Tertulia

Vincent Toro. Viking, $20 (128p) ISBN 978-0-14-313534-0
The rhythmic latest from Toro (Stereo.Island.Mosaic) is steeped in spoken word beats as it addresses such contemporary issues as immigration, gun violence, and income inequality. The book is divided into five “acts,” its poems often reading as short and evocative scenes with cinematic imagery. In the opening “On Battling (Baltimore Strut),” descriptions of dancers in a nightclub are juxtaposed with the language of war: “a single shirtless/ seraph unfurls himself/ upon the tarmac. Flexing/ faux leather, he gyrates, feather-/ glides, thunderclaps, then jukes/ toward the 16,000-pound/ armored personnel carrier.” In “Core Curriculum Standards: P.S. 137,” the poet tours a public school: “chip wrappers wet/ newspapers rusty nails/ gym shoe musk/ ambling through unkempt/ hallways fissure fresco/ of soda stains.” The standout poem is the moving elegy “Puerto Rico Is Burning Its Dead,” presumably written in the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Maria. The title phrase is woven throughout as a haunting refrain, while the speaker narrates a litany of atrocities: “Oxygen is put on the black market. Bones are used/ to hold up infected roofs. Unidentified remains/ get poured like concrete into jilted lungs.” While non sequiturs occasionally dilute the poems’ impact, this is an energetic effort by a supremely original voice. (June)
Reviewed on : 06/10/2020
Release date: 06/01/2020
Genre: Poetry
Book - 978-0-525-50700-0
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