Thursday, August 30, 2007



The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry, Edited by Francisco Aragón
(University of Arizona Press, 2007)

The two most important aspects of any good anthology: the title and the editor’s introduction. The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry, edited by Francisco Aragón, takes its title from Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera:

Dogs sprawl in the heat
tongues loll, drop saliva,
flanks ripple off flies.
The wind shifts.
I smell mesquite burning.

Allowing Anzaldúa to name the anthology establishes the main theme of Aragón's introduction: expanding borders.

The criteria for selection: any Latino/a poet who had no more than one book in print and who was approximately forty years old or younger. “New” and not “emerging” because the former suggests “poets who have only recently begun publishing.” It’s adequately ambitious that Aragón chose “new” as the adjectival guide for his anthology, placing The Wind Shifts in dialogue with Donald Allen’s seminal anthology, New American Poetry. The title also resonates with this sentence from Muriel Rukeyser (whom I’ve been reading): “There is new inside, / We witness.”

In the first paragraph of the introduction, Aragón situates his anthology within the borders of seminal Latino/a poetry anthologies from the 90s: After Aztlan (ed. Ray Gonzalez, 1992), Paper Dance (eds. Victor Hernández Cruz, Leroy V. Quintana, and Virgil Suárez, 1995), El Coro (ed. Martín Espada, 1997), and Touching the Fire (ed. Ray Gonzalez, 1998). In doing so, he traces their common concern of presenting Latino/a poetry that addresses the social and political. According to Aragón, the poets in The Wind Shifts belong to the generation that succeeded poets published in these major anthologies. The Wind Shifts “suggests that the canvas is now larger, its border expanded to include subject matter that is not overtly political. Rather [...] it is work that is equally, if not more, informed by an exploration of language and aesthetics.”

To map the topography of the expanded border, Aragón points out how some of the Chicano poets in this anthology—Brenda Cárdenas, David Dominguez, John Olivares Espinoza, Carl Marcum, Carolina Monsivais, and Paul Martínez Pompa—express “a poetics of witness,” focusing on the social, political, and familial without sacrificing a lyrical “attentiveness to language and sound.” Aligned with these poets are other Latino poets—Naomi Ayala, Kevin A. González, Lidia Torres, Venessa Maria Engel-Fuentes, and Adela Najarro—who also explore the vital, narrative strand of Latino poetry while accentuating the prosody of these narratives.

Aragón then names Albino Carrillo, Gina Franco, María Meléndez, and Deborah Parédez as examples of poets who “enlarge the parameters of Latino poetry in terms of newer perspectives on familiar themes.” We conceive new Latino poetry as originating in the poetics of witness, expanding the sites of witness, and seeing these sites with new eyes and aesthetic techniques.

The poets Sheryl Luna, Eduardo C. Corral, and Emmy Pérez are seen as re-visioning a major theme of Latino poetry: the U.S.-Mexico border. They take on a familiar, freighted subject with “a poetics that takes some of its cues from the more experimental tendencies in American poetry.”

Although Aragón sketches a “group portrait” of the contributors, he reminds us that all the poets cross the thematic and aesthetic borders his introduction establishes for them, foregrounding the “nomadic” quality new Latino poetry. Richard Blanco, Francisco Aragón, Steven Cordova, David Hernandez, and Urayoán Noel become examples of the nomadic: Blanco and Aragón have traveled extensively outside the United States; Cordova and Hernandez lyrically travel through various subject matters; and Noel linguistically travels between English and Spanish.

The edge of Aragón’s complex map is marked by Rosa Alcalá and Scott Inguito, poets who “share affinities with some of the more avant-garde tendencies in American poetry” and “resist and work against what might be called the more narrative or lyric traits most prevalent in Latino poetry up to now.”

Besides the introduction, Aragón draws another map: a “Further Reading” page that lists books by poets who fit the eligibility requirements, but who weren’t included. These poets include: Blas Manuel de Luna, Miguel Murphy, Blas Falconer, Manuel Paul Lopez, Sarah Cortez, Ada Limón, Ariel Robello, Roberto Harrison, Gabriel Gomez, Cynthia Cruz, Rigoberto Gonzalez, and Tim Z. Hernandez. Furthermore, Aragón acknowledges other Latino/a poets who haven’t yet published a full-length book at the time of publication, but who are “doing good work”: William Archila, Carmen Calatayud, Diana Marie Delgado, Suzanne Ocampo-Frischkorn, Angela Garcia, José B. Gonzalez, Octavio R. Gonzalez, Javier Huerta, Martin Lemos, Raina J. León, Pablo Miguel Martínez, Kristin Naca, Victor Olivares, Marisela Treviño Orta, Ruben Quesada, Peter Ramos, Verónica Reyes, Jorge Sánchez, Rene Soto, and Roberto Tejada. Aragón knows that no map is complete, so he provides us with a constellation of names from which we can further navigate.

Despite the comprehensiveness of Aragón’s introduction, nothing can really prepare us for the poetry that is found in The Wind Shifts. The “new” is inside this anthology; by reading, we witness the shifting borders of the “new”—their fragility and freight. The Wind Shifts posits that new Latino Poetry roots in the politics and aesthetics of Chicano poetry and crosses the borders between local / global, narrative / experimental, grounded / nomadic, national / international, aesthetic / political. Aragón’s anthology not only maps the expanding borders of Latino poetry, but it also encourages the wind to shift towards new horizons.


Craig Santos Perez, a native Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guahan (Guam), has lived in California since 1995. He is the co-founder of Achiote Press and author of 2 chapbooks: constellations gathered along the ecliptic (Shadowbox Press, forthcoming 2007), and all with ocean views (Overhere Press, forthcoming in 2007). His reviews have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Pleiades, The Denver Quarterly, First Intensity, Rain Taxi, Jacket, Rattle, How2, Slope, Octopus, and Traffic, among others. He blogs at


At 9:48 AM, Blogger Francisco Aragón said...

Not suprisingly, the lists I included at the end of the book are in no way meant to be comprehensive: since I finished editing the anthology other fine newer voices in Latino poetry have come to my attention, including John Murillo and Carmen Gimenez Smith, just to name two. I'm guest editing an issue of OCHO for Didi Menendez in which I plan to introduce a modest selection from some of these poets.


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