Sunday, October 09, 2011
In the Shadow of Al-Andalus
Poems by Victor Hernandez Cruz
Coffee House Press firstname.lastname@example.org.
Review by Dennis Daly
Like cubist paintings, the words and the cadences of these poems insist on taking you elsewhere. The Caribbean, Moroccan Africa, and Andalusian Spain are divided and sub-divided into sparkling shards of history and sensuality, then arranged within Cruz’s poetic themes. His poem, The Dance of Blood, begins surreally with the cello of Pablo Casels walking down an Antillean street, answering to the name of Sonia, a black haired Spanish beauty, who is filled with Berber music and historical connections.
“The Mexican composer Agustin Lara wrote the song “La Malaguena” without ever stepping foot in Spain,” says Cruz in his luscious poem, Malaga Figs. “Did he sail his mental frames through the blood rivers of his mestizo bones,” the poet asks. The poem answers in metaphorical music that the physical connections between geographical planes are inherent. As I read this poem I was reminded of D.H. Lawrence’s overtly sexual poem, Figs.
Cruz’s lines are irregular, but rhythmic and often intersect in a geometry of cultural sensuousness, each plane distinct but connected. In his poem, “North Africa,” the San Juan sky is “filled with polvo dust that floated from North Africa: the orgasms of the Sahara.”
New York City in the poem, “Manhattan Transfer,” becomes a “simultaneity of places”, where a rivalry of languages exists, and where Spanish fixtures, such as the picture of San Miguel above the family’s apartment door, encourage accented English. Accents to Cruz are lacerations and scars from the battle of these languages.
Evoking his family history in the poem, Clan, Cruz recalls his young life as “a collision with a new language.” He also recounts the derailment of his Puerto Rican family into an unsettling “new time and dimension.”
The continued richness that Cruz’s unique cross-cultural poetry exhibits in this book is both a rewarding and a timely feast of exploration.