Tropicalia is a collection of poems by Emma Trelles, winner of the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. The book is a melodic union between the green insistence of the subtropics and the city ensconced within. Trelles's language is detailed and startling, her poems infused with color and light, and the secret beauty of back alleys and parking lots is seamed to sorrow, hope, and land. Rock bands play among odes to Lorca and Chagall, and the hard news of protest and war lives among the simple pleasures of words and sky.
Tropicalia borrows its title from the Brazilian art movement of the same name, a vibrant blend of genres and styles that colored the international arts scene in the late 1960s and 1970s. Edgier and more savvy than the flower-power hippie culture of its neighbors to the north, its vast creative energy drew from many different sources to shape a new hybrid most strongly felt in music, but also visual and performance art, poetry, film, and fashion. As mirror, Tropicalia the book brings a similar energy into the mix. Trelles imbues her odd brew of poetic styles and voices with a strong visual sense. The result is a narrative infused with a powerful physicality of place. --from the introduction by Silvia Curbelo, 2010 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize judge
True to the musical movement of its namesake, Tropicalia is a unique fusion of sounds, sights, and textures that entrances the reader into a dream-state. Like a déjà vu of the soul, the physical and emotional landscapes these poems render so precisely feel at once familiar and yet like completely new worlds in which I find love, meaning, and resolve for the first time, again. 'Beauty is better felt than seen, ' Trelles writes, and it is true: Tropicalia is not a book I merely read, but felt word by word; not poems I merely pondered, but experienced syllable after precious syllable. --Richard Blanco 'Everything looks better in a poem, / or worse, depending on how much of the day you were able / to hoard'--That's a typical flash of wisdom from a poet who is herself a hoarder of images, a beautifier of the Miami streets she lyrically documents. I love the immediacy and gusto of Tropicalia. I am thankful that it is 'thankful to be standing / in the heat watching egrets.' The world may not always 'look better' in Emma Trelles's poems, but it is a better place for all lovers of poetry, thanks to her rich and heartfelt book. --Campbell McGrath
In Tropicalia, Emma Trelles gives us Miami--the flora, the fauna, the languages, the interstate. Her poems are luxurious and scrumptious, socially relevant, with oomph and sizzle. The buoyancy of her images and the poignancy of her direct language make Trelles the most exciting poet to emerge from the state with the prettiest name. --Denise Duhamel
In the poem 'Nocturne in Parts, ' Trelles writes 'There is something all-powerful and holy / about a cold orange. Imagine peeling / each day into one flawless strip. This gorgeous description of how the divine may perceive the passing of time is convincing, yet false when considering the fruit that is this fibrous and sweet debut collection of poems. Amid interstates and wet grass, saints and devils, protests and surrenders, Trelles exists as an eye--a recurring image in the collection--giving credence to a Florida alien and true. Rather than a contiguous peel, this collection is more like the pile of bright rinds one finds between their feet after feeding ravenously. --Kyle G. Dargan, author of Logorrhea Dementia: A Self-Diagnosis
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About the Author
Emma Trelles is the winner of the 2010 Andres Montoya Poetry Prize, the recipient of a Green Eyeshade Award for art criticism, and a regular contributor to the Best American Poetry blog. She is the author of the chapbook Little Spells. She lives with her husband in South Florida, where she teaches and writes about visual art, books, and culture.