The Poet as Priest

I suspect I am not alone in finding poetry one of the least accessible literary forms. Whether classical or modern, whether it rhymes or it doesn't, the abstractions of poetry have too often seemed detached from the world in which I live.

Trochemoche, the latest work by poet, author, and activist Luis J. Rodriguez, dispelled my perception of the medium's remoteness. This collection grapples with the helter skelter—the English translation of its title—of human existence and doesn't let go until it secures a blessing to convey to all of us.

Reverberating between the personal and the prophetic, the poems in this 92-page collection find in each experience the rhythm of life that can help us survive the most trying situations. As Rodriguez writes in "Careful Skeptic," "I don't know about angels; I do know/the miracle germinating at any crossroads/is what's learned."

For me, I suspect, some of the accessibility of Trochemoche comes from sharing the same East L.A. background as Rodriguez; many of his "emotion-scapes" are as familiar to me as the streets on which I grew up. Yet while it is important to note that Rodriguez is a "Chicano poet from East L.A.," to apply this label too liberally can ghettoize his sharp insight and obscure the breadth of his work. He writes in "Notes of a Bald Cricket": "I am Cortez's thigh, I am the African beard, I am the long, course hair/of the Chichimeca skulls, I am a Xicano poet, a musician who can't play music,/as a musician is a poet who works in another language;/There is a mixology of brews within me; I've tasted them all, still fermenting/as grass-high anxieties."

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 1999
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