Laurie Ann Guerrero
(Guerrero’s) poetry can be gritty and stark, sweaty and close,
and it elicits a sense of extended observation that reaches inside
her human subjects. It can be uncomfortablewhile revealing,
similar to standing closer to someone than you might prefer.
-The Greacourt Gate News, Northampton, MA
“Guerrero skillfully shapes the sonnet to build a crown of memory, tenderness, and grief for a man who becomes more than a man in this collection... Gumecindo, in these poems, becomes our beloved, our grandfather, the carpenter and king of our broken hearts.”
—NATALIE DIAZ, author of When My Brother Was an Aztec
“After the death of her beloved grandfather, Guerrero turns to the work and craft of poem-making and collaboration as methods of survival. The result is a tenaciously, keenly honed crown of sonnets that live in the territory of loss, resilience, and grief. In this book, the formal projects are profoundly linked to the heart of the content: interruptions, ruptures, and layers of texts seem to be as much about the anxiety of losing, loss, and, sometimes, of forgetting. A Crown for Gumecindo was worked for, and earned, and not without great resistance. The result of that work is staggering.”
—ARACELIS GIRMAY, author of Kingdom Animalia
“This crown of sonnets and the Maceo Montoya paintings that accompany them embody the complexity and depth of elegy. Wrought from both love and anguish, Guerrero, one of our finest lyric poets…invites us to the complex and dense universe of familial bonds.”
—CARMEN GIMÉNEZ SMITH, author of Milk and Filth
“A crafts woman, the poet makes home with her hands. Digging up dirt and memories and dreams, Guerrero carves this heroic crown out from the depths of her sorrow and lays her grief, her mourning down on the page. We feel the fragility of time and life, the absence, the loss, but find refuge in these poems masterfully constructed by her hands, the foundation laid in Gumecindo’s song. An exquisite collection.”
—VIRGINIA GRISE, author of blu
A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying by Laurie Ann Guerrero is a stunning collection of moving poems. Here, poetry is both universal and very local; the personal turns collective in the mode of Tomás Rivera’s Chicano classic …Y no se lo tragó la tierrra / And the Earth Did Not Swallow Him. The authenticity and the plurality of the poetic voices strike the reader for their uncommon accomplished originality.
This is the poetry of both saints and sinners (and even murderers). The poet conjures up Pablo Neruda, Gloria Anzaldúa, Sylvia Plath, and rooted in the best Latin American, Chicano/a, and contemporary American poetics, is able to render an effective poetic version of Nepantla, the land where different traditions meet, according to Anzaldúa. These poems make the reader laugh, cry, cringe, lose one’s breath, and almost one’s mind, at times.
Tongue becomes the ever-present image. In the opening poem, “Preparing the Tongue,” a cow’s tongue is sliced in preparation for cooking, “…I choke down / the stink of its heated moo, make carnage / of my own mouth, add garlic.” The poet handles pen and butcher knife with the same great dexterity. Upon summoning up childhood memories, the poet pleads, “Open your jaw. / Let the eye of your tongue see … / how we licked the fat black olives from tamales…” Yes, here, poems become ultimately licking tongues.
A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying is a collection of poems that would haunt the reader and won’t be easy to forget. I celebrate and praise the power of these poems that engage the great diversity of human reality with empathy, and do this, also with tremendous imagination. These poems restore my faith in the power of poetry.
"These poems restore my faith in the power of poetry.”
— Francisco X. Alarcón, judge
“Guerrero writes in a language of the body, visceral, almost unbearably vivid, the language of a poet who knows how to work with her hands. In an age when so many poems say nothing, these poems miss nothing ...attention must be paid to such a poet now and for years to come.”
— Martín Espada, author of The Trouble Ball
“Guerrero has always written pointedly with a sharp pen and a sharp knife always at the ready. In her first full-length collection, these dazzling, edgy, irascible poems lean into their sweet natural bristling air, stitching and stretching image to image. This is the singing blue glory of language at its best.”
— Nikky Finney, author of Head Off & Split, winner of The National Book Award
“In poems crafted with tremendous skill, Laurie Ann Guerrero’s A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying explores, so often, the ways in which the colonized or poor or brown have been brutalized, and their stories written by the conquerors. But the wonderful discovery one makes while reading what’s often painful and heart-breaking is that Guerrero’s the one telling us. In other words, the re-writing is begun. This is a powerful, necessary book.”
— Ross Gay, author of Bringing the Shovel Down
"A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying is populated by...women who defy and trouble long-held assumptions about, and expectations of, motherhood and maternal behavior: here, mothers take lovers, make war, cause damage — “make carnage of [their] own mouth[s].” And they also write daring poems that break with polite and romanticized representations of femininity, situating the woman as the source of her own volition, a daunting force to be reckoned with."
--Rigoberto Gonzalez for LA Review of Books
"..these verses of germination and carrying, of labor and production, deliver us to a place of potent ferocity, expressed in multilingual cries, embodied by the wide, red lips of earthenware vessels, and through eyes that refuse to back down."
—Diego Báez for Booklist Online
(forthcoming) A Crown for Gumecindo (Aztlan Libre Press 2015)
A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying (University of Notre Dame Press 2013)
Babies under the Skin (Panhandler Publishing 2007)
Luna Luna, Cobalt, Huizache, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Chicana/Latina Studies, the Journal of MALCS, Texas Monthly, Texas Observer, San Antonio Express News, San Antonio Current, Indigenous Woman Magazine, Women's Studies Quarterly Bellevue Literary Review, PALABRA, Boxcar Poetry Review, Acentos Review, Global City Review, Feminist Studies, MERIDIANS: feminism, race, transnationalism,Texas Poetry Calendar, Silkworm, Palo Alto Review, Literary Mama, BorderSenses, San Antonio Express News, Nuerstras Voces Anthology of Latina Poetry, The Weight of Addition: An Anthology of Texas Poets
He demands this. Nothing
else. No mahogany slick,
or roses kissed by lilies. No
music or speech. Weeping,
limited. We are to file down
the aisle, nod head to his dead
body, return home to care for things
still living. We are not
to sob for the child
him, the bed- and alphabet-less
picker of cotton,
Follower of crops.
We are not to sob for the cactusman-
vaquero-lover him. Grandpa
who takes his milk from the moon,
who knows the time
the time for wine,
When he is gone,
he will be gone.
I can make the box
myself, he says.
I can make it myself.
from A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying
Copyright 2014. Laurie Ann Guerrero. All rights reserved.