Review – Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States edited by Lori M Carlson

cool salsa“God wants you to understand… brown
is not a color… it is:
a state of being a very human texture
alive and full of song, celebrating –
dancing to the new world
which is for everyone…”

“Why Am I So Brown?” by Trinidad Sánchez, Jr.

This book was featured in the teen non-fiction section of my library and I decided that I wanted to check it out.  I’m really glad I did, because it is an excellent collection of bilingual and translated poetry by many authors that you will recognize and by some new ones.  Each poem, unless it was originally written bilingually, has been translated either into Spanish or English, depending on which language it was written in first.  Many of the poems, however, are bilingual and include words from both languages.  Those were most definitely my favorites.

Fortunately, I am able to read both the English and Spanish.  I always read the original language first and then the translation, though in this book the English poem was always published first.  Even if you don’t know Spanish, you can read and enjoy this collection.  For the bilingual poems, there is a glossary in the back.  I loved this!

Some well-known authors you will find here are Sandra Cisneros, Sandra M. Castillo & Martín Espada.  There are some new authors in here for me; this book serves as a great introduction to Latino American poetry.

Here are my two of my favorite poems from the collection:

Why Do Men Wear Earrings on One Ear? by Trinidad Sánchez, Jr

Sepa yo!
Maybe por costumbre, maybe porque es la moda
or they have made promesas, maybe for some vieja
for cosmetics or because some women love it
because they were on sale
because they are egocentric cabrones y buscan la atención
because la chica selling them was sooooo mamacita
and they could not refuse
maybe to tell you they are free, innovative, avant-garde
and liberated, maybe because of the full moon
because one earring is cheaper than two
maybe to keep the women guessing
and the men on their toes
maybe they are gay caballeros
maybe as a reminder de algo que querían olvidar –
like the last time they had sex or to be sexy-looking
maybe they are sexually confused
maybe to let you know they are very easily sexually aroused
maybe to separate themselves from los más machos
maybe they are poets, writers
y la literatura is their thing!

Why do men wear earrings on one ear?
Sepa yo! Maybe baby…
they are reincarnated pirutos of yesteryear
maybe they lost the other one
maybe they are looking for someone good at cooking
maybe it makes them look like something is cooking
maybe to send signals – the left ear is right
and the right ear is wrong
maybe it depends on which coast you are on.

Why do men wear earrings on one ear?
Who knows… maybe it looks much better
than the nose, the toes
maybe to remind others which ear is deaf
maybe to distinguish them from those who don’t
and those who won’t,
maybe to separate them from the women
maybe because as some women say:
men can only do things half right
maybe to be imitators of the superior sex – halfway
maybe they are undercover policía trying to be real cool
maybe they are Republicans trying to be
progressively liberal
maybe they are Democrats disguising their conservatism
or leftists telling you they are in the right party
or revolutionaries looking for peace – P E A C E!

Maybe they are undecided
maybe to be cute
maybe because life is short.

Why do men wear earrings on one ear?
Sepa yo!


Día de los muertos by Abelardo B. Delgado

Renacen los huertos,
también los muertos.
El día de los muertos
por siete minutos
podemos platicar
con los seres queridos fallecidos.
I remember
tagging along
chasing my abuela
to el camposanto
to sell paper flowers
to make the somber tombs bright.
That was back in Mexico.
I was only seven years old.
Here in the US
los muertos
are personas non gratas.
Here we do not wish
to hold dialogue
with los muertos.
The remind us
we too
will eventually join them.
Here there is no luto
and there are no novenas
or puños de tierra.
Here in the US
the idea is to hide,
to ignore the dead
and to even avoid death
in our conversations.
In Mexico la muerte
is well known.
She’s la talaca, a femenine figure.
Our Puerto Rican
brothes and sisters
call her “la flaca.”
Talking with the dead is necessary
to remind ourselves
to enjoy our lives
and not go about
as if we had already died
and no one said good-bye or cried.

If I had any complaints about the book it would be that I didn’t like some of the translations.  A lot of them were exellent, especially when they were translated by the author himself or herself.  But a few of them I read and tried to raise one eyebrow (because I physically can’t).  I’m looking forward to reading the sequel!


Part of the Color Me Brown challenge.

2 thoughts on “Review – Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States edited by Lori M Carlson

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