As a woman writer in my 40s, relatively new to the world of publishing poetry, I am really excited to start this column. In the last year, I have just begun attempting to publish my poems, and as all writers know, this can be a daunting process. It may be especially difficult for more mature women writers just starting out. I do not usually think of myself an “older” woman at the age of 42 in my other lives as a mother and physician, but it did not take me long to realize that many literary magazines and publishers holding contests cater towards writers who are “up and coming” and this usually does not include new or emerging women writers older than 30.
Each week I will showcase the unique perspectives and talents of older writers who may be less publicized than younger writers. This column may be best suited for emerging writers starting a second career or leaning back into a life-long passion. This weekly column will review poetry chapbooks, and occasionally full-length books, written by women writers older than 30.
I will start with a review Migratory Sound by Sara Lupita Olivares. She previously wrote a chapbook entitled Field Things, and this is her first full-length book of poetry. She is currently assistant professor of English at New Mexico Highlands University.
This is a throughly haunting book. Written with humility and density of language, it explores generations of Mexican-American migration. What it does best is examining what is between spaces and what the editors’ preface calls “unspaces.” The poems in this collection affect me personally as well, since my grandmother and her family were immigrants from northern Mexico to southern California in the 1940s.
Two of the most effective poems in this collection are Drawings of a Red-Billed Pigeon and Without Vanishing. Both poems involve ambiguity of place. In the former, the lines “we find ghosts of trees in ways dimming/around themselves to create/indentations of other selves” imply that the survival of migratory Mexican-Americans depends on their acceptance of being on the line between their prior space and existing in a non-space. It is clear that these people have had to learn to live in between these two as where they call home is ever-changing. As their sense of place changes, so does their sense of self.
In Without Vanishing the lines “a landscape becomes antiquity” and “succession/of bright colored images” explore future survivability and that surviving depends on the necessary adaptability of the Mexican-American diaspora. The line “continually disappearing from view” shows the tragic fragility of migratory Mexican-Americans in terms of place and self.
The first poem of this collection starts with a landscape at night. This setting is fitting, as you cannot see a landscape in the dark. The lines “outside a goat crosses the pavement/hooves circle in the snow a broken jaw/reassembles I begin to make a house despite the highway” suggests the experience of injury by people being rooted from their ancestral lands as they migrate north, and foreshadows what you will soon learn from the poems in this collection: that adapting to lives of constant movement and living between space and “unspace” has led to centuries of generational trauma.