Matria, Black Lawrence Press, 2017. Winner of the St. Lawrence Book Award.
Available through Small Press Distribution and Amazon.
Regalado’s elegant debut, MATRIA, introduces us to a world where “leaf-cutter ants…could easily strip the lime sapling bare in the course of one summer night.” These poems are so attuned to the intricacies of violence and desire, the pulse and rhythms of bringing new life into this world, and the cleaving that follows. I’m so grateful to hear this brave and beautiful new voice, a mighty force be reckoned with—one who promises us, “Yes, I will be the hunter, I will start/ fires…their faces will pale in my darkness.”
Reading Alexandra Regalado’s majestic first book, Matria, I stumble back through the decades searching for a poet whose debut feels as deeply realized, as richly imagined—Tracy K. Smith, Carolyn Forché, Robert Hass? There is such a surfeit of life and language in this book, which ranges geographically from Florida to El Salvador, and thematically across art and identity, class and power, motherhood and sisterhood, life and death. Matria reminds us that words will never be deterred by walls, and nothing enriches American culture more than the crossing of borders.
Truly remarkable poetry draws new connections between the emotional, physical, and psychological landscapes our lives move through. This is especially true of Matria, a stunning collection by Alexandra Lytton Regalado, who moves us among and between the intersections of motherhood and childhood, womanhood and country-hood. With arresting language full of grace and empathy, these poems dimension the fluidity and complexity of these relationships as both witness and the witnessed, mother and child, native and foreigner, in both English and Spanish.
An electrifying attentiveness to terror and to beauty animates Matria, a collection that interrogates the eternal bonds of family and the unending bloodshed in El Salvador. Vivid images and precise phrasing transform remembered and witnessed events into lyrical acts that astonish. Rain becomes ‘obsidian blades’ then a ‘rough beard’ against skin. Salvatruchas drowning another girl in Lake Coatepeque become mountains. Alexandra Lytton Regalado, like Rainer Maria Rilke, reminds us that tenderness and brutality live side-by-side. Matria is a powerful and unforgettable debut.