Pity the Drowned Horses
84 pages, 6.00 x 9.00
Paperback | 9780268033743 | April 2005
Hardcover | 9780268033736 | April 2005
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268160852 | October 2020
Pity the Drowned Horses is the winner of the first Andres Montoya Poetry Prize. This collection is about place and many of the poems in it are set in the desert southwest on the U.S./Mexico border in El Paso, Texas. Sheryl Luna’s poems are also about family and home within the broader context of the border as both a bridge and a barrier. They deal with the bilingual and bicultural city and how a place is longed for and viewed very differently as the observer changes and experiences other cultures.
The first two sections of poems focus on home and family. They show that, despite poverty and geographical isolation, the border towns of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez are places of beauty and promise. The third section explores cultures: how anxiety over aesthetic judgments, values, and difference are negotiated. The final section is one of praise and recognition that despite differences we are all longing for faith and a place to call home.
Sheryl Luna is an accomplished poet and writer whose work has appeared in literary journals, including The Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Puerto del Sol, and Feminist Studies. She has been a finalist for the National Poetry Series and for the Colorado book award. Her second collection, Seven, was published in 2013. She has taught at the University of Colorado in Boulder and Metropolitan State University in Denver. She currently teaches workshops for a community mental health center.
“Sheryl Luna’s debut collection, Pity the Drowned Horses, poses several questions about the meaning of ‘home’: is it rooted to a particular place? can we escape it? can we find it elsewhere? once we’ve left, can we return? . . . She circles through various locales and landscapes, including San Francisco, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., Prague, and Paris, but like the frayed-wing hawk who drifts through the collection, Luna’s speaker is drawn, slightly battered, back to the desert of her origins.” —Latino Poetry Review
"[A] heartfelt testimony from the borderlands, the place where music clanks like chains as history simultaneously crumbles and rebuilds itself, where weary dancers laugh anger away. …a triumphant debut and worthy of keeping company with the classic titles of border literature. Luna proves herself a leader among the next generation of Chicano poets."—El Paso Times
"In her opening poem, Luna declares that 'pain is living and living is pain,' but while she relentlessly probes the hardscrabble lives of many of America's Latinos, these poems aren't grim reading. They're transfigured by this debut author's extraordinary lyric power." —Library Journal
"... there's a weighty mournfulness to Luna's borderlands, where the stark poverty of Mexico butts against the brash, unyielding sprawl of her American city. Pity the Drowned Horses takes its reader across a ravaged landscape where ... the last few hares sprint across a bloodied/highway and there are women everywhere/who have half-lost their souls/in sewing needles and vacuum-cleaner parts. In this world of little comfort, Luna is intent on seeking meaning—however bitter—in the emptiness and meditating on the redeeming power of language."—The Texas Observer
"From Sylvia Plath to popsicle-sellers in Juarez, from Mozart to maquiladoras, this stunning debut collection charts 'the way of borders....the way things thirst.' Remarkable!" —Lisa D. Chavez
"Sheryl Luna’s book Pity the Drowned Horses bears witness not only to the poverty and wonder of the borderlands, to their dynamic and often tragic clash of cultural rivers, but also to an intense, tender, and unflinching sensibility refusing the easy distance of mere reportage. Rarely do we encounter a poet with such associative speed, such free access to her unconscious resources, who simultaneously reaches out with such heartbreaking clarity and sweep of vision. Here we see the moral imagination made both vulnerable and bold by its transfigurative investments, its impassioned music, its raw energy and recovering grace. A dazzling debut." —Bruce Bond
“In Pity the Drowned Horses, Sheryl Luna carves out of the El Paso landscape the music of the borderlands where loss and acceptance converge. . . . Luna exquisitely captures—like no other poet before her—the ‘unsung positive capability/ of the desert’; her syntax—sometimes raw and edgy—creates a tableau where everything rushes toward ‘our wild need, all sweat, all shiver.’ The overall effect is simply mesmerizing.” —Robert Vasquez