“Some men find nothing, and others / find omens everywhere,” writes C. Dale Young in Prometeo, a collection whose speaker is a proverbial “child of fire.” In poems that thrive off of their distinct voice, the speaker confronts generational and lived trauma and their relationship to his multi-ethnicity. We are presented with the idea of the past’s burial in the body and its constellatory manifestations—both in the speaker and those around him—in disease and pain, but also in strength and a capacity for intimacy with others and nature. Grounded in precise language, Young’s examination of the past and its injuries turns into a celebration of the self. In stark, exuberant relief, the speaker proclaims “…I was splendidly blended, genetically engineered / for survival.” Resilient, Young’s poems find beauty in landscape, science, and meditation.
Deep in the fields, the greenish stalks were twice
my height, a forest for one who had not seen
the likes of oaks or birches. Sugar’s vice
hung in the air, its sweetness somewhere between
a pastry and decay. In memory, the cane
opened its arms allowing a boy to escape.
But memory lies so well, the fields of cane
as much a trap as any means of escape.
Too young to wield a machete, far too young,
I vanished down the endless rows of cane,
my mother screaming out for me to stop.
The yard hands hacked out space to plant the young.
For them, what safety there among the cane.
For me, it’s where I learned to beg a man to stop.
Heartbreaking and beautiful is Prometeo, a book so eloquent the heart stops but refuses to stop reading. These are glorious poems in memoriam for friends, family members, patients. ‘I have written too many elegies,’ the poet says, ‘the living have become jealous of the amount I have written for the dead.’ Indeed, fellow poets must be jealous of this book’s fearless spirit, of its music. I have been reading these poems of sorrow and eloquence non-stop for days now. Their lyric impulse is inimitable.
At once concerned with personal and generational history, Prometeo is a book of gorgeously-wrought poems that unveils deeply human truths. Young’s unparalleled gifts for formal constraints and sound-driven language remind us that beauty is found in all things and that despite the wounds, language can serve as a lighthouse guiding us, again and again, back to love.
Prometeo operates as an opera of poems, singing of our ongoing struggle both with those we love and with the struggle to find love from within for ourselves. C. Dale Young writes with the unvarnished voice we use when we speak freely to those we trust. Not only from its candor but also from its music, a truth springs from these pages that will catch you off guard. In a world filled with platitudes, I’m grateful for these poems, which hold no small talk. It’s rare these days that I’m moved to tears while reading a collection of poems; a part of me often feels like I’ve heard it all before, but these poems broke me down.
…Young powerfully maneuvers through complex issues of multiethnicity and heritage in direct poetic language, inviting readers to immerse themselves in the many truths his collection reveals.