Chapbook

LANGUAGE IS A REVOLVER FOR TWO

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LANGUAGE IS A REVOLVER FOR TWO BY MARIO MONTALBETTI, TRANSLATED BY CLARE SULLIVAN

The bilingual chapbook Language is a Revolver for Two by Peruvian poet Mario Montalbetti, translated from the Spanish by Clare Sullivan, explores the systems of language as an economy—how language behaves through supply and demand. What exists within language’s economic bounds and what exists outside? A sardine, the need for love, the dawn coming down “orange as a ripe papaya” shattering on the pavement? Here, the study is of the ways language moves collective and the violence thereof: “my words are a knife / chilling when it enters your heart / laughing when it enters mine.” As these lines and the title suggest, the violence is throughout but it is thematic, controlled, and shared. In one poem, Montalbetti’s speaker burns nocturnal, kept awake by an anonymous no, and in another, is a pilot, smashing the poem-plane to bits while claiming: “all your poems end, / trying to express a private sentiment / in public language.” Though small, this brief collection observes the everyday and leaves us with grand questions—how does the market of language affect the quotidian, the supreme, and what escapes the system?

Ugly Duckling Presse.

—Review by Madeline Vardell

PURO AMOR

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PURO AMOR BY SANDRA CISNEROS, TRANSLATED BY LILIANA VALENZUELA

Sandra Cisneros’ bilingual chapbook, Puro Amor, features original artwork and story by Cisneros and translation by Liliana Valenzuela. The narrative centers on a quirky married couple—Mister and Missus de la Rivera—who live in a distinct house, dubbed by the townspeople, “la casa azul.” Mister works as an artist and Missus remains consumed by domestic duties. Cisneros shows that though Missus cares deeply for her husband, she feels most gratified when tending to her eclectic array of adopted animals. For crowding the empty spaces in “la casa azul” are “six hairless dogs,” “a little fawn who tap-tapped her way throughout the house like a blind woman,” “nervous tarantulas,” “lethargic iguanas,” and “a passionate, possessive macaw,” all seeping their way into every aspect of Missus’ life.

Puro Amor explores perspective dually, giving readers both an intimate view of the protagonist’s daily life and the perspective of the townspeople looking in. The townspeople have distinct opinions and a strong perspective. They chime in with dubious comments, “what a lot of trouble and work,” in reference to the extremes that Missus undertakes in order to care for her animals and partner. The fluctuating perspective grants readers the simultaneous participation in the familiarity of the Missus’ chores, and the outside criticism of the townspeople—a juxtaposition that gives room for Cisneros to be both silly and reverent in her exploration of the inherent arduousness of partnership, and ultimately to show that animals do give the purest love.

Sarabande Books.

—Review by Karstin Hale

THE ICELANDIC CURE

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THE ICELANDIC CURE, BY J.D. MOYER

In J.D. Moyer’s The Icelandic Cure, Jane Tokugawa is the lead scientist sent to investigate whether new genetic therapy treatments in Iceland risk inciting a global epidemic. Each chapter reads as one of Jane’s journal entries, detailing her suspicions and discoveries about the truth of the Icelandic medical advancements, as well as her own government’s interests. The chapbook prioritizes a well-paced plot and subtext-laden dialogue over description, including atmospheric details that would have solidified the setting. The nuances of characterization are successful in rendering believable Icelanders and motivationally complicated Americans.

The primary impetus for Moyer’s chapbook is the morally ambiguous matter of genetic engineering, which should haunt any advancing medical establishment. Moyer’s research into neurology and gene therapy gives Jane a credible persona. Her intellectual progress as she unearths fragments of the mystery is lovingly tied to the ever-greater—and ever more crucial—questions of self-determination. While Moyer presents Jane with an emotional arc that is somewhat threadbare, this minimalism leaves ample space for all the ethical discussions which form the heart of his story. Jane writes, “Who wouldn’t fix a genetic flaw or two if they could?” Beyond the human desire for personal improvement, the consequences of this technology involve systemic corruption and the preservation of our right to choose.

Omnidawn.