6 x 9, 80 pp.
ISBN 978-1-882688-34-0 / $13.95
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With his latest collection of poems entitled American Jesus, poet Richard Vargas continues to explore the same themes and concerns from his first book, McLife--the spectrum of three high and low points in a Chicano man’s existence. The poems are candid and, at times, brutally honest. Relationships, sex, politics, religion, and the mundane reality of work are presented in the belief that poetry and art in general can establish a common ground between us while maintaining our individual identity and personal validity.
American Jesus veers into a more prevalent political awareness only hinted at in the previous collection. The poet assumes a voice of dissent at a time when popular opinion considers such a stance to be unpatriotic. Vargas had handed out copies of his poems to strangers on the street, tacked them on community bulletin boards, and launched them into the Internet. Many of the anti-war poems in this book were printed and taped to the windows of his apartment, in plain view for his neighbors and anyone else to read. To Vargas, the majority of these people sat still as they appeared to be manipulated by government lies and deception. Seemingly swayed by corporate-owned media, many of them slapped yellow ribbon magnets on the backsides of their SUVs.
American Jesus is also a response to Laura Bush’s closing the doors to poets (who had been invited to the White House for a celebration of the works of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Langston Hughes) when she realized they would be voicing opposition to President Bush’s "Shock & Awe' war plans. While some poets often refuse to be political in their work (and thus unwittingly end up making a political statement), Vargas asks, "If not now, when?" American Jesus is a plea to look within ourselves and find the strength to break through the walls of fear and ignorance which we have allowed to be built around us.
Praise for Richard Vargas’s McLife:
"If I had not followed Richard’s poetic development over so many years, I would be stunned by the scope of recollection, the maturity of reflection, and the mastery of idiom in these poems. Now, thinking back to how talented he was even at the start, I realize I should not even be surprised at what he has achieved here." --Gerald Locklin, author of The Life Force Poems, The Firebird Poems, and Charles Bukowski: A Sure Bet
"Richard Vargas is single-handedly re-energizing contemporary poetry and the American vernacular. The poems in this collection rock with zesty word-pyrotechniques, stylistic somersaults, and an amazing penchant for cultural iconography that will make you into an instant fan of his work. If you are thinking of giving the gift of poetry to your friends and family, this is the book you want to give them." --Virgil Suarez, author of Spared Angels: Memories of a Cuban American Childhood