(post by Dylan Karlsson)
On Thursday, April 28th Eduardo Corral was invited to read as part of the Hammer’s Poetry Reading Series put on by Stephen Yenser. Capping off the yearly celebration of National Poetry Month this April, Eduardo Corral took the stage to share poems from his first collection Slow Lightning, as well as a few newer poems.
Corral opened by dedicating his reading to Chicano/Chicana poets who paved a literary pathway for him to follow, including Lorna Dee Cervantes, José Montoya, Martín Espada, Sandra Cisneros, Pat Mora, etc. He expressed his desire to wear those influences on his sleeve,
His book, Slow Lightning, which won the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 2012 is a florid and darkly imaginative work, ripe with images of an erotic and vulnerable nature. Corral displayed the breadth of his form, reading ekphrastic, persona, and portrait poems. It is no mistake these forms focus on the contents of a frame, be it in art or the self; Corral’s poetry is as obsessed with interiority as it is with the borders enclosing such secluded/exclusive places.
Exclusion and intrusion became central themes for the night, as he read several new poems taking on the perspective of a border patrol agent, finding unclaimed bodies on the Devil’s Highway. His work addressed both the danger and stigma of crossing the border, to risk one’s life in crossing the desert. Similarly a case of countering stigma, Corral read two poems with the same title, “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome,” entering into natural, yet surreal scenes accented with fauna and string instruments. In the poem, the body exists within these bordering images, at once mystical and exposed.
Coming from the Arizona city Casa Grande (pronounced “grand”), Corral exhibits his code-switching between English and Spanish as a method of displacement. As he said of his varied use of language and dialect, it is just a “different form of music” employed in the poem. Central to his generous reading style was an awareness of the social boundaries which exist for the disenfranchised, the undocumented and the stigmatized. Corral’s work opens an entry-way for those voices existing between borders, as he welcomes – with care and caution – all language, to play and intermingle.