cover image Angel Park

Angel Park

Roberto F. Santiago. Lethe/Tincture (Ingram, dist.), $13 trade paper (106p) ISBN 978-1-59021-090-1

Santiago's debut collection reads like the hidden history of a family, full of the sort of stories normally relegated to whispers in secluded corners of gatherings%E2%80%94or stories that disappear into graves, untold or forgotten. In three sections, Santiago traces childhood through early adulthood. The poems drift close to early-1990s confessional style but are more in the vein of persona poems, though they retain a strong unified voice. In sections titled Home, Away, and FarAway, readers follow a pan-gendered person(s) as they move from a confining traditional upbringing toward personal fulfillment. An older brother runs away from home and becomes a "staged collection" for the enjoyment of older men; a high school dean refuses his Hispanic students access to an important test; a bride defiantly walks the aisle at her wedding though her family disapproves of her fianc%C3%A9. Through deceptively simple language, these anecdotes map the history of ignored and silenced people; the simple act of existing outside any normative mold becomes a sort of performance art, whether it's during a simple interaction on the subway or in imagining a secret transgender history of Queen Elizabeth I. Santiago's poetry explores queerness in all of its forms, a taste of the past on the tongue. (Apr.)