Chosen by Brenda Shaughnessy for the A. Poulin, Jr. prize, Cenzontle explores through a blend of surreal and narrative lyricism the vicissitudes of daily life, family, and love as a Mexican immigrant brought as a child to the United States.
The collection...expands across the page in lines and strophes of various lengths that initially appear as if in fragments. As the book progresses, however, the less these lines resemble fragments of erasure or censure, and the more they come more closely to resemble a network of rivers. Themes and images spring up, run underground, disappear, and then overflow elsewhere in the book ... Within Cenzontle, binary oppositions—of gender, socio-political difference, and even of human or non-human—are merely the banks between which the potential for the creative play flows, ultimately culminating in political resistance ... Cenzontle reveals a river-like flow of trauma between generations, and the ways in which we revisit our past in order to make sense of ourselves.
Castillo channels passion into elegy, ritual, lyric, song. His fervor is not man-made, but comes from centuries of suffering, loving, witnessing. There’s horror here and sadness but always muted with the elegance of a gifted writer, one who will be remembered after his time ... the poet composes as if he imagines words from another world and births them into form.
Eroticism, maternal love, paternal abuse, immigration, politics--they all find a place in Castillo's world ... Cenzontle is a rewarding, immersive experience into the mind and heart of an American immigrant who isn't afraid to sing the songs he hears--discordant and off-key as they often seem.