Soul Over Lightning
Gonzalez shows his profound respect for other people, species, places, elements, and histories. Illusions to religious imagery knock against those of the natural world—feathers and rocks—creating a complex tableau of objects and feelings. Employing the image-driven approach for which he is renowned, in this collection Gonzalez is taut, using poetics that are fully formed. Even as the poems weave together highly intellectual, refined subject matter, the language remains accessible.
The book is divided into three parts. The first section offers Gonzalez’s most personal work yet, meditating on aging, forgetting, and the reader. The next section is more outward looking, as Gonzalez takes on great artists from both Old World and New World traditions. Finally, in the last section, Gonzalez opens himself up, reflecting in very personal ways on the everyday, such as a return from a hospital stay or a visit to the doctor.
Soul Over Lightning weaves together elements of Native American and Chicano/a narratives, inspired by the landscape of the desert Southwest and the experience of living on the border. It offers a new supernarrative that lifts spirits and yet remains grounded in a timeless search for home and truth.
“Soul Over Lightning is a spiritual exploration of the Earth and of the human mind. It is a carving into the wood of Ray Gonzalez’s commitment to language, poetry and his roots.”—Puerto Del Sol
“There's a restraint here, a lyrical sparseness that leans toward a meditational Zen-like medicine of a high order.”—Timothy Liu, author of Bending the Mind Around the Dream's Blown Fuse
“Set largely in the desert Southwest of his birth, Soul Over Lightning builds on Ray Gonzalez’s impressive career of attention to the reciprocal relationship of people and place. For over thirty years, he’s been at the forefront of this necessary investigation, and he continues to find new and fresh insights into our most fundamental and true selves. These poems range across artistic and personal touchstones; Rodin and Dalí share the endeavor with Man Ray and Charles Mingus, lyric turns to prose and back, and everywhere meaning comes as a solitary arrival, with ‘the coiled earth climbing into your heart / to welcome you home.’”—John Gallaher, author of In a Landscape
“In Soul Over Lightning, Ray Gonzalez reveals his unique genius for inhabiting the world of myth and symbol, so completely that words like ‘myth’ and ‘symbol’ start to feel extraneous. I mean that these are poems of the highest intensity, poems in which a lyric speaker both mourns and praises, but always balances deep feeling with expertly artful lines and sentences. ‘Let us imagine our hands reach,’ reads the first line of Gonzalez’s title poem, and that line holds true: again and again, this poet leads his reader into new and powerful depths of thought and feeling, terrain that proves both originally imagined and startlingly real. Ray Gonzalez remains a major poet, and this is his best book.”—Peter Campion, author of El Dorado
“This is a contemplative collection of poetry, a delving into the sacred, spiritual aspects and ideas of who we are.”—Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Mañana Means Heaven