A review of Huascar Medina’s Un Mango Grows in Kansas
Huascar Medina currently holds the seat of Poet Laureate of Kansas. It means he takes an active role in expanding all aspects of poetry within the state; language, form, function, musicality, and something I enjoy particularly about poetry, blank space. And like Kansas, there can appear at first glance to be an abundance of blank space. This does not mean emptiness. There is life and sustenance in what is called blank space. Not every acre needs to be filled with the machinery of the industrial revolution; a din of jack hammers, train cars, car horns, safety beeping trucks in reverse filling the head like a migraine. A nice 30 mile an hour wind on a hot summer day in the empty spaces of Kansas gives a soul a chance to breathe and imagine and contemplate. An aspect discovered to be endemic in life during the pandemic. In that respect, “Un Mango Grows in Kansas” by Huascar Medina is a nation unto itself, one that is a mirror of modern life in the United States of America. There is the din of modern life and there is the open space to breathe.
There are mirrors and interpreters along every road between where this book begins and where it says put me down, I rest now and you take on the road. The poet pulls down the things of space and the heart and plants them in the pages where they grow in the open light. Unlike a watched pot this book begins to boil the more you read it.
From Medina’s Per Aspera Ad Astra:
We were lost in the plains,
beautiful and ordinary,
Sunflowers in the fields;
seeds of fallen stars,
standing tall; deeply rooted
in this land.
“Promesas” is a divine pair of poems experienced in full by reading the Spanish and English as one in my opinion. There is something in its structure, set as a pair of inverse translations, different from the rest that makes you spend more time with it though it is swift, taut. An expanse opens in the spaces of Promesas*
The phantasmagoria of poems of yore lap the coastlines of a handful of poems in this volume. The heart is shown to be at once full and looking to be filled. The witness and participant of the world within and without leaves footprints up and down the shore. And whether it be a bucket or a thimble, Medina’s castles are certainly more durable than sand. He’s built worlds of whole cloth here and made something fleeting into something tangible enough to take with you long after you leave the page.
She is Not Your Calla Lily:
I think her bones
if I dug them out
of a grave
with a thimble
taken from the sewing room
in the basement of a nunnery
filled with Mother Theresa posters.
At 134 pages, “Un Mango Grows in Kansas” is ripe and ready to pick.
Take it in your hands. Penetrate its fleshy skin and let the juices run down your chin. It is truly a gift not just to Kansans but to all the world. It addresses the interior and exterior realities of our modern existence and the struggles of people who need to have their grievances resolved. In all that, there is room to breathe.