Levi Romero is the New Mexico Centennial Poet.  This means he is making a lot of presentations.  One of them was at NMSU in Las Cruces recently.  He read from his collection, <i>A Poetry of Remembrance: New and Rejected Works</i>.

A poet who is willing to subtitle a collection “New and Rejected Works” certainly gets my attention.  It turns out this subtitle is also the title for a poem, which is placed as part of a section on lowriding, the passion of the young men Romero grew up with in Northern New Mexico.  Many of the poems describe the world of Romero’s youth, others focus on family and on community that hasn’t disappeared but is at risk.  The second and last poems in the book describe Romero’s visits to his mother in a nursing home; both are about telling stories, listening to stories and passing them on.

Some of the poems are in Spanish, and some mingle Spanish and English.  My bit of Spanish could get many of the pieces, but not the whole poems.  In his presentation Romero explained that he uses the mixed dialect of his northern New Mexico region.

August and fall seem to predominate in these poems, suggesting all that is passing or has passed as Romero moves into his own elder years.  He is well aware of the unreliability of stories also, as indicated in this section from “Most Skin Hits Road”:

our own histories
who we are
where we come from

could be reinvented
in the next sentence uttered
the next clever line spoken
the next interjection of humor and
sincere display of pleasantries
masking over the face of a new persona

and further answers to all possible questions
made more believable
than the reality of our own true selves
our leaking faucets, ragged lawns
oil stained driveways, two nights of dinner dishes . . .

Romero makes the reader welcome in his story-filled, ambiguous and basically cheerful world.  I recommend this book as an introduction both to an unusual subculture and to a writer who accepts and honors the layers of complexity in contemporary life.

Poems describing more of the many cultures and landscapes of New Mexico can be found at http://200newmexicopoems.wordpress.com/

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