Words have power.
On September 15, 2012, Xánath Caraza follows, ‘Corazon Pintado,’ with the release of her first full-length book of poetry, ‘Conjuro,’ (Mammoth Publications) with an introduction by Fred Arroyo (2012), and cover art by José Jesús Chán Guzmán.
Caraza is an educator, linguist, woman, and world traveler. Each element of her personhood is brewed into a symphony of poems, words plucked from the Spanish, English, and Nahautl tongue and pressed against the flesh until they take over.
‘Conjuro,’ is an educational text about living within the words, a spirit dancing as if by a voodoo call and existing as the flesh — the terrain from which the language springs. In the 135 pages of poems, Caraza creates a scope, a space for movement as well as the instrument by which the movement is viewed.
The work is deeply feminine, traveling within hips and hands through thought and time, and because of it. Woman is color; memory is color; legacy is color.
Its defining trait is duality as ‘Conjuro’ teaches how to release the pressures of the past while preserving its name. The past has a name.
The reader succumbs to spirituality as the writer spins a spell, chanting, charming, and channeling until the reader becomes the practitioner, possessed by time and space. The womb is the beginning.
‘Conjuro,’ is a memoir in poem, a telling of heritage, of rivers rushing from the dawn of the first day, flowing toward the last. To remember is to invoke.
The first poem, ‘Conjuro/Spellbound’ is a summons. The bearer of magic spellbinds the writer. The writer pays it forward to the reader, casting. An excerpt reads:
Today I call on you to wake from the deep slumber
that holds you captive
Today I invoke north, south, east, and west
Today I cast a spell on you
On you, keeper of my dream
The reader is the bearer of magic that spellbinds the writer. The writer pays it forward.
Color is the principle character in ‘Conjuro.’ It appears in ‘Bajo mi arbol de mangos/Underneath My Mango Tree,’ in bursts of yellow to signify joy, delight, and spiritual realization, the practice of meditation and captivity, calming and writing, even in the turmoil of womanhood.
Underneath the shade of the tree I draw. I am sitting.
Before me strong linguistic currents
Slide onto the paper
Essence of fresh mango, yellow brush strokes
The poem continues in the spirit of change:
Before me, currents of forgotten women
Currents of misplaced names
Of suppressed voices by official history
Water boils up from the center of the earth
Turquoise blue with brilliant ambers
This tree that I sketch celebrates the shadows that accompany me
Celebrate the women censured by official history
Words born from the branches that I sketch as ripe mangos
Through my verbs they are reborn
Color permeates the pages. In ‘Anillos de piedra/Rings of Stone,’ color is broad-stroked across the poem. Written for the city of Cempoala, the place of the Totonac peoples, it is a poem filled with optimism, loyalty and faith, signified by blue skies. The green speaks to both its nature — its feel of paradise — and its poverty. Cempoala is a city of hope & growth and sickness & death.
Green drives the message that the history is rich and must be respected. The land is rich and must be protected. Under Cempoala blue skies there is freedom and new beginnings. Caraza gives permission to create both.
Heavy on celebration, the work is about remembering, pursuing the truth, and living it.
These are poems of solitude and community, sight and obstructed vision, inheritance and legacy, but Caraza does not forget to gaze upon our recent history as in poems, ‘Fukushima Daiichi1l oscilar la tierra/Fukushima Daiichi 1,’ and ‘Hoy mujeres y hombres/Today Women and Men.’ This poem emphasizes education and maturity, reading:
Today, women and men
No longer innocent children
Nor rebellious adolescents
There was no time
Today, women and men demanding a just cause
The right that must not be prohibited
The right to be educated
To be part of the city
It also talks of transition, the idea of abandoning innocence to take up the cause of justice. Justice is a major theme in the book. Justice from the barbaric acts of ancestors, justice for the inhumanity suffered by ancestors, and justice instead of the pestilent politics of neighbors.
‘De sinónimos, eufemismos, y algunos tropos/Of Synonyms, Euphemism and Other Figures of Speech,’ is a pointed look at today’s political system. Though the views expressed aren’t objective, the topics are universal. Education and the economy are tied to politics in potentially dangerous ways. The poem serves as a plea and warning.
Imagery evaporates from the paper into the senses in the form of red fireflies and blue butterflies with brushing wings, fueled by possessed spirits. Scents occupy the mind, the body, through threads of memory. Memory has a smell, a taste. The reader is that fragrance.
Limit versus overflow, walls and barriers; finite versus endless, painter and poet all exist between the covers of ‘Conjuro.’ Conflict and harmony. Be moved by the musicality in such tomes as ‘El dragon de fuego/The Dragon of Fire,’ and fan favorite, ‘Yanga,’ with drums that pound from the pages days after they are closed.
Caraza takes a moment to seduce, to expose the feminine form, to unveil its glory, to bow down to it. In ‘Mujer,’ she exalts the woman, writing in the idiom of feminine mystique.
Word that dissolves between lips
Enchantment from the forest with the most exquisite aromas
Soft wind that touches the soul
Whispering from gods that charms my reason
Endless fertility, carrier of life
Never-ending strength, roar of the lion
Exotic silk from the land of my dreams
Colors warm, cold, combined
Each poem carries over an idea from the previous, building on it, creating a lineage, a life of its own, thus transforming into a breathing consciousness.
‘Conjuro,’ is filled with incantations delving deep into the soil, feeling for the core, and touching the soul. The incantations call across time, traveling through skin, residing at the center.
The incantations remind that each view is one of color — vegetation, flowers, grass, overwhelmingly blue skies and green beneath feet, endured by the red of passions and fire. They are the blue sounds of rushing waters shared by a collective, cleansing the past.
The incantations — these poems — reveal that the nature gifted to man by God has been replaced by man’s granite industrial complexes, replacing peace with chaos. But most significantly, these poems lay open the vast acceptance of it, complacency.
To be a conjurer is to bind with spells, enchant a reader until they voyage into divinity. Becoming the art is universal. Creation is the power of the writer. Reclaiming the entire body, the full heritage is the power of us all.
Join Xánath Caraza, Sunday, October 21, for the Conjuro Book Release Party, 7:00 p.m., at The Writers Place. The event is hosted by Riverfront Reading Series, UMKC, and the Latino Writers Collective. Pre-order ‘Conjuro’ here.