Monday, July 05, 2021

Paul M. Worley on _Perchada estás / Perching_

Paul M. Worley on _Perchada estás / Perching_


“Water,” “Hummingbird,” “Syllables,” the three sections of Xanath Caraza’s Perching bring the reader into the luminous world of a poetic search for elemental origins and unity. From the lightless water moving through caves that begins the first poem, “Secret,” to the “Notebooks on the ground/ sprinkled like water,” of the final poem, “Train Cars,” the volume leads us down the paths where poetry can be discovered as part of the natural world.


In “Secret” and throughout the rest of the volume, the protean poetic voice shifts in and out of different physical forms, moving through different experiences, being “Water both fresh and salt/in the shadows,” “scalding vapor,” and “Liquid diamond from/the darkest caverns.” The volume is full of paradoxical juxtapositions that delight and surprise like this image of water as a “liquid diamond,” which combines commonly recognized qualities of water (fluid; sparkling) with its ability to carve, shape, and hone deep withing the earth. Indeed, the first section, “Water,” situates this element as occupying an eternally liminal space, something that we penetrate (as in “Dissipate”) and that penetrates us in turn, filling our mouths as in the section’s last poem “Spring.” This reorientation towards cycles and reciprocity with the natural world is underscored by references to several Mesoamerican deities such as Chaac (a rain god) and Ehécatl (a wind god) whose names are untranslated and unfootnoted for the reader. We are mean to move closer, to work, in order to achieve a more intimate relationship with the world around us.


The following section makes a similar, more muted reference to Mesoamerican cosmology by being titled “Hummingbird,” the bird which serves as an avatar of the Mexica god Huitzilopochtli. In an image of the overflowing abundance and passion contained within the natural world, the poem “Huitzil” upends patriarchal notions of desire and sexuality, as the hummingbird (whose beaks penetrates flowers to drink from them) cannot “tame/the desires of the jungle,” a stunning image of an inexhaustible, unconquerable feminine. Even as the hummingbird moves through the world throughout this section, it is nonetheless contained by the world and the poems themselves. In essence, we are moved well beyond a simple male/female binary and are invited to understand things from a more holistic perspective in which each is an integral part of the other.


The final section, “Syllables,” is a profound listening to the world around us, understanding its movements, rhythms, and sounds as constituting their own language we are attentive and willing to listen. Even in the poem “Silent Eternity,” things yet speak as the poet outs pen to page and things yet “speak” if only in the silent, written form. As a representation of such silent speaking, Perching is a finely attuned celebration of human existence in either English or Spanish, and challenges us to re-engage with the world, our lives, and how we experience them.


—Paul M. Worley


Perchada estás / Perching (Mouthfeel Press, 2021)

by Xánath Caraza.  Translated by Sandra Kingery.

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