Cardinal in My Window with a Mask on Its Beak

Carlos Aguasaco (Author)
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Cardinal in My Window with a Mask on Its Beak takes readers on a journey through poetic portraits, exploring the lives of passionate social justice advocates and historical migrants such as Ota Benga, Sarah Baartman, Isidro Marcelino Orbés, César Vallejo, and Gertrude Stein, among others. Raw and unapologetic, the poems in this bilingual collection ask readers to question their role in today’s society. The verses press the reader to examine what it means to have social justice in our globalized world, as Aguasaco confronts how society treats the Other—be that the immigrant, the Indigenous person, or anyone who embodies Otherness.

A first-generation immigrant to the United States, Aguasaco embraces his transborder/transnational/intercultural identity by building a bridge across time and distance to unite the great voices of the Renaissance with his lyrical poems. The collection offers bold and fascinating dialogue with Spanish authors such as Juan Boscán, Francisco de Quevedo, Garcilaso de la Vega, and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. The poems examine the fundamental liberties inherent to humanity through stunning verse. In a quest for freedom, the poems openly criticize the treatment of immigrants in the United States, drawing poignant parallels with human rights abuses throughout history.

Cardinal in My Window with a Mask on Its Beak brings potent voices of the past to life in poems that critically examine the present and future of the human experience.
"Let us salute Carlos Aguasaco’s Cardinal and the flight it takes, the incredible figures that appear through the windows, streets and the time-space crossings it breaks. To date, there is no book of such dimensions and condor expanse—from the Nezahualcoyotl, Mexica Prince of Texcoco, Mexico in the 1400’s who sings of a singular moment where life is a fragment of beauty and celebration to an abrupt tangle with Nicanor Parra. We become the Papagayo, poet-parrot with headdress on an enormous head, we become the jester and the clown, the condor and the ragged disfigured clanking sad shadow of memory, exile and revolution. Perhaps it is better to go to the movies, remember Chaplin and his antics, remember Gertrude Stein and her mobius logic and Cesar Vallejo and his imprisonment throwing left hooks at each other? This text is the place, the theatre, the circus tent, the battle ring, the street museum where we witness giants,  estrangements and realignments, the 'beautiful monstrosity.' Each poem attests to this with its shifting pillars, lenses, voices, holes, shards, tables, minds and embraces. A searing tour de force, a giant multi-tongue mouth gobbling you into a Peru you could have known, you could have lived, when America was one. Bravissimo, first of its kind! Rathbun’s translation follows the magic and touches the complex colors, languages and alternating and interpenetrating dimensions of each poem. Superb!"—Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. Poet Laureate emeritus

Cardinal in My Window with a Mask on Its Beak takes the reader on a journey through the surreal and the melancholic to inventive scenarios like an encounter between Stein and Vallejo going to the movies, to the heartbreaking stories of sideshow attractions where bodies are stripped of their humanity. Yet this book reaches beyond surprising premises and literary inspirations to arrive at a place where the poet also finds wonder in everyday encounters and solace in the sobering knowledge that everything comes to an end, but not before dispelling its magic upon the world: like that red bird mirroring the masked face during the pandemic, like the arresting language of the poet that will eventually succumb to silence. Each poem in this exquisite collection brings a startling (and necessary) revelation about our aches, follies, and mortality to light.”—Rigoberto González, from the 2021 Ambroggio Prize citation

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