Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chicanonautica: Pier Queen: A Little Book of Hardboiled Exorcism

It’s as much a pleasure to review a book like Emanuel Xavier’s Pier Queen as it is to read it. Originally a “glorified chapbook” -- barely fifty pages -- self-published in 1997, it packs more of a punch than a lot of bloated tomes on the bestseller lists. Available again, it deserves a wider audience.
Xavier’s says in his introduction: It hasn’t made me rich. It hasn’t made me famous. It has made me proud to say I conquered my own demons.
Yes, demons. We all have them. We all need to conquer them. 

And what demons. These poems of prostitution and a passionate struggle for humanity come alive with the sights, sounds, and rough action of the mean streets. Through it all there is a vision that points a way out of the downward spiral such a life usually follows. The fact that he escaped and became a poet who went on to edit the anthology Me No Habla With Acento: Contemporary Latino Poetry is truly heroic.

I recommend it to readers who wouldn’t ordinarily read a book of poems about gay street life. This is a book about a tough world, and the demons conquered are rough ones. It all adds up to one hardboiled exorcism. Writers who strive for fashionable styles of “noir” or “hardboiled” could learn a few things here.

Or, to quote “Legendary,” the final poem: There are Gods amongst us in these ghettos.
Gods as well as demons. They are out there. Not just in the ghettos, but the street where you live.
What? You can’t see them? Guess you need the help of a good poet like Emanuel Xavier.
Ernest Hogan is trying to finish several projects so he can go on to others and get involved in some international intrigue. Stay tuned for details. 

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