Friday, May 10, 2019


Xánath Caraza
Translated by Sandra Kingery
Photos by Stephen Holland-Wempe
Foreword by Elizabeth Coonrod Martínez
Pandora Lobo Estepario Productions Press -- April, 2019

The publisher's summary of Xánath Caraza's latest book of poems includes the following:

"There are a thousand registered ancient Maya city sites just in the Mexican state of Campeche (west side of the Yucatán peninsula), including the dozen visited by poet Xánath Caraza, where she composed the poems in this text. Balamkú is one of those sites, and most moving to view and experience. The ancient cities of our hemisphere, Calakmul, Balamkú, others under the “Maya” umbrella term, and many in central Mexico, are important to view and study. Xánath Caraza’s verses will provide a spiritual roadmap accompanied by fallen leaves, Mayan rocks, wind, and liquid serpents of jade carved on every one of these pages."

The notion of poetry as a "spiritual roadmap" may not be a new idea but it fits perfectly when applied to the words, images, sounds, and scents found in this book.  Xánath (one of the regular contributors to La Bloga) is deservedly known for her intricate and imaginative use of language to express the full spectrum of human emotion.  Balamkú bolsters and adds to that reputation.   

Xánath's poetry is a beautiful example of the poet caught up in the ecstasy of her art.  Following along on the pages, the reader is taken to dream-like fantastic worlds, steaming jungles of desire and history, and timeless reminders from a vanished civilization that somehow lingers and impacts us today.  Much as a surgeon preserves life with a fine-edged scalpel, Xánath conjures visions of paradise lost with a few perfect words.

Consider, for example, the poem Flowers Overflow.

Speak the secrets of yesteryear, Mayan stone./White eternity wrought in intrinsic designs./Serpents interwoven on walls./Before them the word sacred is enunciated./Convoking sages and poets, priests and emperors./Catharsis originates with the night.  Torches are lit, copal smolders./It is time to speak with the first gods./Poetry is intoned and conches sound,/ they guide the voice alongside the flames of the bonfire./The flowers are what now overflow, fragile cloud petals./Nocturnal scents intensify./Sacred perfume spreads, it attracts the beasts./The music continues its course with the water and the rain divine response falls. 

Xánath says in her introduction that recognizing and realizing that she was "part of the great Mayan family" awakened a "burning fire" within her.  She responded to the call from her indigenous roots and immersed herself in the jungles, insects, smells and dark beauty of the ancient homeland.  As she notes, she honors those that came before her with her poetry.  Her journey took her to Balamkú, where she made an offering of poetry within the pyramid.  She appreciates that she may have been the only person to read poetry in Balamkú in hundreds of years.  

And now, readers can share in that same poetry and travel with the poet to the deep heart of memory. The book is divided into thirteen sections, several of which are observations of a particular site. Each poem is presented in Spanish and English. 

We listen with respect for the beauty and the passion of the poet's words.  And we accept the truth the poet found in her search and which she has delivered in her poetic message to our strange and forgetful world. 


Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction.  His latest is The Golden Havana Night (Arte Público Press.)

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