Healing: 2021 Book Reviews of Xánath Caraza by Juliana Aragón Fatula
Corta la piel – It Pierces the Skin published by Flowersong Press
Ejercicio en la Oscuridad – An Exercise in the Darkness published by Pandora Lobo Estepario Productions Press
Perchada Estás – Perching published by Mouthfeel Press
Xánath Caraza writes for La Bloga, Revista Literaria Monolito, and Seattle Escribe. Her books have been translated into English, Italian, Romanian, Greek, Náhuatl, Portuguese, Hindi, and Turkish. Her books of verse: Where the Light is Violet, Black Ink, Ocelocihuatl, Conjuro, and her book of short fiction, What the Tide Brings, have won national and international recognition: The Juan Felipe Herrera Best Book of Poetry and International Latino Book Awards.
Xánath Caraza writes poetry prolifically with ease. She has written since she was a child. She teaches at universities and the numerous writing communities she belongs to such as the Latino Writers Collective, la Bloga, and Con Tinta. Caraza has been named number one of the top ten Latino Authors to read and watch.
Caraza’s collection of Corta la piel – It Pierces the Skin, Ejercicio en la Oscuridad – An Exercise in the Darkness, and Perchada Estás – Perching belongs in university classrooms, libraries, and homes of poetry lovers. It earns the accolades and awards that belong to a poet of great mastery of language, images, sensory temptations, and soft heartbeat rhythms. Caraza belongs among the great poets of the twenty-first century. While she has translated her mother tongue into English enabling more of the world to hear her poems and understand the beauty of her words, other translators such as Sandra Kingery have translated a good deal of her work. Compare the bilingual poems and hear the nuances of the Spanish words with feminine or masculine gender and only five Spanish vowel sounds compared to English’s fourteen vowel sounds. Listen to the musicality of her mother tongue and hear her poems as they were written and meant to be heard. The beauty of her poems with thirty letters of the Spanish alphabet instead of twenty-six letters in the English language breathes in the beat of the language and exhales the magic.
Corta la piel – It Pierces the Skin received Third Place for the International Latino Book Awards 2021 for Best Bilingual Book of Poetry-One Author. Caraza presents protagonists real and imagined that are both named Violeta who “vowed to dedicate herself to it, to Poetry. Poetry: I am yours.” The poet’s creativity and images mystify and amazes the reader with her poems: “Our Sons and Daughters,” “The Wars,” “The Temple of Poseidon,” and “Love on Fire.” She creates order out of chaos, and imagines the world differently with the poignant, fearless personal poems of loneliness, abandonment, evil, and violence.
In her captivating collection of bilingual prose, the three sections: Fertile Lands of México, the Great Plains of Kansas, and the Random Punctuation of Vermont contain the poet’s vision of the places she has lived and capture her sentiments at each place.
In the poem, “Loss” Caraza tackles racism and intolerance. “The racist groups were organizing, and the weight of their negative energy was felt more strongly every day. It was heart breaking, a threat. There’s nothing worse than ignorance…but there was something even worse, evil disguised as ignorance, strategically planned to cause as much damage as possible while pretending to act unawares.” Stunning reflections of the nation and the people in turbulent times.
Ejercicio en la Oscuridad – An Exercise In the Darkness and poeta Xánath Caraza shine as she carves from her poems and creates poemitas that enhance the meaning into simple, strong, symbols that are unique and powerful. Her poems: “As I Write,” “With the Force of the Wind,” “This Morning,” and “Another Place” pulsate with passion and whirl the reader into emotions of primal screams, repression, awakening and the wind that creates fire and transfers life forces of darkness into the “blood of the earth.” Magical poetry by a master writer.
Caraza’s nature collides into metaphors, personifications, images, and treasures in her collection. Her first poem, “Symphony” tells the beginning of her story, “Only the stars model a path through the darkness where I am writing.” She evolves from darkness into the light, a poet of dreams and nightmares. She builds the story of her traveling and emerges the survivor of her past. The last line of the last poem reads: “Poesia lacustre, de invierno a primavera, rasga las páginas. Brota del subsuelo de este libro que de la oscuridad nace. Lacustrine poetry, from winter to spring, rend the pages. Sprout from the subsoil of this book that is born of the darkness.” Pain and suffering have delivered art.
The book, Perchada Estás – Perching, in Caraza’s three sections: Agua, Colibrí, and Sílabas accentuate the difference from English to español and enables the reader to hear Caraza’s mother tongue and the translated version of the same poem side by side. She uses alliteration throughout her poems weaving music. Nature in her poems reveals the poet’s understanding of the animate and inanimate world: rocks, trees, birds, rivers, clouds, and they frame her innovative illusions of nightmares, hallucinations, dreams, and visions.
She delves into the natural world, cosmology, Meso American deities; Chac, Ehécatl, and the Mexica god, Huitzilopochtli. The poem “huitzil” delivers images: designs of clouds, the ceiba tree, full moon, Southwind whispers among the mountains, rivers, stones, and dreams. Her images transport the reader and projects them into the jungle. Her poems sing with the power of the heartbeat rhythm. The beauty of the images, the sensory scents of hummingbirds in the current, and leaves lifted by warm breezes. The water, wind, and whirlpools spill into the river. Her poetry is meant to be savored, shared, and celebrated.
Caraza’s poems pulse with force to tumble earth and stones into movement that speaks of longing in the moonlight, evaporating at the edge of the sea, secrets, diamonds, caverns, and images of scalding vapors dispersing into the air. These beautiful, sensual, mysterious poems become the prayer for water and elicits emotions.
In “Do Not Let Me Go” she writes, “Poetry, paint yourself on walls and leave your mark on passersby. These are hard times and we’re hurt by the atmosphere. Save us, poetry from the terror of walking outside and being one more desaparecido… Love me poetry, above all other stanzas, beyond universe, throughout time and distance. Receive me with open arms and do not let me go.”
She delivers hope for a future with peace, love, understanding, empathy, and answers to her questions in the poem from An Exercise in the Darkness. “This Morning”: How do we continue to live in harmony? What is happiness?”
And the poem “As I Write” describes, “awakening to an opera of birds, desired daylight, the leaves of the banana tree and bougainvillea. As I write, a steaming cup of coffee is placed beside me. I remember the last time my eyes opened before this paradise.”
Xánath Caraza pinches sections from her poem into her poemita: “Awakening as I write before this paradise.” She highlights and combines the poemita that echoes the poet’s words in a creative style of originality that astonishes and delights the reader and showcases her unique flair of writing.
These three volumes of prose poems written by Xánath Caraza and published during the Global Pandemic illuminate the world we have just experienced and the division of the planet into the loneliness, grief, abandonment, emptiness, sorrow, violence, death, and survival of political and personal chaos. This writer exemplifies what the world needs: healing.
Xánath created a new international poetry project called US Latino Poets en español. This online poetry column was published monthly and was a collaboration between the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum and Periódico de Poesía.
Juliana Aragón Fatula’s, second book, Red Canyon Falling on Churches, won the High Plains Poetry Award 2016, and her first book Crazy Chicana in Catholic City was also published by Conundrum Press. She writes a monthly blog for the Stiletto Gang, women who write about murder, romance, and mayhem. In 2022 she will be included in The Return of the Corn Mothers: a traveling photographic/oral history exhibition of women from the Southwest who embody the spirit of community. She teaches cultural diversity and believes in the power of education to change lives.