cover image Thresholds / Umbrales: Poems

Thresholds / Umbrales: Poems

Claribel Alegria, Claribel Alegrc-A, Claribel Alegra. Curbstone Press, $10.95 (70pp) ISBN 978-1-880684-36-8

Alegria's TV appearance on Bill Moyers's Language of Life program made her better known in this country, but the Nicaraguan-born poet has been writing passionate, luminous poetry for nearly 50 years. While her work has documented political injustice and human suffering in her Central American homelands, this lyrical new collection--a Tarot-like deck of nine interlocking poems--takes a lighter, more symbolic approach. The ceiba tree represents her Edenic childhood and butterflies signify poetry's elusive magic as Alegria traces her development as a poet: ""and I flung myself into emptiness/ my mouth salty/ with terror/ but I flew/ I flew."" Moral indignation, however, transforms the poet from ephemeral butterfly into a huge crow whose sharp, unsentimental eyes survey the 20th century's atrocities: ""I fly over the ruins of Guernica/...chimneys in Auschwitz/ ...decades of ashes/ ...Thousands of dead/ in Hiroshima."" Concluding with characteristic optimism, she finds in young people ""fugitive rays/ of hope/ of love/ of courage."" Alegria seems unable to strike a false note. Although sometimes too abbreviated, the poems grip the reader with their human embrace and unselfconsciously stated wisdom. Facing pages in Spanish. (Nov.)