speaking with grackles by soapberry trees (Paperback)
Winner of the Texas Institute of Letters' John A. Robertson Award for Best First Book of Poetry, C sar L. de Le n's debut book, speaking with grackles by soapberry trees, is a collection of poems that make their home in the Borderlands of Texas. There are poems rooted in childhood and young-adult memories like "El Mundo" and "Learning to Swim," and works like "The Migration of the Mariposa" twin poems and others that deal with queerness, identity, and relationships -familial and romantic. The inevitable grappling and coping that comes from living in a contested space, like the border, at a time when gun violence, police brutality, immigrant incarceration, and racism have increasingly become part of everyday life around the country can be found in poems like "River Escucha," "Sugar Skull," and others. Throughout the collection, the spirit of the borderlands marks its presence in a form of spirituality connecting the speaker with the natural world around him; birds aren't the only things that he communes with. Lastly, like the ever-mutable nature of the land, more than a few of the poems in this collection range in form with creative and intentional use of white space or by fashioning pieces like "American Mathematics" and "Cloud Watching" in forms atypical for poetry.