cover image My American Kundiman

My American Kundiman

Patrick Rosal, . . Persea, $13.95 (65pp) ISBN 978-0-89255-330-3

Rosal's fiery sophomore effort begins, "When shall I/ open my mouth/ and let half/ the world/ fall in?" Fast-paced and self-assured, it reflects a mélange of precedents— Allen Ginsberg, Gwendolyn Brooks, a bevy of hip-hop artists, Filipino and Filipino-American traditions from which Rosal (Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive , 2003) takes his unusual title. A kundiman is either a song of unrequited love or a coded song of political protest, dating from the American occupation. Rosal's vividly syncretic, even sexy works find the present haunted by the recent past, the personal within the political: "If like me you don't know well the cruel music of tango, then you don't know how its truths can haunt you." Another poem invokes, for amorous praise, "Your hype/ Your hips Your spit/ Your sickest wit." Rosal's poetry of Filipino heritage often centers around New Jersey, where he lives and in whose immigrant-rich cities and towns ethnic tension and cross-fertilization are everyday facts. These oddly confident poems, with their extravagant, attention-seeking titles ("About the White Boys Who Drove By a Second Time to Throw a Bucket of Water on Me") should attract attention beyond any ethnic, regional or performance-oriented audience. (Nov.)