2010 Best of the NetBest of the Net Anthology

My essay “Violet” was included in  the 2010 Best of the Net Anthology. Thanks to editor Nick Garnett of Gulf Stream Magazine for the nomination and to Best of the Net non-fiction judge T.A. Noonan for selecting me as a winner.

from “Violet”

How I wish I could begin with nostalgia, some gleaming shard refracted from a childhood where my mother patted my thick-as-branches Hispanic hair with Agustìn Reyes Royal Violets, known by Cubans as Violetas, a 75 year old perfume that has graced the tender heads of infants and the wrists of young women, a fragrance that endured a revolution, survived a dictator, and found its way into the homes of exiles all about.

If I were lying, I would tell how my mother tilted its dimpled glass bottle in her hands, how the amber color of the cologne reminded me of the seashells I collected in the shallows of Miami Beach during my girlhood, bi-valves precisely striped in russets and small enough to stash under the elastic of my two piece. The recollection would end with my mother singing “Guantanamera” while dusk pushed blue light and beetles against the window screens.

Read the rest of this essay here.

Contemporary Latino Poets Mix It Up

Here’s an excerpt from a feature story I wrote for the Miami Herald about how contemporary Latino poetry is evolving.

Adrian Castro

In Handling Destiny, his third book of poems, Adrian Castro examines the Yoruba idea that the course of a life is pre-determined and only through faith is one is able to fulfill it.  “One’s destiny is completely personal,” Castro says from his yellow bungalow in Shenandoah, where he grows the backyard sage and star apple he uses for his practice as an Ifa priest and in his poems.

“In the dream I would wash this stone with herbs . . .” he writes in a title poem that travels between the geographies of mountain and shore as it considers the divine act of writing. “Now I’d have to memorize these marks / make words then articulate them. . . . ”

For two decades the Cuban-Dominican Castro has forged a distinct lexicon in poems that meld Caribbean and West African cultures. Shango, the Yoruban deity of thunder and fire, is as likely to flash across his stanzas as is a bright calabash or a bundle of sugar cane.His poems may enshrine history, but his work is not nostalgic.

“Latinos write heavily about this idea of barrio, the neighborhood where we’re from,” Castro says. “This is our niche. But I can’t really say I’m completely a Cuban or a Latino poet. I wasn’t born in Cuba, and I haven’t published in Spanish. In the time I’ve been speaking to you, I’ve eaten an African yam, a caramelized lamb; I’ve had a café, and now I’m smoking a tobacco. Am I Cuban, Dominican, American? I don’t know.”



A Sampling of Collections by Latinos

Featured in the Miami Herald‘s books section:  five mini-reviews of contemporary poetry titles by Adrian Castro,  Francisco Aragon,  Brenda Cardenas,  Suzanne Frischkorn, and John Murillo.