Winner of the 2019 GLCA New Writers Award
An NPR Best Book of 2018
In this highly lyrical, imagistic debut, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo creates a nuanced narrative of life before, during, and after crossing the US/Mexico border. These poems explore the emotional fallout of immigration, the illusion of the American dream via the fallacy of the nuclear family, the latent anxieties of living in a queer brown undocumented body within a heteronormative marriage, and the ongoing search for belonging. Finding solace in the resignation to sheer possibility, these poems challenge us to question the potential ways in which two people can interact, love, give birth, and mourn--sometimes all at once.
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About the Author
Marcelo Hernandez Castillo was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of five through the mountains of Tijuana. He is a CantoMundo Fellow and earned degrees from Sacramento State University and The University of Michigan, where he was the first undocumented student to graduate from the MFA program in Creative Writing. He has received fellowships to attend the Vermont Studio Center, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. He cofounded the Undocupoets campaign, which successfully eliminated citizenship requirements from all major first poetry book prizes in the country, and he was recognized with the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers. His work has been adapted to opera through collaboration with the composer Reinaldo Moya. With the late C.D. Wright, he co-translated the poems of the contemporary Mexican poet Marcelo Uribe. His poems, essays, and translations have appeared in PBS NewsHour, New England Review, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Southern Humanities Review, Fusion TV, and BuzzFeed, among others. He lives in California where he teaches at Sacramento State University.
Brenda Shaughnessy was born in Okinawa, Japan and grew up in Southern California. She is the author of Our Andromeda (Copper Canyon Press, 2012), Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), winner of the James Laughlin Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Interior with Sudden Joy (FSG, 1999). Shaughnessy's poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Harper's, The Nation, The Rumpus, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review. She is an Assistant Professor of English at Rutgers University, Newark, and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, son and daughter.
"In the collection, which takes its title from the Spanish word for birdsong, to sing of one's undocumented life is to risk being consumed by it: 'The song becoming / the bird becoming / the song, ' the poet writes. 'The bird unraveled its song and became undone.' And yet, in the collection's first poem, the desire to tell the story is also inescapable." --The Paris Review
"Castillo resists resignation to silence; his poems embody a belief in art's transformative ability. Lush musicality renders agricultural labor, corporeal punishment, and romantic difficulties beautiful. Forged in Keatsian negative capability, Castillo's poetics often involve finding the description that will lift the painful or unjust into music." --Publishers Weekly -Tara Wanda Merrigan
"I know this book changed me. The book itself knows change, how to change itself, knows so well how transformation--vast essential change which would seem to oppose a self--brings a person ever closer to their truth." --Brenda Shaughnessy
"In the spirit of Whitman, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo slips in silently to lie down between the bridegroom and the bride, to inhabit many bodies and many souls, between rapture and grief. 'I want everything to touch me.' These are poems that open borders both personal and political, a map of silences and celebrations. 'You called it cutting apart/ I called it song.'" --D. A. Powell
"Federico Garcia Lorca described duende as a struggle, not a thought, and the deep and natural lyricism of Marcelo Hernandez Castillo's Cenzontle is a paragon of that struggle, where 'it's easy to make honey/from what is beautiful and what is not.' In this exquisite debut collection, longing twins with inheritance to consider the interiority of nationhood and the legacy of masculinity and exile. Castillo's finely-honed poems celebrate and reveal the contours of physical and historical intimacies, a feast for the eyes and heart." --Carmen Giménez Smith