A Review of Angels of the Americlypse:
An Anthology of New Latin@ Writing

Candice Amich
Angels of the Americlypse: An Anthology of New Latin@ Writing
Edited by Carmen Giménez-Smith and John Chávez
Denver, CO: Counterpath, 2014.
352 pages. $35.00 (paperback)

Recalling that the word “anthology” derives from the Greek compound for “flower-gathering” (as in a collection of the “flowers” of verse), Angels of the Americlypse arrives as a wild bundling of poetry, performance, and prose. This exquisitely unruly bunch gathers 21 21st century writers of heterogeneous backgrounds, in an attempt “to widen the notion of what Latino letters look[s] like outside of … conscripted lyric and narrative traditions” (xi). In the introductions that precede each selection of writing, as well as the “aesthetic statements” that follow, references to giants of both Anglo-American modernism and Latin@ American postmodernism recur: Samuel Beckett and Nicanor Parra, Gertrude Stein and Gloria Anzaldúa. Editors Carmen Giménez-Smith and John Chávez bring together established bilingual experimental poets such as Juan Felipe Herrera and Mónica de la Torre with acclaimed prose stylists such as Joy Castro and Achy Obejas.

Such an anthology is necessary now. In fact, its time is overdue. The editors cite Charlie Chan is Dead (1993) as a model, admiring Jessica Hagedorn’s extensive selection of formally innovative Asian American writers. For African American literature, Aldon Lynn Nielsen’s Black Chant and Integral Music: Languages of African American Innovation (1997) recovers an expansive field of 20th cenury black experimentation. Angels of the Americlypse thus fills an important gap in an emerging canon of ethnic American avant-garde literatures.

In the world of visual and performing arts, ties between Latin@ and Latin American avant-gardes, and unorthodox examinations of the politics of identity, anticipate the cultural work of Angels of the Americlypse. Fittingly, the anthology’s title is borrowed from the performative work of Rodrigo Toscano. Toscano’s “Pig Angels of the Americlypse,” an example of his self-styled Collapsible Poetics Theater, tests the limits of poetic form. Toscano imagines “players” (not characters) that step in and out of their roles (á la Brecht, á la Boal) in order to press their audiences to question the borders or frames of their social lives. Manipulating language to disturb rigid orders of belonging and citizenship, Toscano’s work owes a debt to border-crossing performance artists such as Guillermo Gómez-Peña. These are performance scripts that crave embodiment and leave space for improvisation:

{P1} Nationstate up — personal dreams down — got it?


{P2} These puercos, sin destinos … {as an aside} lively bunch.


{P3} {in singsong tone}


      “Ethos, lady sovereign, be not my decay!


           Tell me tell me


Who are the real Americans of today?”

The poem-play’s questioning of the status of the ‘American’ opens the anthology out into vistas of hemispheric experimentation that a more narrow focus on U.S. influences obscures, and which the borderlands, in which these collected works dwell, insist on.

A coincidence of letters, the alphabetical contents of the book nevertheless bridge translator and translated, from Rosa Alcalá to Cecilia Vicuña. The inclusion of Chilean poet, artist, and filmmaker Vicuña attests to the undeniable transnational vectors of the anthology. An image of Vicuña’s “Quipu Menstrual” installation of suspended red strands of unspun wool spans the front and back covers of the book, precariously binding the anthology’s discrepant contents.

Alcalá, who translates Vicuña’s verse here and elsewhere, is a formidable free verse force herself:

Dear Señorita Maquiladora

                                Dexterous, tolerant of tedium

                                           model workers

                                                      for Electrolux, General

                                                                 Electric, Alcoa, etc.,


Dear Virgen de Guadalupe,

          hand us your sanitary napkin

                     Blessed art thou,

                     your blood is

                                on everything.

Pulsing with references to the femicide epidemic along the U.S.-Mexico border, Alcalá’s “Dear Maria,” ironically colors the colonias surrounding the maquilladora plants with the blood of a menstruating Virgin Mary.

The poetry of Daniel Borzutzky, like that of Alcalá, makes visible the vulgar logic of late capitalism. In Borzutzky’s “In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy,” the violence of the verse echoes the broken bodies of Chilean poet Raúl Zurita’s unparalleled Song for His Disappeared Love (which Borzutzky thrillingly translated in 2010): “… I’m afraid of the bodies and how they are lining them up in / the compounds, afraid of the bodies that make sentences, / afraid of the bodies and how they are like sentences.”

Working inwards towards the book’s center, the neo-confessional poetry of Cynthia Cruz and performance texts of Jennifer Tamayo similarly employ gestures of the grotesque — “transforming trash” into beauty in Cruz and wading in the murky waters of incest and myth in Tamayo to undo gender (and other punishing) binaries (71). Adding to the anthology’s collection of blooms, here is a wonderfully disturbing narcissus from Tamayo:



And another from Cruz:

Soon the ambassadors from the Netherworld

Will begin

Their jet-like descent. Death,

Disguised inside me, already,

As sleeze. (“Kingdom of Dirt”)

Like Sandy Florian, whose bypassing of narrative rises to what Deborah Paredez refers to as a “frenzied metatheatricality,” these poets do not write directly about their Latina heritage (76). Refusing the role of “cultural attaché,” they prefer instead to star as angels of the Americlypse, glowing with the desire “That one might read the world anew” (xi; Vicuña “Aesthetic Statement”).

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