Angel Park

Roberto F. Santiago. Lethe/Tincture (Ingram, dist.), $13 trade paper (106p) ISBN 978-1-59021-090-1
Santiago's debut collection reads like the hidden history of a family, full of the sort of stories normally relegated to whispers in secluded corners of gatherings—or stories that disappear into graves, untold or forgotten. In three sections, Santiago traces childhood through early adulthood. The poems drift close to early-1990s confessional style but are more in the vein of persona poems, though they retain a strong unified voice. In sections titled Home, Away, and FarAway, readers follow a pan-gendered person(s) as they move from a confining traditional upbringing toward personal fulfillment. An older brother runs away from home and becomes a "staged collection" for the enjoyment of older men; a high school dean refuses his Hispanic students access to an important test; a bride defiantly walks the aisle at her wedding though her family disapproves of her fiancé. Through deceptively simple language, these anecdotes map the history of ignored and silenced people; the simple act of existing outside any normative mold becomes a sort of performance art, whether it's during a simple interaction on the subway or in imagining a secret transgender history of Queen Elizabeth I. Santiago's poetry explores queerness in all of its forms, a taste of the past on the tongue. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 08/03/2015
Release date: 04/01/2015
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