Cherished for her passionate fiction and exuberant essays, the author hailed by Julia Alvarez as ?una storyteller de primera,? and by Barbara Kingsolver in The Los Angeles Times as ?impossible to resist,? returns to her first love?poetry?to reveal an unwavering commitment to social justice, and a fervent embrace of the sensual world.
With the poems in I Ask the Impossible, Castillo celebrates the strength that "is a woman?buried deep in [her] heart." Whether memorializing real-life heroines who have risked their lives for humanity, spinning a lighthearted tale for her young son, or penning odes to mortals, gods, goddesses, Castillo's poems are eloquent and rich with insight. She shares over twelve years of poetic inspiration, from her days as a writer who ?once wrote poems in a basement with no heat," through the tenderness of motherhood and bitterness of loss, to the strength of love itself, which can ?make the impossible a simple act." Radiant with keen perception, wit, and urgency, sometimes erotic, often funny, this inspiring collection sounds the unmistakable voice of a "woman on fire? / and more worthy than stone."
Ana Castillo is the author of the novels Peel My Love Like an Onioin, So Far from God, The Mixquiahuala Letters, and Sapogonia. She has written a story collection, Loverboys; the crtitical study Massacre of the Dreamers; the poetry collection My Father Was a Toltec and Selected Poems; and the children's book My Daughter, My Son, the Eagle, The Dove. She is the editor of the anthology Goddess of the Americas: Writings on the Virgin of Guadalupe, available from Vintage Espanol (La diosa de las Americas). Castillo has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Book Award, a Carl Sandburg Award, a Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Chicago with her son, Marcel.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Read an Excerpt
While I Was Gone a War Began
While I was gone a war began. Every day I asked friends in Rome to translate the news. It seems I saw this story in a Hollywood movie, or on a Taco Bell commercial, maybe in an ad for sunglasses or summer wear--shown somewhere for promotional purposes.
Hadn't I seen it in an underground cartoon, a sinister sheikh versus John Wayne? Remembering Revelation I wanted to laugh, the way a nonbeliever remembers Sunday School and laughs, which is to say--after flood and rains, drought and despair, abrupt invasions, disease and famine everywhere, we’re still left dumbfounded at the persistence of fiction.
While I was gone continents exploded--the Congo, Ireland, Mexico, to name a few places. At this rate, one day soon they won’t exist at all. It’s only a speculation, of course.
"What good have all the great writers done?" an Italian dissident asked, as if this new war were my personal charge. "What good your poems, your good intentions, your thoughts and words all for the common good? What lives have they saved? What mouths do they feed? What good is your blue passport when your American plane blows up?" the Italian dissident asked in a rage. Forced out of his country,the poor African selling trinkets in Italy, does not hesitate to kill other blacksnot of his tribe. Who is the bad guy? Who is the last racist? Who colonized in the twenty-first century best: the Mexican official over the Indian or the gringo ranchero over the Mexican illegal? "I hope for your sake yourpoems become missiles," the dissident said. He lit a cigarette, held it to his yellowed teeth. "I hope for my sake, too. I tried," he said. "I did not write books or have sons but I gave my life and now, I don’t care. "Again, I had nothing to give but a few words which I thought then to keep to myself for all their apparent uselessness. We drank some wine, instead, made from his dead father's vineyard. We trapped a rat getting into the vat. We watched another red sun set over the fields. At dawn, I left,returned to the silence of the press when it has no sordid scandal to report. As if we should not be scandalized by surprise bombing over any city at night, bombs scandalizing the sanctity of night.
Women Don't Riot (For N.B.S)
Women don't riot, not in maquilas in Malaysia, Mexico, or Korea, not in sweatshops in New York or El Paso. They don't revolt in kitchens, laundries, or nurseries. Not by the hundreds or thousands, changing sheets in hotels or in laundries when scalded by hot water, not in restaurants where they clean and clean and clean their hands raw.
Women don't riot, not sober and earnest, or high and strung out, not of any color, any race, not the rich, poor, or those in between. And mothers of all kinds especially don't run rampant through the streets.
In college those who've thought it out join hands in crucial times, carry signs, are dragged away in protest. We pass out petitions, organize a civilized vigil, return to work the next day.
We women are sterilized, have more children than they can feed, don't speak the official language, want things they see on TV, would like to own a TV— women who were molested as children raped, beaten, harassed, which means every last one sooner or later; women who've defended themselves and women who can't or don't know how we don't—won't ever rise up in arms.
We don't storm through cities, take over the press, make a unified statement, once and for all: A third-millennium call— from this day on no more, not me, not my daughter, not her daughter either.
Women don't form a battalion, march arm in arm across continents bound by the same tongue, same food or lack thereof, same God, same abandonment, same broken heart, raising children on our own, have so much endless misery in common that must stop not for one woman or every woman, but for the sake of us all.
Quietly, instead, one and each takes the offense, rejection, bureaucratic dismissal, disease that should not have been, insult, shove, blow to the head, a knife at her throat. She won't fight, she won't even scream— taught as she's been to be brought down as if by surprise. She'll die like an ant beneath a passing heel. Today it was her. Next time who.
I Ask the Impossible 5 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
Ana Castillo is the type of writer one expects to find in Latin America: a prolific intellectual who seamlessly integrates the personal and the political in her work. In this sense, her poetry reminds me of the work of the Salvadoran Roque Dalton or the Uruguayan Mario Benedetti, writers who became the conscience of their respective countries and communities. In the poem 'Since the Creation of My Son and My First Book' Ana writes on the birth of her son and the writing of her first book--an analogy that in lesser hands would be a cliche--and gives us a poem of raw energy and political significance; for readers who idealized the life of the poet, here's the proof: it's a most difficult career choice. The title poem is poignant and beautiful: 'I ask the impossible: love me forever.' It is 'petulant' said the Kirkus reviewer of this book to ask someone to love you forever, but that only exposes the reviewer's limited view of love. A mother has a right to ask that of her son, a daughter has a right to ask that of her father, a woman has a right to ask that of her true love. Ana wrote that poem shortly after the death of her own father, and 'I Ask the Impossible' is therefore one of the most moving testimonies of love I have ever read, about what love really means. This is a varied collection of poetry, and although Ana has not divided the book into sections some sequences are clearly discernible: there are several poems on her son Marcel, all of them charming and beautiful, there are political poems concerned about the fate of Latino women across the Americas, there are lighthearted poems in Spanish about the difficulties of love and portraits of Ana's relatives and friends, etc. This is clearly an essential book for those concerned with contemporary Chicano writing and for fans of Ana's work.
Growing up as the intellectually spirited daughter of a Mexican Indian immigrant family during the
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Published to coincide with the Anchor Books edition of Peel My Love Like an Onion,
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