06 - Garden of Exile by Aleida Rodríguez Sept 18, 2008 3:14:58 GMT 2
Post by shayepoet on Sept 18, 2008 3:14:58 GMT 2
Garden of Exile
Winner of the 1998 Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry
Recipient of the 2000 PEN Center USA Award in Poetry
Now in its Third Printing!
Garden of Exile, a debut collection of poems by Aleida Rodríguez, reveals a life enriched by layers of language and culture. Rodríguez was born in Cuba and emigrated to the United States at age nine via Operation Peter Pan. These poems are psalms that celebrate the pleasures of experience made palpable through language.
Rodríguez counts her bilingual lexicon as a double blessing: "Earth’s language is a continuous current, / translating the voices of my early trees along the ground. / I can’t afford not to listen." In her liminal world, the lyricism of Spanish and English mingle their most gorgeous incarnations: sinsontes, ciruelas, mamoncillos, meringue clouds, and the cluck of coconuts "deliver a lost dictionary of delight."
Rodríguez is a remarkably deft poet: not only is she fluent in two tongues, she articulates the delicate nuances of daily life. Whether speaking of water, flora, or women in love, she refuses to produce the poof of easy lyric like a rabbit from a hat. Though they nod to heady pleasures, these poems keep their wits. Rodríguez remains self-possessed, intelligent, and interesting, even in her most impassioned moments. She reveals perception as the self’s real alchemy and, by so doing, makes the world appear right before our very eyes.
The mock orange tree, asparagus fern,
and royal palm on this side of the hill
yield their green to dusk, payment
for entering the funhouse of night.
Across the ravine, shadow laps
halfway up the slope, where pastel houses
still perch on the shore of day,
incandescent lovers beaming
for a snapshot. The only darkness they know
yet is a treetop's silhouette,
the head of the future
cast back across this scene.
Watching from here, I don't know what to mourn,
or even if I should-doesn't everything fall
eventually? Rome, apples, the accident
of love? The palpitation at first sight
eventually down-curves off the map.
(At this, dry leaves scrape a wry applause
along the drive.) Now the definite shapes
of things are novocained by night. The tunneling
beams of cars look like snowplows
of the underworld pushing dark drifts out-
then down. Something used to be there,
but now it's money in a dream.
More poems online from Garden of Exile:
"Lexicon of Exile”
"My Mother in Two Photographs"
Raves and reviews for Garden of Exile:
"This is a first book of remarkable range and maturity, which, while revealing its roots, displays the fruit and flower of its branches. The river of Rodríguez’s memory is fed by two languages; her perceptions have the acuity of double vision, which is at once the privilege and the scourge of the bilingual and the bicultural writer. . . . Rodríguez is . . . adept with fixed forms whose containment liberates volatile subject matter, and with the prose poem in which the familiar becomes profoundly strange and the strange, familiar, through the intensity and clarity of the writer’s gaze."
—from the Foreword by Marilyn Hacker
"Aleida Rodríguez is a great lover of the given world. So grounded, she freely regards everything (and measures nothing). "Aphrodite sharpens" the acute sensual memory and fine sound of her poems. They are nourished by verbal roots that run deep and wide—not just from California to Cuba, but down into the human psyche, were it longs to be opened upward into the light. Garden of Exile is an Eden of newness and surprises and unabashed pleasure."
—Marie Ponsot, author of The Bird Catcher and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry
"Rodríguez' first book of poems, winner of the 1998 Kathryn A. Morton Prize in poetry, reveals a remarkable range of poetic craft. Writing in both English and Spanish, she employs free verse, formal verse, and prose-style poems to display the magical power she has with words and joins the likes of Julia Alvarez with her rich bilingual voice. A Cuban exile whose poetic inspiration comes from Rilke and Rodrigo (among others), Rodr!guez writes about her Cuban childhood, exile, culture, and family. "The invisible body," she writes, "demands you to invent new senses to receive it." These poems are like tiny stones that reveal a new detail, a new crevice with each turn and twist. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries."
—From Library Journal, Tim Gavin, Episcopal Acad., Merion, PA
"For Rodríguez, paradise is not so much a place as a condition, its joys proportional to the attention we pay to the everyday world. In poem after poem, she not only visits the garden she has made of her early displacement, she also visits upon that displacement the rigor and insight of language. And what language! Here is a poet whose words can conjure, clarify, anatomize, and praise--often all at once. An extraordinary, sensual collection."
—Bernard Cooper, author of Truth Serum and Maps to Anywhere, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award
The Poetry Center at Smith College
The Lesbian Review of Books
San Francisco Chronicle
About the author:
Aleida Rodríguez is a poet, essayist, and artist, born on a kitchen table in the rural town of Güines, Cuba. Her first book of poems, Garden of Exile, won both the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry and the PEN Center USA 2000 Literary Award. Garden of Exile was also chosen as a Best Book of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle. Her poetry and prose have been published in literary magazines, textbooks, and anthologies nationwide since 1974, and, more recently, in England, Wales, and The Netherlands. She has been the recipient of an NEA fellowship in poetry, the inaugural Greg Grummer Award in Poetry from George Mason University, a poetry fellowship from the California Arts Council, and the Brody Arts Fund literature fellowship from the California Community Foundation. She was a founding editor and publisher of rara avis magazine and Books of a Feather (1978–84). She lives in a historic house with a dancing dog and a singing parrot on one of the oldest and steepest streets in Los Angeles, where she freelances as an editor and translator, and teaches the occasional poetry workshop.
Her work is included in A Poet’s Truth (Univ. of Arizona Press).
Complete bio: California Poetry
Blog: Chicken Corner (L.A.Observed)
Memoir excerpt: (L.A. Times)
Prose and Photography: Gambara Gallery
ISBN-13: 978-1889330327, 96 pages, $12.95 paper/$20.95 hardcover
Sarabande Books, October, 1999
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