Sightseer in This Killing City
The fourth collection from Gloria (My Favorite Warlord
) explores disorientation and displacement in urban environments. The city of the title (Dallas) could be any city that reveals one’s own foreignness: “my cousin sick/ and so I came with only Roethke’s line: ‘On things asleep, no balm.’ ” Born in Manila and raised in California, Gloria speaks for the “All-American Alien,” the title of the last section in the book. The speaker is a restless traveler, spouting Byron, spinning Coltrane, bobbing through Baudelaire and T.S. Eliot in France, Spain, and even the Andes “where I’ve never been.” He tells stories, one of having been beaten up by a gang of white boys in his suburban neighborhood (“A Psalm for Beauty and Violence”) as the poems assume different forms: sestina, ghazal, Golden Shovel (a contemporary form invented by Terrence Hayes to honor Gwendolyn Brooks). The word Nacirema
, a neologism from anthropology that derives from American
spelled backwards, recurs throughout the collection, challenging readers to reimagine the familiar as the unknown. For Gloria, reexamining with a new eye proves generative: “each day/ turns into lines I am waiting to write.” In the tradition of Whitman and the Beats, Gloria’s “discourse of bleeding utterances” memorably charts cities, countries, and his own family. (June)
Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the city referenced by the book's title. It also used an incorrect pronoun to refer to the author in one instance.