“I don’t impose a narrative while I draft. I follow the language. A phrase will suggest another phrase, an image will demand more attention, an adjective will call out for more vividness…. Story is a byproduct of my process. I discover it as I draft.” ————————————–Eduardo C. Corral, told to Michael Klein, Ploughshares
Corral’s poetry is at once earth-bound and ethereal. The narrative of individual poems is fluid, but the through-line of his book “Slow Lightning” is unmistakable. As a gay man, and the son of Mexican immigrants, he explores the landscape of borderlines: the geographic desert between the U.S. and Mexico; the cultural expanses he straddled being raised in America by Mexican parents, and the boundaries of his own sexuality. Just as he follows the language in his writing process, the reader follows the poems as they explore this rich terrain. The poems take on different forms as well, giving breath to certain pieces and confining others. From “Watermark,” a poem about his mother:
I put on the gold ring she leaves by the sink.
——————————————The first man she saw naked
was the rain. The dark of her knees
Corral’s poems startle and surprise the reader with vivid detail and metaphor. Within dreamlike journeys, Corral places images so precise and realistic that one is brought back again to the earth and to the body. In a sense he is a landscape artist himself, crafting worlds for us to discover.
The following passage from “In Colorado My Father Scoured and Stacked Dishes” reveals great intimacy, also one of Corral’s gifts. Corral allows the reader to experience these intimate moments—not as sentimental ideas but as sensations in the body.
—————–In Tuscon he branded
cattle. He slept in a stable. The horse blankets
oddly fragrant: wood smoke, lilac. He’s an illegal.
I’m an Illegal-American. Once, in a grove
of saguaro, at dusk, I slept next to him. I woke
with his thumb in my mouth.
The following passage from “Self Portrait with Tumbling and Lasso” is another example:
———-an autopsy on my shadow.
My rib cage a wall.
a crack in a wall,
———-a foothold. I’m tumbling
———-a French acrobat.
The joy of that tumbling is shared with the reader as we read Corral’s poetry. We benefit greatly from both his tenderness and his writing process, and we are left with the feeling of having travelled a great distance.
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