Reviewed By: Nikolai Garcia
Edward Vidaurre’s latest chapbook, Ramona and rumi: Love in the Time of Oligarchy (& Unedited Necessary Poems), Hercules Publishing, 2018, is a bit oddly constructed, but full of love language.
The Prologue poem introduces us to rumi and Ramona, Both/ running scared/ crashing into each other. The first half of the book is all about them, and in 24 poems we witness their amusing daily interactions, their uncontrollable lust for each other, and their eventual break-up. (Love—this intense—just cannot last, it seems).
The book is filled with great lines like: I fell in love with your ancestors [“The Talk”]; rumi throws the moon back/ & one by one kicks the stars into the night [“Meeting At Night”]; her virgin bloom, sap-filled/ mouth, letting out a/ souvenir of promises/ of sure agony [“Equinox”]. But, what really makes this collection stand-out is the magical surrealism world that Vidaurre has built for these love poems. Take, for instance, “Early Morning”:
He plants squash for his foes
she picks up a rock to stare at her reflection
rumi raises owls, feeds them plantains
they bring him cantos in exchange
Ramona, plants the songs next to a rosemary garden
in a month, teething children will sing the harvest
These playful scenes can be found throughout the first half of the book. They help give the characters life, makes their love seem more real, and make the poems more enjoyable to the reader.
The second half of the book is different, but just as creative. It consists of erotic poems inspired by heavy metal music. The poems are “darker,” which some might consider to be the right amount of kink, while other more sensitive souls might need a trigger warning. Take for instance, my favorite poem from this half of the book, “Kiss”:
I want to kiss you in the middle of a nightmare
when you bleed, when you bleed in my mouth
I want to kiss your mouth while I massage your rug burns
when you carve my name into your thighs
I want to kiss you in dark places, no light, just voices around us
when you feel a knife to your neck
I want to kiss you at a funeral as they lower the casket
when flowers whisper “I love you”
Vidaurre has a gift of taking the erotic to write lines that create great visual images in the mind, like in this ending stanza from “Mouthsong”: I think of your tongue/ how it traces the island around your lips/ destroying yesterday’s promises. That last line is amazing in the way that it tells us so much in just three words.
My only complaints about this chapbook is that there were no page numbers and one of the illustrations in the book partially omits some lines from a poem—but these are no faults of the poet.
Our contemporary poetry world currently highlights confessional poetry and political poetry, (rightly and righteously so in the latter’s case) but it is always good to relax and revel in a good collection of love poems. With his latest chapbook, Vidaurre gives us a collection worthy of being on a bookshelf right next to love poetry books by Nikki Giovanni or Pablo Neruda.
Edward Vidaurre is the 2018-2019 McAllen,Texas Poet Laureate and author of five collections of poetry including: I Took My Barrio on A Road Trip, Chicano Blood Transfusion, and Ramona & Rumi: Love in the Time of Oligarchy & Unedited Necessary Poems. He is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and writes from the front lines of the Mexican-American borderlands of El Valle in South Tejas.