By Jorge Argueta
- Publisher: Arte Público Press
- ISBN: 978-1-55885-838-1
- Publication Date: March 31, 2017
- Bind: Trade Paperback
- Pages: 208
This extraordinary bilingual poetry collection evokes the horrors of war and the loneliness of exile.
“I don’t know how it happened, but I ended up being the writer in my family,” Jorge Argueta says in his poetic memoir. He wrote his first lines as an adolescent, though he didn’t know what the words meant or that it was poetry. In this moving, bilingual collection, renowned poet Jorge Argueta reminisces about growing up in El Salvador, the impact of war on his family and neighbors, life as an exile in the United States and ultimately his rebirth as a poet.
He became involved in the revolution as a teen, not realizing what was to come, “a bloody massacre … An entire generation disappearing / As if it were a trifle / To lose the entire future of a country.” Mothers lose sons, their bodies beat beyond recognition. Friends’ bodies are thrown into common graves. Husbands lose wives and wives lose husbands. “Death saunters / Dressed in olive green / A rabid dog / Snapping at anyone in its path.”
The 48 poems in this collection—in Spanish and English—smolder with loss and longing. Argueta’s indigenous roots ultimately contribute to his salvation after he flees his homeland. His braids, he writes, “are rivers / Of my village / Running / Down my back.” In San Francisco, he becomes part of the city’s exile community, yearning for home but knowing his friends and relatives are dead or gone. His pain is like a ring that “lives on my left hand / as if I were / married to it.” In spite of the pain and sorrow expressed in many of these poems, Argueta’s work is a powerful testament to love, hope and the strength of the human spirit.
“From his trying upbringing in rural El Salvador to his arrival on the literary scene in San Francisco in the 1980s, Argueta alternates between prose and poetry to create this genre-blending, bilingual memoir of his long journey north in flight from guerrilla violence. In short chapters, Argueta narrates life at home with his family, interrupted by the onslaught of civil war, and his subsequent escape from Central America. Argueta’s poems are interspersed between these chapters, the best of them hovering, koan like, and momentary.”—Booklist
JORGE ARGUETA is a prize-winning poet and author of more than twenty children’s picture books, including A Movie in My Pillow / Una película en mi almohada (Children’s Book Press, 2001), and Somos como las nubes / We Are Like the Clouds (Groundwood Books, 2016). He lives and works in San Francisco, California.