The words unfold from your body. I winter there from noun to verb beneath your maiden name.” I venture to say that Martinez has both revealed and given identity to a once nameless organ forever belonging to the anatomy of Chicano heritage. In the end my initial assumption proved ridiculous as I happily read and read over the poems of Chicano literature's very own Whitman.
pensamientos al azar / random thoughts
Finished the King of Chicanos on my road trip to Las Cruces, Nuevo Mexico on Friday; enjoyed the libro so much that minutes after reading the final sentence I called Manuel to extend a verbal high five. So I am sweating profusely through the plaza in Old Mesilla and as luck would have it, the shop I decide to cool down and take a breather in is filled w/ books. Even luckier, nearly 100% of the stock is Chicano material, but the true prize was discovering that the beautiful lady standing behind the counter is none other than Denise Chavez. What ensued included an hour conversation w/ Denise about Chicano giants, the purchase of (late artist) Walter Baca’s uncommon, Chicano Heritage Coloring book, an early Editorial Justa publication of Rivera’s, Y No Se Lo…, Paul Martinez Pompa’s chapbook, Pepper Spray, and a “Honk If You’ve Seen La Llorona” bumper sticker. Muchisimas Gracias a Doña Denise para la platica, los libros, y las paletas. A copy of Daniel Alarcon’s recent editorial venture, The Novelist’s Handbook, arrived by mail yesterday. After reading Alarcon’s introduction, I look forward to what contributors such as Danticat, Llosa and Fresán have to say about the writing life. Can’t help but be excited for Friday’s movie premier of La Mission; the wife is a big fan of El Gallo Negro aka Benjamin Bratt. Does Cy Young front-runner, Ubaldo “Chief” Jimenez, really have a shot at winning 25 games this season for the Rockies? ¡Claro que sí!