05 February 2011

Ana Castillo

In the hands of a poet, what is merely code-switching for linguists becomes a singular poetic code.  Here is a discussion of the way Ana Castillo lifts Spanglish from a "mixed" language to a "pure" poetic one:

"Of Castillo's poetry collection I Ask the Impossible, John Stoehr observed in CityBeat online that the author 'breaks the mono-linguistic rule by writing a Chicana-brand of poetry in both Spanish and English, effortlessly intermingling the Latinate and Germanic languages, often breeding them into an intriguing hybrid. But it's not Spanglish --it's something more lyrical and thus more poetic.' Geeta Sharma Jensen, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, dubbed it 'a work that celebrates a woman's strength and reminds people of social justice.' Noting that Castillo 'wrote these poems between 1989 and 2000,' Jensen quoted the book's introduction: 'They are meditations, odes, stiletto stammers. . . . They are the musings of a big-city gal and the prayers of a solitary woman who can feel equally at home in the desert or rancho.' Stoehr characterized the verses as 'irreverent, witty, passionate and intensely political,' and added that 'much of I Ask the Impossible is like hearing the voice of Carl Sandburg if he'd had a Mexican accent. Though Castillo would chafe at the comparison, she can hardly deny the similarities, especially in her homage to her hometown, "Chi-Town Born and Bred, Twentieth-Century Girl Propelled with Flare into the Third Millen-nium."' He continued: 'Beyond the Sandburgian free flow, Castillo brings to the fore her own unique voice, rife with the pain of ethnic life in the United States, the joys of a rich and diverse Mexican-American past and the struggles of her Chicana present. . . . [She is a] writer . . . who's likely to continue to fight the good fight and to break the rules for years to come.'"

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