Like an epic poem, Rafael Jesús González's "La musa lunática/The Lunatic Muse" (Pandemonium Press) explores the night's light in its fullness, blueness and spaciousness.
González has collected 26 verses of lunar obsession that start with Christmas in El Paso and lead readers over steeples in Cambridge.
A veteran Chicano poet, González attended El Paso High School before joining Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso), where he was a member of the literary scene of the late 1950s with the likes of Abelardo Delgado, Arden Tice and Robert Burlingame. He edited "Desert Gold: An anthology of Texas Western College Verse" (1964) before moving to California's Bay area and becoming part of that literary scene.
The new volume is filled with verse and narrative poems. González opens up with his lunar obsession in "Lunatic Obsession":
In the desert around Cd. Juárez/El Paso where I was born, since a child I knew the moon to be, not the mother, but certainly the godmother of my soul . . . Much as I would have liked to believe, the moon was not mine alone; everyone loved her, and she kept appearing not only in the sky, but in the lines of the poems my father and mother read to me.
In "Thieving Moon," the poet writes of crime committed, crime that one loves to love, committed at night while one is in sleep:The full moon peering
through my window
has scattered sleep,
She strikes from the crystals
sparks of colors
full of absence).
Were she not so lovely
I would call the police
for this thief of dreams.
It would seem that readers might grow tired of poems on a solo theme, but González's mastery of the verse enraptures. He writes in Spanish and English -- sometimes marrying the two in a single work, a single sentence. In "La musa lunática/The Lunatic Muse," he also includes Spanish and English versions for each poem. González best excels in his Spanish verse, an idiom in modern Chicano Literature now near extinction.
González has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize. In June 2007, he was honored for excellence in poetry at the 20th World Congress of Poets.
After reading "La musa lunática/The Lunatic Muse," readers will look up at the night sky, never to see the moon the same again. Every full moon's night, Rafael Jesús González' verse will certainly ring in our ears: "Sometimes the full moon / is so cold that is seems / not to deserve being so beautiful."
Raymundo Elí Rojas is the editor of the Pluma Fronteriza newsletter, which highlights El Paso's Chicano literary scene. He also edits Libros, Libros: New Books in Chicano/Latino Letters and the Pluma Fronteriza Blog, plumafronteriza.blogspot.com. Both focus on Chicano Literature.