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Promises of gold = Promesas de oro
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Publishers Weekly Review
In this moving second collection, Olivarez (Citizen Illegal) reflects on his Mexican identity through poems that explore platonic and romantic love, the joys of friendship and food, and the pain and loss at the heart of capitalist society. A "child of loss," Olivarez still believes in a salvation made possible by relationships and feeling, a world where "my friends show up unannounced & always welcome." Details grounded in the everyday world capture great fulfillment, such as "Hershey's Kisses," "hot Cheetos," "ramen noodle days," and tortillas "warmed on a comal." "aybe we could redefine kin," Olivarez proposes, and these poems make a strong case for that redefinition, revealing how close bonds are an antidote to the world's hardships. In one poem, the speaker details how their lover "kisses me on the cheek in a language/ that needs no translation." The poet's sensitive and insightful voice allows these stirring poems to successfully explore the forces acting on love in a complex world, and the unshakable promise of understanding and belonging. (Feb.)
Booklist Review
In a prefatory note to his glistening second poetry collection, Olivarez (Citizen Illegal, 2018) states his intention to dismantle colonial harm by questioning Spanish colonial values: "What is gold to us? What is holy to us? Where do we find glory?" Rather than retrace a history of conquistadors, Olivarez elevates small but notable moments through a sensitive, introspective speaker who must learn tough lessons on the streets of Calumet City. When a friend gets jumped for his sneakers: ""this is how we learned to be boys: / we kept everything we loved close by / & out of sight." But Olivarez also undercuts well-worn tropes of Mexican-American migration by offering glimmers of hope, such as "Poem Where No One Is Deported." The speaker even admits to hypocrisy; he knows that Mexico will always "be an oppressive nation state," yet still sends "Mexican flag emojis / to all the homies" when a popular Jaliscan boxer wins a match. The book includes a Spanish translation and bilingual readers will enjoy flipping back and forth to see how the prism of each poem changes its hue in the light of another language.

Named one of NPR's Books We Love

"How many bad lovers have gotten poems? How many crushes? No disrespect to romantic love-- but what about our friends ? Those homies who are there all along--cheering for us and reminding us that love is abundant."

In this groundbreaking collection of poems, José Olivarez explores every kind of love--self, brotherly, romantic, familial, cultural. Grappling with the contradictions of the American Dream with unflinching humanity, he lays bare the ways in which "love is complicated by forces larger than our hearts."

Whether readers enter this collection in English or via the Spanish translation by poet David Ruano González, these extraordinary poems are sure to become beloved for their illuminations of life--and love.

"¿Cuántas malas parejas han inspirado poemas? ¿Cuántos crush es? Sin faltarle el respeto al amor romántico--pero ¿qué hay de los amigos? Esos compas que están ahí todo el tiempo--animándonos y recordándonos que elamor es abundante".

En esta innovadora colección de poemas, José Olivarez explora cada tipo de amor--el propio, fraternal, romántico, familiar, cultural. Lidiando con las contradicciones del sueño americano, con una humanidad inquebrantable, deja al descubierto las maneras en que "el amor se va complicando por fuerzas más grandes que nuestros corazones".

Ya sea que los lectores entren a esta colección en inglés o a partir de la traducción al español del poeta David Ruano González, estos extraordinarios poemas serán amados seguramente por sus iluminaciones sobre el amor y la vida.

Table of Contents
Author's Note1
Translator's Note5
IFolk Tales
3Love Poem Beginning with Yellow Cab15
IIOjalá Ojalá Ojalá
1Ode to Tortillas19
2Nation of Domination21
3In the Dream22
4Bulls v. Suns, 199323
5Another Cal City Poem24
6Ojalá: My Homie25
7Upward Mobility26
8Regret or My Dad Says Love27
9Black & Mild28
10River Oaks Mall29
1Pedro Explains Magical Realism33
4An Almost Sonnet for My Mom's Almost Life36
5Poem with Corpse Flowers & No Corpses37
6It's Only Day Whatever of the Quarantine & I'm Already Daydreaming about Robbing Rich People38
7Poem with a Little Less Aggression40
8Maybach Music41
9Card Declined42
10Middle Class in this MF43
11Canelo Álvarez is the Champ44
12Bad Mexican Sonnet46
13Poem Where No One is Deported47
1American Tragedy51
2Cal City Winter53
3On the Signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement54
4Ojalá: Me & My Guys55
5Poetry is Not Therapy56
6Before We Got Comfortable Saying Love, We Dapped57
7Ojalá: I Hate Heartbreak58
10More, Please61
11Two Truths & A Lie62
1Pedro Gets Asked about His Big Brother65
2Happening Sonnet66
5Poem Where I Learn to Eat Escargot69
6Some Words Look Nice Until You try Them On70
7Wherever I'm at that Land is Chicago71
VIOjalá Ojalá Ojalá
1Nate Calls Me Soft75
2Love Poem (Feat. Chani Nicholas)76
3All the Names We Say Because We Don't Say Love77
4Cal City Love Poem78
6Mercedes Says She Prefers the Word "Discoteca" to the Word "Club"80
7February & My Love is in Another State81
1Origin Story85
2In Calumet City86
3Now I'm Bologna87
4My Sociology88
5No Time to Wait89
6Mercedes Says Hyacinths Look Like Little Firework Shows90
8Ruben's Poem92
VIIIBefore Monday Arrives Like a Fist
1ARS Poetica95
2Eviction Notice96
5United Enemies99
6Harlem Snapshot101
8Sunday Love103
1Between US & Liberation107
3Eating Taco Bell with Mexicans109
4Maybe God is Mexican110
5It's True111
6Despecho Hour at the Casa Azul Restaurante Y Cantina112
7Hopeful Cal City Poem114
8Mexican Heaven ("the mexicans said no thank you to heaven-")115
3I Walk into the Ocean121
4Roses & Lilies122
5Justice is for the Living123
6Mexican Heaven ("forget heaven & its promises of gold-")124
1No more Sad Mexicans127
2Mexican Heaven ("when my uncle got to heaven")129
3Another Harlem Poem130
4Ojalá: Self-Love131
5Down to My Elbows132
7Shelter Island134
8Let's Get Married135
9Related: The Sky is Dope137
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