City of Coughing and Dead Radiators: Poems

Martin Espada, Author W. W. Norton & Company $17.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-393-03555-1
In his fourth book, Espada ( Rebellion Is the Circle of a Lover's Hands ) writes powerfully of the disenfranchised urban Latino poor: ``I cannot evict them / from my insomniac nights.'' The poetry has a direct, proclamatory tone, at its best when summoning and sustaining intimacy. In ``White Birch,'' for example, a birth is described: ``The boy was snagged on that spiraling bone. / Medical fingers prodded your pink center / while you stared at a horizon of water / no one else could see, creatures leaping silver / with tails that slashed the air / like your agonized tongue.'' Brooklyn-born Espada draws on his tenants' rights work in Boston for strong images in several poems--``the girl surrounded by a pleading carousel / of children, in Spanish bewilderment, / sleepless and rat-vigilant, / who wins reluctant extermination / but loses the youngest, / lead paint retarded.'' Some poems cascade with strong visions and descend into squalor, horror, or the picaresque, yet forming wholes out of them can be problematic; they may grandstand at crucial points, or drift into pieties. On the other hand, ``The Toolmaker Unemployed,'' an austere lyric supported by assonance and incremental ponderings, is as spare in its form as we imagine an old man's diminishing sense of worth to be. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 96 pages - 978-0-393-31217-1
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