The Theater of Night

Overview

“Ríos writes in a serenely clear manner.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Ríos’ verse inhabits a country of his own making, sometimes political, often personal, with the familiarity and pungency of an Arizona chili.”—The Christian Science Monitor

Following the success of his National Book Award nomination, Alberto Ríos’ new book is filled with magic, marvel, and emotional truth. Set along the elusive Mexican-American border, his poems trace the...

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Overview

“Ríos writes in a serenely clear manner.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Ríos’ verse inhabits a country of his own making, sometimes political, often personal, with the familiarity and pungency of an Arizona chili.”—The Christian Science Monitor

Following the success of his National Book Award nomination, Alberto Ríos’ new book is filled with magic, marvel, and emotional truth. Set along the elusive Mexican-American border, his poems trace the lives and loves of an elderly couple, Clemente and Ventura, through their childhood and courtship to marriage, maturity, old age, and death.

From The Chair She Sits In

I’ve heard this thing where, when someone dies,
People close up all the holes around the house—
The keyholes, the chimney, the windows,
Even the mouths of the animals, the dogs and the pigs.
It’s so the soul won’t be confused, or tempted.
It’s so when the soul comes out of the body it’s been in,
But which doesn’t work anymore,
It won’t simply go into another one And try to make itself at home,
Pretending as if nothing happened . . .

Ríos’ narratives are both surreal and hyper-real, creating the hard, sweet weave of two lives becoming one. The National Book Award judges noted that Ríos is a “poet of reverie,” and like the best of storytellers he charms his readers, making us care deeply for—even love—these people we read.

Alberto Ríos is the poet laureate of Arizona and teaches at Arizona State University. He is the author of eight books of poetry, three collections of short stories, and a memoir. Ríos is the recipient of numerous awards, and his work is included in over 175 national and international literary anthologies. His work is regularly taught and translated and has been adapted to dance and both classical and popular music.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The latest from the prolific Rios (Capirotada, etc.), poet laureate of the state of Arizona, hews closely and yet imaginatively to the life stories of its double protagonists: Clemente and Ventura (who may, or may not, be the poet's grandparents) grow up, fall in love, raise a family and enter a thoughtful old age in the Sonora Desert along the U.S.-Mexico border, and their intertwined decisions and meditations depict at once the particularities of the Southwestern landscape and the gentle wisdom they glean from their own life course. Rios begins lyrically enough, with "star-filled summer nights/ In the high desert," promising (and delivering) "stories with always something of a sad look in the telling." The borderlands river which (Rios writes) "was their honeymoon" becomes "everyone's and not just theirs," as they become symbols of the poet's Mexican-American inheritance, and of the truths a long life can reveal: "The things of the desert, even the hills themselves,/ They grow this way for a reason." Rios favors long lines, end-stopped and rhymeless couplets, and quiet, often reassuring asides. The results can end up repetitive, even predictable, and may not expand his already considerable following. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Rios (The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body), poet laureate of Arizona, professor of English at Arizona State, and multiple prize winner, has published his ninth book of poetry in much the same vein as his earlier works. These poems follow the lives of an elderly Mexican American couple, Clemente and Ventura, from their youth to old age. Intertwined are vivid connections with the natural world of the Mexican border regions that helped shape their environment and relationship. In "Explaining a Husband," he captures the essence of that lifelong commitment to which anyone so involved can relate: "We used to love each other./ But now it's something else, something more./ We know each other's life. And when we talk,/ We are each other's story." The six divisions, like phases of life, resemble the structure of a narrative poem divided into cantos. Most of the verse is composed in unrhymed couplets, much as if the two major characters are facing, talking to, and mirroring each other. Rios is a popular poet who successfully offers dramatic insights into the Mexican American experience from living it firsthand. For academic libraries as well as public libraries serving Mexican American populations.-Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556592591
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2007
  • Pages: 132
  • Sales rank: 1,199,287
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Alberto Ríos served as the Arizona State Poet, teaches at Arizona State University, and is the author of nine books of poetry, three collections of short stories, an a memoir. His book of poems, The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, was nominated for the National Book Award in Poetry.

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Table of Contents

Northern desert towns in the turn of the old century 3
The mermaid comb 5
Clemente, in love, speaks to himself in the mirror 8
The pomegranate and the big crowd 10
I heard him with my back 13
Mesquite coyotes 16
Clemente's red horse 18
A chance witnessing of the morning animal 22
They said I was a crying bride 27
The river was their honeymoon 29
A marrow of water 31
The light brown map 33
My husband Clemente 34
The song of his hands 36
Aunt Matilde's story of the big day 37
Santa Teresa in Nogales 39
What he does to me 45
Who had been friendly now strangers and hard work 46
The blurred woman in the photograph 49
Noise from the sea 50
The kitchen talk of Comadres regarding a certain problem 51
Explaining a husband 54
Good manners 55
The donkey men of Sonora in the 1930s 57
Her secret love, whispered late in her years 63
Daily dog 65
The dreams that cried 67
People here since before time 68
The chair she sits in 70
My ears get bigger from listening 71
Later, when she was like she was 73
Having forgotten about eating 74
A song of the old days 75
Clemente's wife 79
Chance meeting of two men 81
The conversation of old husbands 82
The old man Clemente prays, talking to his wife even still 83
No instructions for men like him 86
The green that calls a person to it 89
What abides 91
The white 94
The theater of night 99
Great-grandmothers, neatly starched 101
The cures of green and night 103
Coffee in the afternoon 105
Clemente and Ventura show themselves, if just for a moment, in their son 106
Two and a half men 108
The drive-in of the small animals 110
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2006

    Mulling over an ordinary life with grace and dignity

    Alberto Rios, the poet laureate of Arizona, manages to makes the most mundane aspects of living a flowing poetic journey. In THE THEATER OF NIGHT Rios shares the life of Clemente and Ventura, a couple living in the first half of the 20th Century along the US/Mexico border and in relating this simple 'life' he causes us to re-examine all of the prejudices and mounting ill-feelings that now surround the borderline between two countries. For that reason alone it is worth reading his words. But Rios is not preaching or soapboxing here. He is merely in the simplest of terms relating the courting, love, and family building between two lovely people - and that is enough to pull our attention away from differences to similarities. In 'Explaining a Husband' Rios writes: 'We're like that, I think, he and I, that husband of mine./ We're like that now, even if we didn't start that way./ We used to love each other./ But now it's something else, something more./ We know each other's life. And when we talk,/ We are each other's story.' Rios is not profound to the first glance reader, nor does he purport to be. Yet it is in his simplicity of thought and communication that the profundity of his thoughts emerges. His gift is in exploring the familiar and therein finding the magic that glows form all of our lives. Grady Harp

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