cover image I Ask the Impossible

I Ask the Impossible

Ana Castillo. Anchor Books, $14 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-385-72073-1

The prolific novelist, poet, essayist and xicanista Castillo checked in most recently with My Daughter, My Son, The Eagle, The Dove: An Aztec Chant, an inspirational gift book, and Peel My Love Like an Onion, a first-person tale of immigration and reimagined selfhood. This fifth poetry collection displays all the energy and political commitment of Castillo's work in other genres, but holds few formal or conceptual surprises. Nevertheless, many readers will be happy to bask in their speaker's experiences and longings or to get angry and motivated by her cries for justice: ""Women don't riot,/ not in maquilas in Malaysia, Mexico, or Korea..../ We don't storm through cities,/ take over the press, make a unified statement,/ once and for all: A third millennium call--from this day on no more, not me, not my daughter,/ not her daughter either."" Over the course of 60 sometimes multilingual, mostly page-or-less monologues, Castillo's speaker brashly addresses the pope, celebrates Zapatista leader Comandante Ramona, eulogizes friend Dieter Herms, sits alone in a new city (""I have had PMS for three days./ If I drink myself into a stupor, who'll know?""), imagines being seduced by Nastassia Kinski and goes about her business with passion and dignity. The abundant erotic parables and mystical invocations work much less well, often filled with clich s and awkward cadences. But the point here is in the immediacy and the message; this book is worth its weight in a thousand arid ekphrases and aestheticizations. (Mar. 27) Forecast: Nothing much distinguishes these poems from those of many other mestiza feminists speaking out in small presses across the country--except Castillo's relative fame, which adds to her speaker's winning confidence. Fans from her other genres will see Castillo's bright smile on the cover of this book and pick it up.