On the politics of Sandra María Esteves’ Tropical Rain: A Bilingual Downpour, or politics in poetry

“Has the Puerto Rican necessity outgrown itself?

When North Americans still bomb Vieques

And Nuevayorquinos dine on Entiman’s

Not wanting to be political

Closing their eyes to slow death torture

Of Espíritu Borinquen?”

–Sandra María Esteves, Nuyoricos from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe

Sandra María Esteves’ Tropical Rain: A Bilingual Downpour is very politically charged. Well, maybe politically charged isn’t the right wording. Sandra María Esteves’ Tropical Rain: A Bilingual Downpour is very political. Okay, that doesn’t work either, but I hope that you will be able to understand what I meant to say.

Now, I am not from Puerto Rico, but there were a lot of things about Imperialism that anybody from the Caribbean could relate to in Esteves’s collection. In the quoted text, it is clear who Esteves is calling out. Esteves is calling out the rich Puertoricans in New York that don’t want to be political. She is not sugarcoating anything, she is telling exactly how she feels and she is telling you exactly who is ruining the world/culture. Vieques, Puerto Rico is an island in Puerto Rico known for being a bombing range for the United States Navy until they were made to leave in 2003 by protests. This event wasn’t important to me in 2003 because I was 8 years old, but it was important to a lot of people and you can almost hear Esteves’ anger when you read the quoted text. She is clearly sick and tired of how the United States treats Puerto Rico, and she is also tired of how Puerto Ricans let the United States treat Puerto Rico. Nuyoricos from the Nuyoricans Poets Cafe is a call to action. Esteves wants the “Nuevayorquinos [that] dine on Entiman’s” to open their fucking eyes.

So, this got me to thinking about politics in poetry. A long time ago, before my mother was born, a British dude that wrote about dictators being pigs wrote “no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”  I am a person that would call total bullshit on Orwell, but I think he might be right–at least if he’s talking about my writing. What I’ve noticed when looking back at all the poems that I have written during my college career is that almost all of them were political. Almost all of them were political in the sense that they questioned a lot of things in the world. This is what Esteves does throughout her collection. She questions everything around her and demands answers. And as cliché as it sounds, isn’t that what poets do all the time? If you say that a man’s body is chiseled like a mountain, then you are questioning the male human form and the form of a mountain. So is writing, specifically poetry, political? I don’t know. Just be honest with yourself and you will know the answers to all questions.



Thank you.

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