shadowy duck (pylduck) wrote,
shadowy duck

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Jon Pineda's Birthmark

I finally got around to reading Jon Pineda's debut collection of poems Birthmark (Crab Orchard Review & Southern Illinois University Press, 2004) after reading his second collection The Translator's Diary, his memoir Sleep in Me, and a young adult novel Apology. Birthmark was published as part of the Crab Orchard Poetry Series.

Thematically, the poems in this collection focus often on the father–son relationship, examining childhood memories in light of a later estrangement. A few poems mention the sister injured and forever changed in a car accident, and other poems touch on experiences of being a new father to an infant. One thing I found interesting in this collection was that some poems are in the third person point of view though seemingly still working with the poet's direct experience. This estrangement seems necessary and important, contrasting with other poems in the first person point of view. For example, a section of the poem, "Memory in the Shape of a Swimming Lesson," begins:
The boy understands the word mestizo. It means "half-breed,"
not full Filipino. It is a word they use at parties
& touch his hair. They speak to him in Tagalog. He knows

it is the language his father speaks on the phone, or under his breath
when he is angry. . . .
The poem continues a couple of lines later,
It will mark his life. Years later, when the father leaves the family,
the boy forgets these words. They become, like the edge of the pool,
something he struggles to reach.
The distancing of the speaker of the poem in time and in point of view suggests both an inability to address certain issues directly and the possibility of seeing individual experience as something belonging to others as well.

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