Jimmy Santiago Baca, Author . New Directions $12.95 (101p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1575-6

The inspiring and romantic aura of the riverine Mexican border, its flora and its fauna suffuse this very clear book-length sequence from Baca, author of Black Mesa Poems , the memoir A Place to Stand , as well as books of stories and essays. These 39 poems—all long-lined, casual and determinedly optimistic—largely eschew the tales of hardship that mark earlier work, focusing instead on Baca's present-day projects and dreams; "running along this path every other day" through the river valley, he hopes to "keep my connection to the spirits strong,/ keep my work spiritual," explaining how "the river in me sings my gratefulness to you and others," "my grief rain-tears, my joyous natural-spring laughter." Baca seeks a Whitmanesque voice that aims toward human universals, while remaining grounded in his Chicano ancestry. A "Rio Grande bosque" (forest) "on the verge of bursting forth with spring" becomes an Edenic refuge and a symbol for everything and everyone else his speaker loves: his faith, his America, and (especially late in the book) the mother of his children: "you on the bed, nursing our son,/ your laughter a prayer to the wind." While many of the images and themes here are predictable, but readers who have followed Baca this far will certainly want to come along for his heartfelt exploration of the American Southwest and of "the contradictions/ that come with being human." (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/26/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
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