Gritty as the earth’s plain. Soulful as church Gospel. Poetic as smooth wine after a hard day’s work…Luis Rodriguez’s * “My Nature is Hunger: New and Selected Poems 1989-2004”, will leave you inspired by his words. This book of poetry is broken into three parts; Poems Across the Pavement-1989, from The Concrete River-1991, and from Trochemoche-1998.
Within each section are poems from Rodriguez’s life as a young man growing up in a land full of racism, gang violence, and everything else in between. Each are a snapshot of what it means to be Chicano in America and the pain it is survive where you are.
A poem in particular that touched me was “Running to America” from the first stanza beginning with: “They are night shadows violating borders/fingers curled through chain-link fences.” Pulls us into the world of the immigrants who hold on to what could possibly hold them back and the next line is chilling: “Hiding from infra-red eyes, dodging 30-30 bullets” and every few stanzas the one liner: “Running to America” presses the images and the anxious tone in your heart as these cutting lines continue again in tandem to the speaker’s words stranglehold for a “hungry people who have no country”.
Rodriguez’s style of poetry tells a story and when you really pay attention, you are hit by the tragedy of his past and the hope deferred and he does not hold back on the imagery and his tone is sharp and real. He comes across as shrewd and sensitive to the people’s struggles. Below you will find a sample of his poem for his son Ramiro called “The Wanton Life”
*Book received for my unbiased review from Netgalley for Open Road Integrated Media
Luis J. Rodríguez (b. 1954) is a poet, journalist, memoirist, and author of children’s books, short stories, and novels. His documentation of urban and Mexican immigrant life has made him one of the most prominent Chicano literary voices in the United States. Born in El Paso, Texas, to Mexican immigrant parents, Rodríguez grew up in Los Angeles, where in his teen yearshe joined a gang, lived on the streets, and became addicted to heroin. In his twenties, after turning his back on gang violence and drugs, Rodríguez began his career as a journalist and then award-winning poet, writing such books as the memoir Always Running (1993), and the poetry collections The Concrete River (1991), Poems Across the Pavement (1989), and Trochemoche (1998). He has also written the short story collection The Republic of East L.A. (2002). Rodríguez maintains an arts center, bookstore, and poetry press in L.A., where he continues writing and working to mediate gang violence.