Unpeopled Eden

paper • 84 pages • 15.95
ISBN-13: 978-1-935536-36-9

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Unpeopled Eden by Rigoberto González is the winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, the 26th Annual Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, and was a finalist for the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry from the Publishing Triangle. 

Unpeopled Eden

Rigoberto González

Unpeopled Eden opens in Mictlán, the region of the dead in Aztec mythology, inviting us down into a world where “the men are never coming home” and “rows of ghosts come forth to sing.” Haunted by border crossers and forgotten deportees, lost brothers and sons, González unearths the beautiful and musical amidst the grotesque. These mournful, mystical poems are themselves artifact, a cry for remembrance “for those whose / patron saints are longing and despair.”

Listen to Recording of Rigoberto Gonzalez read for the Library of Congress

About the Author


  • “In Unpeopled Eden, Rigoberto González traces the border-crosser warriors who float underground in the realm of Mictlán, the northern Aztec exile-space of the dead. Yet this is not cultural archeology or language experiment. Here we enter under the skin and inside the bone of the death village. We fall into the gnashing river where no one really dies yet is ripped out of self and stuffed into a shell of half-being: the fantastic abandonments, the strange trinities of father, mother and son, all in a nocturnal neo-Juan Rulfo plaza of ‘concussion light.’ I marvel at Rigoberto’s groundbreaking new poetics—a rare, raw, lyrical, surreal, fearless, piercing tour de force.” —Juan Felipe Herrera
  • "The latest from the energetic and versatile Gonzalez (Black Blossoms) has a tight focus with potentially a broad appeal: its four long poems look hard at the victims and the antiheroes of the U.S.–Mexico border troubles, while shorter lyric poems, a verse-letter, and sharp experiments with nonhuman personae (a talking house in 'Casa'; a Gila monster) look at other intimate, familial and political bonds. The title sequence reimagines the 1948 catastrophe made famous by Woody Guthrie’s 'Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportees),' looking at its traces on the landscape, at migration’s everyday carnage ('The lesson:/ if wounded, stay behind to die') and at wider ironies: 'The chain gang called upon to gather/ the debris sang the Prison Blues/ all afternoon.' The poems 'In the Village of Missing Fathers' and 'In the Village of Missing Sons' consider interrupted generations with unmistakable reference to current events: 'That’s life/ in the village without handsome/ men… Some say/ they journey North to waste/ their days as kitchen slaves.' Gonzalez, also a prolific critic, memoirist, and writer for the young, sets big goals here, including formal variety. He also never limits himself to one subject, working hard to let in all the readers he can." - Publishers Weekly (Oct.)
  • "Though González’s poems concern themselves with death, the underworld, forgetting, and inhumanity, this is not a collection of apocalypse. Unpeopled Eden shows us ourselves because we all seek a border, we all seek betterment." Read the full review
  • "In these moments of sheer brutality, we witness Gonzalez crafting music out of incorrigible suffering. He looks at the ugly and asks us to look again. Gonzalez caresses us, lures us to his page, points our chins to his words, and says, 'look there, I dare you to eat.'" Read the full review.
  • “In his fourth collection of poetry, Rigoberto González crafts a world contingent upon its border, demanding you to consider the space a border creates within itself, the space created outside of its bounds, and what’s left of the abandoned after one crosses over." Read the full review.
  • "In the chaos, everything is transforming into something else. This combination of hard-hitting politics and surrealist technique creates powerful poems. What makes Gonzalez such an exemplary poet is that he makes his politics and his aesthetics work in tandem." Read the full review in the Fall 2014 issue.

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