cover image Bird Eating Bird

Bird Eating Bird

Kristin Naca, . . HarperCollins, $13.99 (93pp) ISBN 978-0-06-178234-3

Vigorous, self-assured, self-consciously youthful and proudly bilingual, Naca's debut should get many times the attention afforded most poets' first books. Poems short and long, made of family anecdotes and (like Neruda's) of impressionistic lists, poems of remembered place (“The Adoration at El Montan,” set in San Antonio, Tex.) and poems of sexual joy between women give uncommon variety to the collection, even as Naca's fast pace, mixed English and Spanish (with bits of Tagalog), and first-person emphasis give it obvious unity. “Spanish means there's another person/ inside you,” she remembers her father saying. Poems composed originally in English mix with poems composed in Spanish and printed with her English translations. The next-to-last poem finds Naca in Mexico City, “City so high that passion lacks heat... City where I spoke a word of Spanish, and like a spigot, my dreams squeezed shut.” She also takes up, repeatedly, her Filipino-American background, the Pittsburgh of her youth, and the wide-open spaces she saw as an optimistic young writer in Nebraska. Chosen for the National Poetry Series' new mtvU award by Yusef Komunyakaa, the volume might be noticed by young people who may not otherwise purchase poetry but may discover Naca on cable TV. (Oct.)