Poemas of pain, loss, and the sequestration of experience after Hurricane María

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO-- Two years after Hurricane María devastated the island of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rican poet Elidio La Torre Lagares releases Wonderful Wasteland and other natural disasters (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2019) a collection of poems that ponder on material loss, death, and personal struggle during and after the tragic event.

Drawing from both American and Latin American poetry, as well as global influences, the book articulates a language of loss and devastation in the reconciliation of identities. This collection illuminates a chaotic and confusing landscape that is not only physical but also cultural, social, and political.

On September 20, 2017, Puerto Rico faced the wrath of one of the worst storms in the history of the Caribbean: Hurricane María. More than 4,000 American citizens perished due to the direct effects of the hurricane or under the conditions generated by the storm. Scarcity of food, water, and hope, added to the delay of rescue efforts and humanitarian aid. La Torre’s book amplifies transformation from the personal to the social during this period.

“I began writing these poems as a form of catharsis, as a depuration of emotions and feelings,” La Torre Lagares has said. “The poems try to cope with disaster reality and the sequestration of this traumatic experience. All we had left after the hurricane was a wasteland and the will to survive.”

Taken together, Wonderful Wasteland serves as a stirring reminder of the dislocation and fractured attachment that speaks to many Americans, including transnationals and immigrants. Ultimately it speaks to coping with physical loss and emotional pain in the face of human adversity.

La Torre Lagares is a Puerto Rican poet who endured the lavishing conditions in the aftermath of the hurricane, a time when he also lost his father. He has published several poetry books in Spanish, and a novel titled Correr tras el viento (Terranova, 2011) and is currently working on the release of his novel The Gravity of Loss. Wonderful Wasteland is his first collection of poems written in English.


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