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The Moe Green Poetry Poetry Discussion hosted Rafael F J Alvarado & Brett-Candace

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World Wide Word

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Join Rafael And Brett-Candace as they talk to Benjamin Alire Sáenz about his new book The Book of What Remains With his sixth collection, Sáenz bursts forth as a major American poet, one with an oracular ear to the ground for what moves people today and also an eye for the larger questions in which today’s concerns are embedded. Set in the Southwest, especially near Sáenz’s home in El Paso, the poems descend from the spiritual tradition of the desert fathers, who sought contact with divinity in arid and dangerous places. But where those ancient monks found themselves and God, Sáenz finds people braving the terrain in search of a better life, images of a postapocalyptic world, and even modernist poets in bizarre juxtaposition to cacti. Most of the poems are long and long-lined, which enhances their oral character. Reading him is like listening to a gifted storyteller, for whom every digression is a path to meaning. And like listening to truth, for his motivations are less purely literary than spiritual and moral, as his subjects are civil and environmental rights, social justice, and the gift of kindness. “As Mexicans would have it: / Cada cabeza es un mundo. / Every single mind / constitutes a world— / an ecosystem.” Sáenz seamlessly joins humanity and the natural world through compassion for both.

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