From the National Book Award-nominated, Lambda Award-winning poet: a powerful, inventive new collection that looks to the future of Puerto Rico with love, rage, beauty, and hope
Raquel Salas Rivera’s star has risen swiftly in the poetry world, and this, his 6th book, promises to cement his status as one of the most important poets working today. In sharp, crystalline verses, written in both Spanish and English versions, antes que isla es volcán daringly imagines a decolonial Puerto Rico.
Salas Rivera unfurls series after series of poems that build in intensity: one that casts Puerto Rico as the island of Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, another that imagines a multiverse of possibilities for Puerto Rico’s fate, a 3rd in which the poet demands his right to a future and its immediate distribution. The verses are rigorous and sophisticated, engaging with literary and political theory, yet are also hard-hitting, charismatic, and quotable (“won’t you be sorry? / won’t you wish you had a boss? / won’t you get restless / with all that freedom?”).
These poems tap unflinchingly into the explosive energy of the island, transforming it into protest, into spirit, into art.
About the Author
Raquel Salas Rivera is a Puerto Rican poet, translator, and editor. His honors include being named the 2018-19 Poet Laureate of Philadelphia and receiving the New Voices Award from Puerto Rico’s Festival de la Palabra. He is the author of 5 previous full-length poetry books. His 3rd book, lo terciario/the tertiary, won the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry and was longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award. His 4th book, while they sleep (under the bed is another country), was longlisted for the 2020 Pen America Open Book Award and was a finalist for CLMP’s 2020 Firecracker Award. His 5th book, x/ex/exis, won the inaugural Ambroggio Prize. He currently writes and teaches in Puerto Rico.
”Salas Rivera, a Lambda Award–winning author of five previous books of poetry, wields wicked intelligence and blades of humor to crack open the minds of his readers . . . Punchy, funny, smart, and stylistically unmatched, this bilingual edition also allows readers to scour the poet’s self-translation for insights to his creative process.”
—Booklist, Starred Review
“With antes que isla es volcán / before island is volcano, Salas Rivera has taken the planted seeds of rebellion and created a beautiful, mature ceiba tree of poetry ready to bear up the island on its expanding branches and show readers how to unleash their imaginations from the chains of colonization.”
—Washington Review of Books
“To dream other worlds in the face of colonial apocalypse . . . This imagining is what the poems—the poem—that are before island is volcano generously and powerfully offer us. Since the tertiary, one of the most important books of our time, Raquel Salas Rivera has been documenting—with acuity, and clarity, and beauty—the colonial hole, creating life-giving books, in multiple languages, and channeling multiple universes, to gift us the words we need as we ward off the nations they send to kill us.”
—Daniel Borzutzky, National Book Award–winning author of The Performance of Becoming Human
“Raquel Salas Rivera proposes that ‘going back’ is a political and poetic act, a trip back to magma, to memory and to the words that attest to our struggle against the colonial yokes that keep trying to ensnare us. For this reason, antes que isla es volcán/before island is volcano looks beyond each verse and beyond the pages of this book. It invites us to look to our own poetics and convictions as a jumping-off point for redefining the geopolitics of possibility.”
—Mayra Santos-Febres, author of La amante de Gardel
“We are an archipelago built with borrowed words, plagued by the myths and archetypes of the always insipid but effective Eurocentrism. The temptation to baptize our misery as mythological is masterfully answered by Raquel Salas Rivera, whose poetic makes use of all those voices, our voices, sometimes epic, playful, scathing or rendered simple beauty or just the good argument of an honest intelligence and the steadfast forcefulness of the politically just.”
—Luis Negrón, author of Mundo Cruel
“While everyday language seems to be a string of dispossessions and exclusions, with unnamed pending causes, here the words spoken between people are almost international treaties: subjects placed somewhere so they can say what they say and much more. . . . Almost nothing belongs to us, but imagination is always ours. We are insularly sufficient. Although at times it inhabits islands like ruins, Raquel’s poetry is always a projection towards luminous possibility, generous with himself and others.”
—Yolanda Segura, author of serie de circunstancias posibles en torno a una mujer mexicana de clase trabajadora