The 2011 recipient of the Yale Series of Younger Poets award, Corral braids English and Spanish in poems that hurtle across literary and linguistic borders toward a lyricism that slows down experience. He employs a range of forms and phrasing, bringing the vivid particulars of his experiences as a Chicano and gay man to the page.
Elliptically narrative, imagistic, musical, and fabular, the poems in Corral’s debut poetry collection, Slow Lightning, explore the shadowy borderlands of both gay and Chicano identity while adapting and altering aspects of magical realism ... When describing the manner in which Corral’s imagination defies verisimilitude, one’s tempted to conjure the striking amalgamations of the marvelous and mundane in the unrealities of Borges or García Márquez. Corral, however, subverts even as he honors his folksy incarnations of magical realism by confronting the political realities sometimes absent in the genre. His poems consistently reveal the nightmarish subjugation and manifold experiences of illegal refugees within his most enigmatic fantasias ... Corral’s fantastical transformations often seem realistic depictions of desire. The self, he also suggests, is always engaged in the process of transition.
By any standard, Slow Lightning is an impressive debut, a gathering of powerful and often defiant poems that are paradoxically realized through formal control ... Nowhere are raw energy and aesthetic refinement juxtaposed more effectively than in 'Border Triptych,' three sonnets connected by theme ... Humorous, horrifying, understated and resistant, the entire three-part poem should be required reading in high schools across the country ... Titles—like borders and poetic forms—are hierarchical constructs that shape and inform our understanding of reality. Throughout Slow Lightning, Corral delights in exploiting such constructs to counter traditional narratives. He could have come crashing through the gates, but Corral’s resistance is slyer and arguably more effective.
Submission is a complicated pleasure, and Corral’s attention to that complication is one of the defining pleasures of this collection. If, as the philosopher Simone Weil suggests, 'attention is form of prayer,' then Corral’s poems are prayers investigating the divine as inextricable from sexuality, which is inextricable from hunger ... Corral asserts his place among poets via direct address or acknowledgement of influence, especially towards Robert Hayden, whose hand is seen throughout the collection. Chicano, Latino, and Mexican visual artists ranging from Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Gabriel Orozco to Frida Kahlo are honored through specific ekphrastic poems, and an aesthetic of surreal dream-like environs carries throughout the collection ... Corral is a poet with a painter’s eye. Perhaps this eye is what serves and inspires his lyric deftness and his ability to take risks with form and explore the physical possibilities of language ... a book of unflinching and graceful testimony.