cover image ONE KIND OF FAITH


Gary Soto, . . Chronicle, $14.95 (67pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-4117-7

The prolific and much-honored Soto examines blue-collar work, childhood, unemployment, California cityscapes, and Chicano identity in his very likable 26th book. Soto (Junior College; Who Will Know Us?; etc.) opens his latest collection on a strong note, with short, chatty poems at once personal and political, reflecting on his relative comfort amid class injustice: "Evening on the Lawn" brings the poet "a scent/ Of a place where I would go alone,/ Then find others, all barefoot." "Junior High Reunion," a sure bet for anthologies, conjures up an adult world corrupted by "working years": "each of us citizens had eaten a bird/ And were ready to peck out the eyes of our enemies." Soto (also a memoirist and children's author) finds other subjects in his native Fresno ("poor city bored out of its wits"); explores the alien terrain of the well-to-do; and asks why "Art is the last thing/ Left to eat." A sequence entitled "Film Treatments for David Lynch" plots suburban disfigurements and disasters with a disturbing (sometimes monotonous) glee; the concluding monologue, "Gil Mendez and the Metaphysics of a Blimp," brings readers back to the more familiar, and more attractive, voice for which Soto remains admired. Throughout the volume readers will notice not just the unity of Soto's winning tone, but also his interest in dogs, from the mischievous Fluffy, who chomps on a hand, to the needy Humo (a stand-in for illegal aliens), a series of canine symbols that ground readers in Soto's "dog-eat-dog" world. (Sept.)