The March 2020 issue of Poetry includes a LatiNext folio with selections from The Breakbeat Poets Volume 4 forthcoming from Haymarket Books. This anthology “opposes silence and re-mixes the soundtrack of the Latinx diaspora across diverse poetic traditions” and the selection included in Poetry gives a good sampling of what to expect in this anthology releasing in April.
My favorites include “My Uncle’s Killer” by J. Estanislao Lopez, “Rules at the Juan Marcos Huelga School (Even the Unspoken Ones)” by Lupe Mendez, and “Lady Fine Is for Sugar” by Stephanie Roberts.
In “My Uncle’s Killer,” the speaker imagines this man at home wiping spots from the bathroom mirror, humanizing him despite his imagination casting the killer in more gruesome roles to match the crime. I was struck by the lines:
Can I tell you
that, sometimes, I utter the word justice and mean revenge?
On my best nights, I mean mercy, but my best
is my rarest form.
This honesty is such a mirror of humanity, and the speaker continues to hold a mirror to himself and his best and worst as he considers his uncle’s death.
Mendez’s poem lays out the posted rules of the school with a brighter reading of each rule. “1) No more than one child out of the classroom at one time.” is across from “[They might run away, a monarch butterfly tugged in the direction of the wind.].” These continue through ten rules, encouraging the children to be bold, to resist, to grow in the face of the rules set up against them.
Roberts focuses on the differences between her grandmother and mother, her grandma urging her to be ladylike and prim while her mom shucked off those expectations and headed in the opposite direction. Roberts’s use of Cardi B’s dancing as a way to examine this world and how a woman should act in it is fantastic:
i feel some sorta way over Cardi B
precisely because she levitated up her stripper pole
like a fuckin’ phoenix against the stench
of respectability politics
like a motherfuckin’ phoenix through the ceiling
burning on the hydrogen of unwavering respect
bricks of dollar signs gain you
plush in the same country where abuela believed
you had to play the Lady game
Roberts writes with wit and attitude, and I appreciated every line of it.
Check out the folio, pre-order your anthology, and take in this remix of the Latinx diaspora with Poetry and The Breakbeat Poets.