Reviews for Slow Lightning : Poems

Booklist Reviews 2012 March #2
The first Latino winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition is also gay, but he doesn't write poésie engagée for either minority. He writes poems of experience and observation that frequently reference the suffering of illegal immigrants without sloganeering or bloody-shirt-waving. Technically, they're dazzling and visually striking, ranging from sonnets to various unrhymed stanza-forms to free verse that splashes down the page or sprawls on it sidewise, bottom-to-top rather than left-to-right, or is pressed into columns by justified margins on both sides. In manner, they are realistic (see "Border Triptych"), fantastic ("Immigration and Naturalization Service Report #46," a prose poem), surrealist (the first of two poems entitled "Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome"), and hybrids of those three ("Poem after Frida Kahlo's Painting The Broken Column"). He mixes colloquial Spanish and English, and he packs many, many lines with sharp, sensual, specific imagery--this is Technicolor poetry. When a poem is about his father or his lover, or when it touches sex, it purrs with affection, desire, and joy. Very engaging. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 April #4

This debut does many things: there are melancholy poems about love between men in the age of HIV, sonnets in strict and forceful rhyme, poems addressed to paintings and art installations, poems that mix English and Spanish, elegies and protests, and difficult family memories. Corral rarely repeats a form: beyond sonnets, there are clipped, blocklike texts, page-long chants, lines squeezed down to nothing ("The soul,/ like semen,/ escapes/ the body/ swiftly") and hard-edged, digressive free verse: "The sand calls out for more footprints./ A crack in a boulder/ can never be an entrance/ to a cathedral/ but a mouse can be torn open/ like an orange." There is outrage against the border-related policies that keep on killing Mexicans and other immigrants, and there is tenderness expressed toward erotic partners and toward artistic allies, from Frida Kahlo to the avant-garde disco cellist Arthur Russell. Finally the binational struggles of migrants can seem to stand for other struggles in life, erotic, familial and literary: "my love took me through the desert. My breath/ crumbling like bread." Corral's first book is also the first pick for the venerable Yale Series of Younger Poets from new judge Carl Phillips. (Apr.)

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