Too often poetry can seem an inaccessible medium for the casual reader. Within the layers of poetry, a person unfamiliar with the style could feel alienated, even belittled by the writer. My Name Is Romero avoids this trap, providing an accessible experience with conversational, fast-paced, and intimate lines reminiscent of spoken word poetry. If not for the ink on the page, a reader could forget they are reading poetry and not listening to a friend speak of their experiences as a Mexican-American. The movement of the poetry tears down barriers between the colloquial and the literary. Speaking in a deeply authentic mode, the poems work best as an immersion into history and family.
My Name Is Romero opens with self-exploration and progresses into a dance between culture and language, the self and history. Poems flank each other: one spitting and unflinching in anger and emotion surrounding systemic racism, the other about burritos. This juxtaposition heightens both poems to incredible intensity. The most memorable poems employ longer lines, allow prolonged metaphor, and weave English and Spanish together for sonic and thematic effect. The largest criticism is not the content, as the over arching story is both vibrant and engaging, but of some stylistic features. Where the poems excel are in their unhurried examination of personal identity through metaphor, especially interweaving imagery of cultural foods while setting the dueling languages of English and Spanish free to play. However, the book leaves these poignant methods to address Donald Trump, racism, and other complex topics head-on, which minimizes the poetic attributes of those specific pieces. Conversely, this potentially contributes to the book’s accessibility for new readers, as these poems are light in poetic device and so are more immediately understood. The experience is well suited to a casual reader, or a person seeking to educate themselves on the complexities of identity in the United States. This holds especially true with the conversational tone held throughout, as this book serves to engage and befriend the reader, while educating on broad historical and personal topics.
There is much to enjoy in My Name Is Romero. The broader story spits vibrant anger as it exposes systemic, historical, and interpersonal racism. Yet, it speaks of love, hardship, all with a spark of humour. The final poems strike an emotional chord, a conclusion to a story between friends. The intimacy and readability of Romero’s book remains a valuable expansion of Latinx art and history.
Review by Kat Heger
David A. Romero’s “My Name is Romero” is available from FlowerSong Press.