Soul Over Lightning

Overview

In this collection, which the poet calls his “rebirth in the search for home,” Ray Gonzalez expresses the gentle, humble intelligence that has made him a leading voice in Latino letters. He shares with the reader the voice of a soul searcher who has passed through middle age and still vibrates with passion for the world.

Gonzalez shows his profound respect for other people, species, places, elements, and histories. Illusions to religious imagery knock against those of the ...

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Overview

In this collection, which the poet calls his “rebirth in the search for home,” Ray Gonzalez expresses the gentle, humble intelligence that has made him a leading voice in Latino letters. He shares with the reader the voice of a soul searcher who has passed through middle age and still vibrates with passion for the world.

Gonzalez shows his profound respect for other people, species, places, elements, and histories. Illusions to religious imagery knock against those of the natural world—feathers and rocks—creating a complex tableau of objects and feelings. Employing the image-driven approach for which he is renowned, in this collection Gonzalez is taut, using poetics that are fully formed. Even as the poems weave together highly intellectual, refined subject matter, the language remains accessible. 

The book is divided into three parts. The first section offers Gonzalez’s most personal work yet, meditating on aging, forgetting, and the reader. The next section is more outward looking, as Gonzalez takes on great artists from both Old World and New World traditions. Finally, in the last section, Gonzalez opens himself up, reflecting in very personal ways on the everyday, such as a return from a hospital stay or a visit to the doctor.

Soul Over Lightning weaves together elements of Native American and Chicano/a narratives, inspired by the landscape of the desert Southwest and the experience of living on the border. It offers a new supernarrative that lifts spirits and yet remains grounded in a timeless search for home and truth.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A prolific author of numerous genres, including essays, memoir, and poetry, Gonzalez brings vibrant imagery and aesthetic allusions to his thirteenth poetry collection, a rekindling of the poet's quest to find home, located somewhere between his birthplace of El Paso and his adopted metropolis of Minneapolis."—Booklist

“There's a restraint here, a lyrical sparseness that leans toward a meditational zen-like medicine of a high order.”—Timothy Liu, author of Bending the Mind Around the Dream's Blown Fuse

“Set largely in the desert Southwest of his birth, Soul Over Lightning builds on Ray Gonzalez’s impressive career of attention to the reciprocal relationship of people and place.  For over thirty years, he’s been at the forefront of this necessary investigation, and he continues to find new and fresh insights into our most fundamental and true selves.  These poems range across artistic and personal touchstones; Rodin and Dali share the endeavor with Man Ray and Charles Mingus, lyric turns to prose and back, and everywhere meaning comes as a solitary arrival, with “the coiled earth climbing into your heart / to welcome you home.”—John Gallaher, author of In a Landscape

“In Soul Over Lightning, Ray Gonzalez reveals his unique genius for inhabiting the world of myth and symbol, so completely that words like “myth” and “symbol” start to feel extraneous. I mean that these are poems of the highest intensity, poems in which a lyric speaker both mourns and praises, but always balances deep feeling with expertly artful lines and sentences. “Let us imagine our hands reach” reads the first line of Gonzalez’s title poem, and that line holds true: again and again, this poet leads his reader into new and powerful depths of thought and feeling, terrain that proves both originally imagined and startlingly real. Ray Gonzalez remains a major poet, and this is his best book.”—Peter Campion, author of El Dorado

“This is a contemplative collection of poetry, a delving into the sacred, spiritual aspects and ideas of who we are.”—Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Mañana Means Heaven

From the Publisher

“There's a restraint here, a lyrical sparseness that leans toward a meditational zen-like medicine of a high order.”—Timothy Liu, author of Bending the Mind Around the Dream's Blown Fuse

“Set largely in the desert Southwest of his birth, Soul Over Lightning builds on Ray Gonzalez’s impressive career of attention to the reciprocal relationship of people and place.  For over thirty years, he’s been at the forefront of this necessary investigation, and he continues to find new and fresh insights into our most fundamental and true selves.  These poems range across artistic and personal touchstones; Rodin and Dali share the endeavor with Man Ray and Charles Mingus, lyric turns to prose and back, and everywhere meaning comes as a solitary arrival, with “the coiled earth climbing into your heart / to welcome you home.”—John Gallaher, author of In a Landscape

“In Soul Over Lightning, Ray Gonzalez reveals his unique genius for inhabiting the world of myth and symbol, so completely that words like “myth” and “symbol” start to feel extraneous. I mean that these are poems of the highest intensity, poems in which a lyric speaker both mourns and praises, but always balances deep feeling with expertly artful lines and sentences. “Let us imagine our hands reach” reads the first line of Gonzalez’s title poem, and that line holds true: again and again, this poet leads his reader into new and powerful depths of thought and feeling, terrain that proves both originally imagined and startlingly real. Ray Gonzalez remains a major poet, and this is his best book.”—Peter Campion, author of El Dorado

“This is a contemplative collection of poetry, a delving into the sacred, spiritual aspects and ideas of who we are.”—Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Mañana Means Heaven

Library Journal
10/15/2014
The award-winning Gonzalez (The Ghost of John Wayne) writes poetry suffused with religious allusions, and his latest work is also replete with repetition and references to the Southwest. The story line suggests a journey in which the narrator observes nature and its creatures, from sand to stars to owls to dogs. As he observes, he remembers his past encounters with these aspects of nature—some of which seem miraculous. Indeed, this book is held together by four poems titled "The Miracle" and "The Second Miracle," and so forth, with each poem alluding to the birth and rebirth of a totemic character—suggesting, perhaps, the poet's own spiritual growth. VERDICT The most well crafted of these poems are written from the inside out and tend to move through surreal imagery to arrive at an ending that feels just right, as in this ending for the title poem: "and we lie in the rain and lie inside it." But too often there is a heaviness to this collection particularly evident when the observer imposes his own agenda on the mystery of the poem and sees (to paraphrase Wallace Stevens) as he wills, not as the object is.—C. Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816531004
  • Publisher: University of Arizona Press
  • Publication date: 9/25/2014
  • Series: Camino del Sol Series
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 88
  • Sales rank: 563,284
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Ray Gonzalez is the author of fourteen books and also has edited more than a dozen anthologies of poetry and fiction. He is the recipient of the Carr P. Collins/Texas Institute of Letters Award, the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Book Award, the Western Heritage Award, the Latino Heritage Award, and the Minnesota Book Award. He is a professor of literature at the University of Minnesota.

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