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Wonderful Wasteland and other natural disasters: Poems

by Elidio La Torre Lagares

Availablepaperback$19.95 978-0-8131-7822-6
University Press of Kentucky New Poetry & Prose Series
80 pages  Pubdate: 09/30/2019  5.5 x 8.5  

When Hurricane María unleashed its devastation onto Puerto Rico, thousands of lives were lost to the storm in what was the island’s worst natural disaster on record. With so much of the recovery still underway and the scars still fresh, its citizens continue to contend with the reality that life on the island has fundamentally changed.

In his first collection of poems written in English, La Torre Lagares journeys through his memory in an effort to recompose his shattered land. Together, these poems form a poignant, personal account of a man facing the tragic destinies of his family and his country in the aftermath of a natural disaster. For example, the deaths of the mother and the father are resignified as the death of the poet’s personal relationship, which at the same time evokes the rupture between individuals and their sense of place.

Drawing from both American and Latin American poetry, as well as global influences, to articulate a language of loss and devastation in search of a new identity, this collection illuminates a chaotic and confusing landscape that is not only physical but also cultural, social, and political. Taken together, this work serves as a stirring reminder of the dislocation and fractured attachment that speaks to many Americans, including transnationals and immigrants. Ultimately it speaks to coping with physical loss and emotional pain in the face of human adversity.

Elidio La Torre Lagares earned his MFA in creative writing from the University of Texas at El Paso. His work has appeared in a number of journals and magazines, including CENTRO Journal, Azahares, Sargasso, Acentos Review, Nagari, Malpaís Review, and Ariel Chart. He teaches literature and creative writing in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras.

The title of Lagares's recent collection would lead you to expect a depressing read of degradation. Not so. Although presenting the damage and struggle in Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Maria as well as personal struggles on both the island and the mainland, La Torre Lagares’s manipulation of imagery and language evokes vivid visuals and is a pleasure to read.  -- Michele Shaul, Director, Center for Latino Studies, Queens University of Charlotte

In this outstanding collection, Puerto Rican poet Elidio La Torre Lagares’ shrewd use of literary appropriation and postmodern sense of irony samples the work of T. S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, and Sylvia Plath, among others. But La Torre Lagares' book is not about poetry alone; it centers primarily on his life under the forces of Hurricane Maria, which made a wasteland of the island, the death of his mother, and his father’s betrayal of the family. The lyric cry rises from La Torre Lagares' helplessness, and it is powerful. The poems also speak to the planet’s future at this dangerous time. -- Paul Hoover, editor of Postmodern American Poetry

A quarter century of sustained commitment to award-winning literary writing and production with a keen eye for contemporary San Juan emanates from these pages. Here springs the aching beauty of Elidio La Torre Lagares’ Puerto Rico, a Latin American Caribbean country mired in colonial debt emerging from a catastrophic climate change hurricane, in a mature voice intimately articulating losses made bearable through forging art, personal and collective disasters on the scale of Eliot’s Wasteland illuminated by poetic praxis. Also a paean to formative poets, with echoes of Plath, Stevens, Whitman, Pietri, etc. exceeding the explanatory footnotes, this new addition to La Torre Lagares’ oeuvre brings a trans-American arc and modernist vision of debacle to its twenty-first-century incarnation at the center-margin of failed empire. Wonderful wasteland indeed. -- Maritza Stanchich, University of Puerto Rico