EXTRANJERA by Loin Haskins


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The seventh book of poems by a previous Iowa prizewinner (Hunger, 1996) comes with a glossary of Spanish words appended, which isn't really necessary since Haskins relies on a Hemingwayesque vocabulary that most readers would readily recognize (e.g., ""cerveza,"" ""canciones,"" ""queso""), but that's typical of Haskins's strained seriousness. After all, she's an ""extranjera"" in Mexico who's ashamed of her foreignness (""the soft white foreigner"") but who mocks other foreigners for paying too much to street vendors. After her Molly Bloomish decision to visit (""this time I say Yes. Yes I am/willing now. Yes foreign is a word/for fear. Yes I am coming home.""), the poet provides a travelogue of sights and scenes: an old guitarist playing for drinks; a man cleaning fish; a newly widowed woman; a child mourning a sibling lost to ""sick water."" Haskins's Mexico is volatile hombres and voluptuous women and lots of bright colors. Her kitsch catalogue is matched by such banal observations as: they ""celebrate that life is short,"" and their coffee comes in small cups. An attempt at Forche-like authenticity, Haskins's poems never even fully explore the ambiguities of her title, except to repeat the idiomatically odd lines ""It is afraid/staying in a language where you/were not born.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1998
Page count: 80pp
Publisher: Story Line