Barbara Jane Reyes’s Poeta en San Francisco (Tinfish Press) is a linguistic tour de force, incorporating English, Spanish, and Tagalog in a book-length poem at once lush and experimentally rigorous. From the vantage of San Francisco, Reyes looks outward to the Philippines, Vietnam, and other colonized places with violent histories.
As she said in a recent interview, “It’s almost a cliché, the phrase, ‘the personal is political,’ but certainly, this is a strong consideration in my work.” And yet, it is not only violence that concerns Reyes: “I am interested in how we come to love in this world, despite the historical circumstances, the conquests, the wars, which have created us as a diasporic people, as exiles, and refugees.” This is an ambitious, sweeping and necessary work. Reyes has won the James Laughlin Award for a second book from the Academy of American Poets for this volume.
“With Poeta en San Francisco, Barbara Jane Reyes trains a bolt of implacable political anger through Lorca’s doublesightedness. The San Francisco in this poet swells beyond its geographic and temporal borders to an apocalyptic scale without losing contact with its realtime emergencies.” — Zoland Poetry
“Although Reyes offers a prayer for her community, she doesn’t speak for her community; instead she speaks honestly, intimately, and lyrically within and through her community. In this sense, writing culture becomes … poetry and prayer.” — Rain Taxi
“Simultaneously a call to action against war in all its forms, forced acculturation and assimilation in, and outside, the United States, and a love letter to a fragmented yet hopeful culture, Barbara Jane Reyes’ Poeta en San Francisco (Tinfish Press, 2005) is that rare piece of poetic work: the smashing sophomore effort that transcends and blends poetic form and theme.” — Blue Fifth Review