Thursday, July 18, 2013

Chicanonautica: A Chicano Poet’s Odyssey

Reyes Cárdenas: Chicano Poet 1970-2010 ain’t your ordinary poetry collection. L.A. David’s cover and illustrations hint at that. Reyes Cárdenas’ poems flow like magnetic fields of celestial objects, colliding, and creating structures greater than the worlds that generate them. We’re talking an epic sweep, eses: Not just Chicanismo and the Sixties -- rock & roll, the Space Age, science fiction, and the future.

His story, Los Pachucos y La Flying Saucer, first published in 1975, years before my first publication, is a wild romp of the kind of joyous mayhem that happens when you plug sci-fi into a different culture. Those who seriously guard the genre restrictions of science fiction and are sticklers for accuracy in space travel technology probably won’t like it, but if you have a sense of humor, and an appreciation of cartoony surrealistic imagery reminiscent of underground comix, it’s great fun to a pachuco beat.

The series of poems, Elegy for John Lennon, reminded me of British New Wave pioneer J.G. Ballard in that it dealt with memories of the Space Age, rock & roll, the Cold War -- as well as things Chicano -- only picante instead of Ballard’s detached Anglo cool. Sí, muchachos, all this stuff happened to us, too. It still is.

From Aztlan to the Moons of Mars: A Chicano Verse Novella does it all. Chicanos involved in space exploration, mixing in contemporary politics as well. Why not? Unlike privileged folks for whom the sci-fi is harmless escapism, we can’t image the future without being reminded of the barricades that are in our way. This is an excellent example of my theory that Chicano is a science fiction state of being. 

Cárdenas doesn’t stay within the comfortable borders of what a poet, a Chicano, or even science fiction is supposed to be. He sails across the borders, and ignores the genre restrictions, presenting a mestizoid reality that Art and Literature (as we know it) rarely achieve. Because realism in not enough to make people, places, and times come alive; that takes damn good writing.

Besides, we’ve been doing postmodernism for thousands of years . . .

Meanwhile, check out his latest poems on his blog.

Ernest Hogan’s novel High Aztech is available free until August 2 is you use the coupon code TV57H on Smashwords.


juan tejeda said...

gracias, ernesto. xingon review. we're proud of this publication. reyes is a great xicano poeta cozmico loco and chronicler of our times, yet one of our most under-recognized. we hope this 40 year retrospective of his work will put him out there. you can purchase all of aztlan libre press' publications at

Daniel Olivas said...

I ordered my copy today!


I'm happy to help!

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to read this book! it's ordered a moment ago; Ernest, you do make some great reviews,one is compelled to read the stuff you are writing about!!
Kind regards Søren