Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Nightlife of Saints

By Fernando Castro

paperback; $15.00; 96 pp.

Book Review by Tobey Kaplan

Poet Fernando D. Castro is the master of the collage, combining the prose line of swaying thought with the impulses of verse, intersecting family and relations, social injustice manifestos and pop media diatribes, along with our day-to-day survival as memories surface and surge -- and we cannot help ourselves getting caught up in the effervescent vortex of idea and statement and memory and reflection, word and object, a cultural menudo spicy and sassy liberating in this telling of story and rhythmic delight; and we don't want to stop really, we want to soak it all in, bathe in his chutzpah of poetic discourse:

…..It is October on Chickasaw but the jasmines have been generous tonight--
it smells like February,
about the time my friend Mark comes to visit from up north.
He oohs and aahs at the scents carried down the street,
no more chichat about lovely San Francisco.
This scent forgives the skunk and garbage of Tuesdays,
a scent without visible flowers as Mark and I look down the street do neighbors hide the flowers in the safety of backyards.
The sprayed aroma spices the dullness of our 'hood,
and the pooch and master processions delivering turds.
I confess I do my share of master sniffing without rewards….

(from "Moon Over Chickasaw")

Fernando's home is in his poetry and longing, his mix of the serious and insane -- breaking down his familiar locations as he invites into his visits and visions, to cover this territory we want to know and want to avoid. Fernando tells us we cannot escape the roots that have enabled us to grow:

….My cousins who live in the burbs scared of the old downtown
stared at me like an apparition of their dad,
my uncle Julio, a man detested by my father, a melancholic stocky man
who distained my father's peasant roots.
Yes, I said pleasantries to those gathered with a Columbian tamal to greet me.
Everything familiar, everything spooled in a gray diagram of gray conventions.
I always dread the price of return.

(from "Assigned Drivers")

But I am most willing to give into his voice of desire, whispering throughout his tenderly impressionistic and surreal love poems:

….The deer are loose. Hear the hoofs beyond.
Small rooms open and close
their doors and windows, look out
to the smoky iris of your fixed stare.
I receive you,
breathe your body
as a solid gasp of air.

(from "Calling All, Calling All")

And through it all, Castro's poems of spinning and weaving, we're invited into his rhythmic mastery -- engaged with political sensibility and personal histories, spiritual forces and philosophy learned through "the nightlife of saints.” We're into these poems for the thrilling ride, the revolution and revelation of whatever and wherever his linguistic energy and spontaneously practical musings can take us.


Tobey Kaplan, a poet originally from New York City, has been teaching in the San Francisco Bay Area for almost thirty! years. An adjunct faculty member at several East Bay/SF Bay Area community colleges where she teaches literary studies, reading and composition, Ms. Kaplan also has a long-term involvement with California Poets in the Schools. She has given readings, workshops and presentations throughout the country for writers and teachers regarding creative process, literacy and social change. Honors include: numerous artist in residence awards through the California Arts Council, Dorland Mountain Colony Fellow, and Affiliate Artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts, recipient of a Bay Area Award (New Langton Arts, 1996). Among her publications are Across the Great Divide (Androgyne, 1995) and her poems are contained in numerous literary anthologies and on-line publications such as Red River Review.

No comments: