torch song tango choir
By Julie Sophia Paegle
(University of Arizona Press, Paperback, 9780816528646, 96pp.)
Publication Date: October 2010
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These fine poems are connected byand evokethe music of lost homelands. Paegle, the daughter of immigrants from Argentina and Latvia, takes us through the tumult of displacement and migration with a strong sense for the folk songs and tango music of her youth. Against this musical backdrop, she invests the bandoneón, an accordion-like instrument brought to Argentina in the late nineteenth century, with a special significance. Her poetic account of the instrument yields this striking tribute, which testifies to the passion of the collection: when mission music spilled, / five octaves went new-world wild.”
The poems in the first section, torch songs, hover near a heartbreaking lyricism as they reckon with political histories, landscapes, and loss. As she writes in this section, there is truly nothing in this life like being blind in Granada.” The sonnet crown that comprises the next section, tango liso, plots a history of cultural inheritance and renewal, weaving back and forth in time and spanning Argentina, Spain, and the United States. Here the reader encounters Eva Perón alongside Katharine of Aragon and Billie Holiday. The final section, choir, commemorates sites of pilgrimage in Latvia, West Germany, and Spain, among other places. In this extended contemplation of cathedral spaces, Paegle interrogates the boundary between the sacred and the secular, silence and song. What emerges from this diverse collection is a sensual and allusive space where music and memory coincide.
Julie Sophia Paegle teaches at California State University, San Bernardino, where she is Poetry Coordinator for the MFA program. She holds an MFA and a PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Utah. Her poetry has appeared in Ploughshares, Colorado Review, Best New Poets 2007, and other publications.