City of a Hundred Fires – Richard Blanco


I don’t really read poetry, or at least I don’t read enough of it. I sometimes think I should strive to consume more of it, but I frequently do not enjoy enough to commit to the action. Part of it may just be inability to understand much of it, being the kind of straight-forward cretin who doesn’t particularly enjoy themes and symbolism in literature (yes, that is an option).

But I do feel a compulsion to keep trying. Stupid as it may sound, there is something of a fear of missing out that compels me to keep trying. After all, so many people enjoy the genre…

When I start reading a book, one of the first things I do is begin a page on this website, and I will make my notes for the book on here (resulting in the occasional half-formed thought making it to the final cut). Often, some of the first things I will do is put down the tags for a book. I wasn’t able to do that with this, because aside from being poetry, I had no idea what other genre and descriptor the book fit into it. Poetry seems to have all kinds of malleability in terms of its content, much more so than in the case of its form. And that may be part of my problem to, because you can’t really start critiquing something unless you understand what it is.

This book in particular seemed to be of that poetry genre (if only I had a name for it) that focused on crystalizing certain details as vividly as possible. Whether those specific details were fictitious or not seemed to be largely pointless; what mattered is that they felt like the real details of real people’s lives. More specifically, the scenes and images all orient around the Latino communities in the United States, and all the various issues and experiences lived by this community. They are certainly interesting vignettes, if that subject matter interests you.

But was good? Was it worth reading? I frankly have no idea. All knowledge is tentative and recombinant, and City of a Hundred Fires is currently being compared mentally to those few poetry books that I have read; from the exceptionally good (The works of W.H. Auden) to the exceptionally bad (Mike Doughty’s Slanky), the eclectic (Edward Dorn’s Gunslinger) and the guilty pleasure (the works of Felix Dennis)

I can with confidence say this much – this book made me feel a whole lot less hesitant to try and pick up the occasional poetry book again, and give it a whirl. Who knows, I may find something I like.

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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