Not Go Away Is My Name

Copper Canyon. May 2020. 98p. ISBN 9781556595875. pap. $17. POETRY
“We plant seeds in the ground/ and dreams in the sky” writes National Book Award finalist Ríos in his 12th collection (after A Small Story About the Sky), offering lines that encapsulate the broad reach of his lyrical scope, from the earthy and personal to the metaphysical and mystical. Rooting his poems in the desert landscape and the working people of the Southwest, Ríos internalizes the haunting myths and vivid sensations of the borderland (“It is not a place out there but a place in here”) in order to conjure “The vocabulary of what is good here,” the “momentary dictionary,/ the constant act of discovery” that defines the engaged human consciousness. The poet’s long lines and short stanzas move at a thoughtful, considered pace, conveying not only the visual beauty of his surroundings (“the yellow/ Everything of the paloverdes, their fallen thousand happy yellow pieces of light,”) but also the region’s hidden, sometimes difficult histories (“Where they crossed does not exist on any map”).
VERDICT Ríos’s poems of memory and aspiration are small masterpieces of clarity and caring, “Hard at the work of being human.” A richly hopeful collection that seems especially vital now. [See “Versifying,” LJ 1/20.]
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