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Tula: a ruined Toltec capital; a Russian city known for its accordions; Tagalog for poem.”
Prismatic, startling, rich with meaning yet sparely composed, Chris Santiago’s debut collection of poems begins with one word and transforms it, in a dazzling sleight of hand, into a multivalent symbol for the immigrant experience. Tula: Santiago reveals to readers a distant land devastated by war. Tula: its music beckons in rhythms, time signatures, and lullabies. Tula: can the poem, he seems to ask, build an imaginative bridge back to a family lost to geography, history, and a forgotten language?
Inspired by the experiences of the blood stranger”the second-generation immigrant who does not fully acquire the language of his parentsTula paints the portrait of a mythic homeland that is part ghostly underworld, part unknowable paradise. Language splinters. Impossible islands form an archipelago across its landscape. A mother sings lullabies and a father works the graveyard shift in St. Paulwhile in the Philippines, two dissident uncles and a grandfather send messages and telegrams from the afterlife.
Deeply ambitious, a collection that examines the shortcomings and possibilities of both language and poetry themselves, Tula announces the arrival of a major new literary talent.
A. Van Jordan is the author of four poetry collections: Rise, which won the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award; M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A, which was listed as one the Best Books of 2005 by the London Times; Quantum Lyrics; and The Cineaste. Jordan has been awarded a Whiting Writers Award, an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and a Pushcart Prize. He is also the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and a United States Artists Fellowship. He is the Henry Rutgers Presidential Professor at Rutgers University-Newark. He lives in Newark, NJ.