This distinctive collection ranges from the frighteningly whimsical image of Cortés dancing gleefully around a cannon to the haunting and poignant discovery of a dead refugee boy seemingly buried within the poet herself. The blending of styles works to blur the lines between subjects, creating a textured narrative full of both imagination and nuance.
Ultimately, Empire situates individual experience in the wider social context, highlighting the power of poetry as song, performance, testimony, and witness. Addressing themes such as war, family, poverty, gender, race, and migration, Candelaria gives us a dialogue between historical and personal narratives, as well as discreet “conversations” between content and form.
“Empire is a sensuous and lucid meditation on lineage, from the haunting and mythic narratives of her ancestry to her tautly drawn memories of growing up in California. It is a book of tender and deeply imagined songs. I cannot recommend it enough.”—Cathy Park Hong, author of Translating Mo'um