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"I can no more describe love," writes Demetria Martínez, "than mystics can light."
Don't believe it for a minute. In this collection of fifty-three poems, the author of the award-winning novel Mother Tongue explores the themes that have long characterized her writing: the creative and destructive powers of romantic love, the failure of political systems, the spiritual life, and the need to forgive oneself in order to move on with the work of transformation, both social and personal. Through poems that confront mortality even as they demand social justice, Martínez writes of surviving in a culture where traditional values often get lost in the complexities of everyday life. Of nurturing relationships with nieces, nephews, and parents while pondering questions of life and death, love and loss. Of caring for one's own body when "each cough is an underground nuclear explosion, / Unraveling your body’s hard-won peace accord." Martínez cauterizes old wounds inflicted by various agents: death, political repression, betrayal, and of course failed romance: "Don’t bother, I did it / First. Broke my own / Damn heart." Here are "kernels of loneliness too stubborn to grind / Down to blue meal," and the struggle for a renewed sense of self as middle age approaches:
At this age you touch what little sanctity you can muster.
The yearning burns to do more, to do more by hand.
To thread your very life through a needle's eye.
Martínez serves up a heady blend of political and sensual imagery. Her keen observations and compassionate voice lead the reader on a journey of self-exploration, of coping with life's mundanities as well as its heartaches: "I could use a loving word, / A loaf of bread, a rose, / Help with the laundry." Through her unquenchable passion for life, Demetria Martínez leaves the devil’s workshop and brings us closer to an understanding of what is real.
About the Author
Demetria Martínez is the author of the novel Mother Tongue, which won the 1994 Western States Book Award for fiction. She writes a national monthly column for the National Catholic Reporter and is involved in the Arizona Border Rights Project, which documents abuses by the U.S. Border Patrol. She lives in Tucson.
"A courageous and heartbreaking collection . . . Martinez simultaneously bares her soul and applies her intelligence to poems overflowing with original imagery." —Albuquerque Journal
"[Martinez] demonstrates once again that she can write rich and accessible poetry for a broad audience." —hispaniconline.com
"The poems in The Devil's Workshop speak of both moments of perception, the here and now, and of a longer view. The forces of history and identity are here, but so are the themes of individual suffering and awakening. . . . Martinez's voice is authentic and very much her own—and her poems are a pleasure to read." —Santa Fe New Mexican
"The poems are carried by their authenticity into the world, as a river current might carry a boulder downstream; you believe what the poems say because you can trust the journey the poet has undertaken and because nothing is out of place. . . . The quality of writing in this collection is consistently both imaginative and truthful: a rare find in poetry these days." —Southwest Book Views
"Martinez is one of the strong and original voices in contemporary Southwestern literature, and her new book is an expression of both her vision and heart." —New Mexico Magazine
“Her poems are explosively passionate, with fiery surprising metaphors…Martínez has smelted the sexual and the sociocultural into a pure annealing joy.” —North American Review