Critics Page

Christopher Rey Pérez

Roque Dalton had to get his face cut into and reconstructed in order to evade those who were out to get him. He wrote good poems I’m still reading years after they eventually got him. He worked with collage. Maybe he knew what Fanon knew. “To speak means being able to use a certain syntax and possessing the morphology of such and such a language, but it means above all assuming a culture and bearing the weight of a civilization.”1 What embattles poetry is all the etchings, the tattoos, along with the deep imprints of the fucked-up weight-bearing body where you and I first glimpse into an archive and it’s dark there, un-collated, and happening to us. It’s happening to us concurrently and also relationally and I’m writing about it in the present. I critique my own formulation—metabolic intimacies with real people and places, some who never before entered the poem, at least not in English. That too takes place in assuming a culture. Getting sucked up in the vacuum. In the Empire’s grammar, a former border patrol agent writes a book and is lauded so this is how we are going to have to start thinking in the now. It isn’t right to say it’s all language but there’s just enough at the imbroglio to listen to how they get with the making of a form of poetry or at least continue along in their future perfect seeding a habitat that will sustain their monophagy. Shit’s everywhere and goes deep and is lucrative. That’s what the poem sometimes means. To be incited by what Glissant calls a “collective exigency” dreams up a possibility of what needs to be the case for things to be(come) otherwise but the ways in which their stories and their narratives undergirding coloniality placate the white angel of race demarcating the human still haunts me in the I.2 They haven’t caught on yet that I’m writing to escape it or diffuse it or deracinate it. I was at the border in Texas when Alberto Ortíz Jr. my cousin was arrested for selling grenades. They were out to get him and you can’t make this stuff up. Been the red herring in the corrido. Felt like that too what this poetics does to survive outside the poem and its structure. Engaged as a plural, its repertoire ekes with abandon and becomes more conspicuous. I believe in duration. I retrieve the wrong word at the right time.

1. Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Mask, trans. Richard Philcox (New York: Grove, 2008).
2. I have Bard College’s Institute for Language & Thinking to thank for the phrase and thinking around the question, “What needs to be the case for things to be otherwise?”


Christopher Rey Pérez

CHRISTOPHER REY PÉREZ is a poet from the Rio Grande Valley and the author of gauguin's notebook (&NOW Books, 2017).