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Publish Date: April 2005
BY Orlando Ricardo Menes
Furia propels the reader into a world in which maids serve monkeys for dinner, elementary-school thugs wield knives, and frogs fall from the sky. Filled with colors, textures, tastes, and beautifully crafted language, the poems explore family history, both immediate and remote, from an early childhood in Peru to south Florida in the 1950s and reaching back to ancestors in Cuba, including a great-great-grandfather, who was a Chinese coolie from Canton.
Drawing from history, ethnography, and anthropology, Furia speaks to Afro-Cuban heritage, magic, syncretic religion, and legacies of displacement and assimilation. With a poetic style that centers on narrative, the lyric, and dramatic monologue, the collection moves between a life with rich ancestry but little freedom, and another that offers freedom but at a cost.
“There is lush music to Menes’s first book, and this lushness may arise from his subject, namely the Caribbean islands, particularly Cuba, his parents’ homeland. He writes of its populace—the dock worker, the sugar cane worker, the worker slaving at all trades—and the loveliness of the island’s ecosystems, along with its religions. These are bewitching poems with beguiling vocabulary. . . . In these words alone, we have the mystery of poetry.”—Gary Soto, Ploughshares