Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Hoodlum Birds

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Hoodlum Birds

Article excerpt

POETRY Hoodlum Birds, by Eugene Gloria. Penguin, April 2006. $17 paper

Each of the poems in this stunning collection creates a different world in sensuous miniature, and in each, the poet negotiates between sharpest detail and broadest universality, mediating for the reader the contradiction between complex beauty and concepts elusive in their indefinable nature. Gloria's postcolonial eye lingers on images from Bilbao to Manila, Santiago to San Francisco; and against the backdrop of these shifting landscapes, his couplets and tercets, along with their literary, historical, and scholarly references, convey a concern with textuality and literary artifact. In "Female Figure (Sybil With Erasure)," the poet conflates himself with his signature: "My mark infers an absence, / its swift flowing gesture illegible."

Childhood figures and characters circulate, emerging slowly from embodied language and vignettes of familial trauma. The poems obsess over sensory remembrance, parsing, as the poet claims in "Two Blondes and a Turquoise Cadillac," "the self," "surging forward / as if to fill a void, think of the void / as history they will one day retrieve." This idea of inevitable discovery, of personal excavation, animates the textured detail and sadness of the later poems in the collection. "The Block" and "The Idea of North" articulate a desire to recover and revise the poet's own history. …

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