As many of you know, I write book reviews for many publications across the nation, most of them for the El Paso Times. To my surprise, I found that some reviews of books I sent out long ago had been published. Note, these are not new books, but hey, still worth a sentada en la sofa.
From The Newspaper Tree: http://www.newspapertree.com/view_article.sstg?c=abe2774fd3d54dda&mc=3fdc2b9252a94b91
Book Review: Devil's WorkshopBy Raymundo Elí Rojas
Books Reviewed: Devil's Workshop, Poems by Demetria Martinez
The literature of Latinos exploded in the 1990s. No longer were critics limiting the genre to simple just a few authors, making them representatives of an entire literature. Within the literary output of Latinos are the writings of Mexican American writers. Scholars referred to this genre as "Chicano Literature." And within this space, Chicanas have been making the farthest steps.
Picking up Demetria Martinez's new book of poetry, The Devil's
Workshop (U of AZ Press), I could not stop flipping the pages. The Chicana poet's verses spoke directly to me, becoming like a solitary voice in a crowded room.
This award-winning Chicana writer was born in Albuquerque, NM and gained fame due to a federal indictment against her concerning refugee smuggling, a charge that carries a 25-year sentence.
As a journalist, she accompanied several refugees as they crossed illegally into the United States. She was tried and acquitted on First Amendment grounds.
The author currently is an activist with the Arizona Border Rights Project and a regular columnist for the National Catholic Reporter.Aside from the repute she received in the case, Martinez is a great writer.
The Devil's Workshop provides us with politically charged stanzas, but is also intermingled with personal regrets and turmoil.
The poet shows how love also has its burdens and hurts protruding into loneliness: I went everywhere, passed from lap to lap/Of women who kept their loneliness secret/Until it happened to me, like the day of my first bleeding.
As the poet grows, she realizes her and her loved ones' mortality and thinks anew.
"At this age you start to wonder which proverbs apply," states the Chicana author. In the poem "Final Exams" she tells,
"Now it's our parents handing usReport Cards: mom and dad passTheir first biopsies, with extraCredit for lower cholesterol."
In "Upon Waking" she protests the death of Amadou Diallo, who was shot 41 times by New York City police officers when he reached for his wallet. "La promesa" gives us the first and last day of a newly born baby.
Martinez's poems are reflections on middle age, children, spouses, and social issues that were supposed to amend themselves long ago. Her lines are littered with indigenous Southwest themes from Anazazi pots to the Sandia Mountains of Arizona.
The author has written several poetry collections, which are Breathing Between the Lines (U of AZ Press) and Turning, which appears in the book Three Times a Woman (Bilingual Press). Ballantine published her novel, Mother Tongue, which told of her judicial troubles.
For those who have not delved into poetry by Chicanas, Martinez's work will compel your eyes and fingers to the next page of life.
Those who have read Chicana literature and other writings by Martinez, her poetic shouts and whispers will have you looking back on life nostalgically as in her drive in the dark to Albuquerque in the poem "Interlude #2":"Each telephone pole/A crucifixion?"
Raymundo Elí Rojas, from El Paso, Texas, is the editor of Pluma Fronteriza, a publication dedicated to Chicano Literature. He is currently studying law at the University of Kansas.
© Raymundo Elí Rojas 2003. This book review may not be published without the consent of it's author.