Garden of Exile: Poems


Aleida Rodr?guez's first full-length collection of poems, Garden of Exile, was selected by Marilyn Hacker as the 1998 winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry.

Garden of Exile reveals a life enriched by layers of language and culture. Rodrguez was born in Cuba and emigrated to the Midwest at age nine via Operation Peter Pan. These poems are psalms that celebrate the pleasures of experience made palpable through language.

Rodr?guez counts...

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Aleida Rodríguez's first full-length collection of poems, Garden of Exile, was selected by Marilyn Hacker as the 1998 winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry.

Garden of Exile reveals a life enriched by layers of language and culture. Rodrguez was born in Cuba and emigrated to the Midwest at age nine via Operation Peter Pan. These poems are psalms that celebrate the pleasures of experience made palpable through language.

Rodríguez counts her bilingual lexicon as a double blessing: "Earth's language is a continuous current,/ translating the voices of my early trees along the ground./ I can't afford not to listen." In her liminal world, the lyricism of Spanish and English mingle their most gorgeous incarnations: sinsontes, ciruelas, mamoncillos, meringue clouds, and the cluck of coconuts "deliver a lost dictionary of delight."

Rodríguez is a remarkably deft poet: not only is she fluent in two tongues, she articulates the delicate nuances of daily life. Whether speaking of water, flora, or women in love, she refuses to produce the poof of easy lyric like a rabbit from a hat. Though they nod to heady pleasures, these poems keep their wits. Rodríguez remains self-possessed, intelligent, and interesting, even in her most impassioned moments. She reveals perception as the self's real alchemy and, by so doing, makes the world appear right before our very eyes.

Garden of Exile is the fifteenth poetry title to be published by Sarabande Books, a nonprofit literary press headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. Since the 1996 debut of the press, Sarabande Books titles have received positive review attention fromnationally distinguished media including The New York Times Book Review, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, American Book Review, Small Press, The Nation, and Library Journal.

Aleida Rodríguez was born on a kitchen table in Havana, Cuba. Her poetry and prose have been published in many literary magazines, textbooks, and anthologies nationwide, including Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Kenyon Review, ZYZZYVA, Southern Poetry Review, and The Progressive, as well as In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction (W.W. Norton, 1996), and more.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Neither especially ground-breaking nor ambitious, Rodr guez's debut nevertheless has charms: some inhere in its Spanish-and-English felicities, others emerge from the life story the poems tell. Having fled, at age nine, her native Cuba, Rodr guez is now an inquisitive bilingual lesbian freelance writer in Los Angeles. Her frequent meditations on words and languages can become both precious and self-righteous: she sighs, "how difficult it is to work with words," and declares, "This pitch/ of mine has dictatorial tones but made/ of nobler stuff, I hope, if it teaches/ that those who can, do, and those who can't, bitch." Rodr guez offers a smorgasbord of forms, among them sonnets, a sestina, a shaped poem, a recipe-poem ("Risotto Ariosto"), and prose poetry. Her free-verse cadence suggests Elizabeth Bishop's, while her unobtrusive formal versatility and her political interests link Rodr guez to Marilyn Hacker, who selected this book for publication. In the poems that mix English and Spanish, Rodr guez proves most impressive when she refuses to translate for us, instead creating high-speed collisions between cultures and languages. At "The Rosario Beach House," the poet's aunt "en su gordura floated in the water/ como un globo o una ballena." Rodr guez also infuses magic realism to great effect in her prose-poem series "Little Cuba Stories/Cuentos de Cuba." Exciting at times, the book seems better in parts than it does as a whole. Its forms, like its eroticism, can be as sensual as "an anklet of blooming salal dances"; elsewhere the poems can turn as dull as "the mainland... so undramatic / so flatly familiar."(Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Rodr guez's first book of poems, winner of the 1998 Kathryn A. Morton Prize in poetry, reveals a remarkable range of poetic craft. Writing in both English and Spanish, she employs free verse, formal verse, and prose-style poems to display the magical power she has with words and joins the likes of Julia Alvarez with her rich bilingual voice. A Cuban exile whose poetic inspiration comes from Rilke and Rodrigo (among others), Rodr guez writes about her Cuban childhood, exile, culture, and family. "The invisible body," she writes, "demands you to invent new senses to receive it." These poems are like tiny stones that reveal a new detail, a new crevice with each turn and twist. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.--Tim Gavin, Episcopal Acad., Merion, PA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Adrian Oktenberg
Rodriguez handles both lushness and trauma in a voice that is confident, relaxed, matter-of-fact, honest, willing and truthful: recognizably "American." As she has lived in the US for thirty years, one might expect her to have become acclimated. Early traumas have clearly been absorbed, though not forgotten. They persist not as a jagged edge of pain, but as something that has become part of Rodriguez, that is. When she writes in a mixture of English and Spanish, it feels perfectly normal, the most natural thing in the world...Rodriguez is sophisticated stuff, equally at ease in several languages, landscapes, selves and forms of verse. She has used all the resources she needs to appear in this, her first book, as a poet fully formed and delightfully, deliciously readable.
The Women's Review of Books
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781889330334
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books
  • Publication date: 10/1/1999
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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