Vincent Toro. Ahsahta (SPD, dist.), $18 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-934103-65-4
In his debut collection, Toro intricately traces the fraught nature of Puerto Rican–American hybridization and subjugation. Undulating lines and sections that evoke water, one of Toro's recurring motifs, help to structure the book; their ebbs and flows deftly connote the currents of hegemony and diaspora. These tides also depict Puerto Rico's troubled relationship with the mainland U.S.—as a site of experiments on colonized bodies, as a plundered landscape, as a "sovereignty/ where/ women/ were born faceless." Toro intimately confronts the double consciousness of being above and below the surface, of history and the present, of becoming comprehensible via language on an "atoll... of monolingualism." Sugar-slicked, tightly controlled lyric shifts and clever formal constraints allow Toro to confront the difficulty of truth-telling without self-exoticization. Yet he remains able to find those truths: erasures of his own poems become fragmented stutters, then silence. These tonally dense, structurally varied poems often adapt Puerto Rican lyric and musical forms; this nuanced engagement with generational distortions of Taino heritage is also evoked in the blending of mythology with experience, as in "Recast/ Agueynaba/ as South Bronx/ social worker" and "Grand Concourse is merely a doppelgänger// of the Middle Passage." Toro's evocative portrayal of intergenerational migrant realities reveals what it's like to be "neither boundary/ nor center/ neither master nor serf." (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 04/04/2016
Release date: 02/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
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