Trinidad Sánchez, Jr

Angels & Monsters
On The Poetry Of Radames Ortiz

Radames Ortiz has exhibited his genius as editor of the Bayou Review. This is not an easy job, but he seems to have the special skills that editors need in bringing together the poetry of other excellent poets. He has done this in the Springtime of his life.

In Angels & Monsters, he has exhibited another part of this genius in pulling together his own writing. Radames opens up this collection in the "Alleys", and continues the journey through "When the Rain Falls, after the flood disaster in Houston 6/07/01" as if to move from his back yard to a greater awareness of the city and society.

The poems that are part of that journey are delightful and human. "Saturday Night", "For Eloy Garza", poems about friendship. "Montgomery Ward Blues, "Night Cruising" are poems about the movement toward adulthood. "Domingo Boxeo," "Working Bone" are about familia. They are strong, sensitive poems full of corazán.

Radames Ortiz is the founder and current editor for "Coyote Magazine: Bringing Literature and Art Across Borders" and past editor of the "Bayou Review," the literary journal for the University of Houston Downtown. His work has appeared in many print and online journals including, "Exquisite Corpse," "The Missouri Review," "Gulf Coast," "The San Antonio Current," and "The Mesquite Review." His awards include the Fabian Worsham award for Poetry, the Meagera award for Poetry, and Holcomb award for Poetry. He was recently awarded a fellowship from the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets at Bucknell University and a full scholarship from "Voices Writing Workshop" at the University of San Francisco. He has studied with poet Quincy Troupe and writer Junot Diaz. Of his work, Naomi Shihab Nye wrote, "his poems feel immediately vibrant, edgy, full-of-breath-and motion and real authentic life." Eclectica Magazine wrote, "Radames' poems are sensually brilliant, without pretension, reminiscent of Jack Kerouac."

From his latest chapbook of poems, Angels & Monsters with a foreword by Junot Diaz, comes this poem:


Black prostitute with
genitals green as
Cuban coca leaves
teaches me the frozen
love of women.
In downtown freight yards,
we talk about Grandpa Willie
who hocks his medal from Vietnam
for beef jerky & Iron Eagle.
About lil' Ray, an old pimp,
who cooks hamhocks & green
beans in a sunless kitchen.
Gumbo heat covers her words
like moths untouched by light.
I cling to this fragile voice,
to these worn-out tits
& become historian
of Caribbean sunsets,
of Baton Rouge voodoo.
In streets we dream
toward Memphis gold
where African stories are
written on plastic milk crates,
where the sun dyes
the skin a darker brown.
Together we become
shadows of dreamers,
untangling phone lines,
lying in loam & undergrowth
while history, stuttering forward,
leaves its trace on swivels
of bone & flesh.

More tender, perhaps, is this offering:

Working Bone

On plush couch, I dream
of you, 6yr. old daughter,
scribbler of red & blue lines
on construction paper, creator
of pet rocks with jiggling eyes,
a bushy tail, a pink straw
for a Sunday hat.
Mama-café baby-sits you
more often than she should
while I work 40 hrs a week,
take night classes, write notes
on the origin of purple
crystals on crust of rocks.
I come home each night, sour
from flame of sun, obscene
from cubicle cage. Against
moonlight, the skyscrapers
along the 610 freeway, echo
a crumbling of icy sounds,
of loneliness cracking in
a crush of dead leaves.
Shame spread across dinner table.
Tears in place of napkins. I fail
to sculpt a life smooth, clean
like chessboard marble, a life
unknown to few like a song
surging from the bottom of
an empty barrel-a drumbeat
stumbling over fallen logs & rubber tires.
I know you need me, to comb
tangles from your wild hair, to pull wool
cover over your brown loyal eyes,
to stroke your tiny hands
& whisper night monsters away.
But remember, day after day,
poem after poem, I work towards
a life disembodied in sheer blaze
of dazzling lightwaves, a life decent
for you, for me, for us.

That a number of these poems have been selected for publication in other journals, is an indication of the universality of the poems.

Radames has proven to be part of the new school of writers from different parts of Texas, who seem to share one thing in common, their Tejano roots and their commitment in producing good writing.

Raquel Valle Senties, Jesse G. Herrera, of Laredo, and David Rice, Xavier Garza, Erasmo Guerra, Luis Valderas from "El Valle de Tejas", Francis Trevino and Diane Gonzalez Bertrand of San Antonio are a few names whose writings are rooted in the Lone Star State. They are very much a part of the new canon of writers being recognized for their excellence.

For someone who has reached the early autumn of his life, I sometimes look back to see who will continue the work that I and others of my era have begun and it pleases me to know that Radames Ortiz and the others mentioned are the ones who will take our place, after we cross over.

Angels & Monsters, te llega a los huesos, y al mero corazán. He will have a great future ahead if he continues the excellence that he has achieved in this collection.

Trinidad Sanchez, Jr. is author of Why Am I So Brown? MARCH/Abrazo Press, Chicago, Illinois and Poems by Father and Son, Trinidad Sanchez, Jr. & Trinidad V. Sanchez, Pecan Grove Press, St. Mary's University, San Antonio, Texas. He lives in Denver with his wife Regina and works full time at Family Star Early Head Start. He continues to be active in the Denver Literary community and travel, lecturing at Universities and colleges around the country. He can be reached at <> and has a website:
<> 3480 Grape Street, Denver, CO 80207


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