Chris's Reviews > The Book of What Remains

The Book of What Remains by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
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Dec 18, 10

bookshelves: adult, life, not-graphic, poetry

My reason for recommending this is the same reason I’m not sure I’m qualified to recommend it: it’s the first book of poetry I’ve ever voluntarily read cover to cover. I’m certainly not anti-poetry and really enjoy evocative language that has rhythmic and aesthetic qualities—poetic language, if you will—but long chunks of ongoing poetry piled on top of one another just generally don’t do it for me. I was delighted when this one did.

Perhaps one of the things I liked was that, for poetry, it’s almost prosaic. Often poetry seems to me to be about language first and content second, but in this I very clearly felt the language was just the tool being used in the service of what it was saying. Very conversational, at times organically stream-of-consciousness-ish, but with a non-linear, connected circularity that belies any attempts to call it random. Saenz’s writing is intimately personal and confessional, giving voice to raw pain and anger, although themes like politics and place and race keep showing up as they inform his identity, and there is a sense of connecting his particular struggles to a greater humanity. The overarching theme is finding the fragile, struggling, harsh life and defiant beauty in the desert, which serves as a metaphor on many levels, particularly that of his damaged psyche.

Meditation on Living in the Desert


No. 2


I love the sand, the heat, the arid nights.

I am in love with plants that can survive the droughts.

I am also in love with air-conditioning.

I refuse to recycle.

I am helping to make the entire world into a desert.

I live in the desert. I want everyone else to live in one, too.

When all the trees have disappeared, we can all read Robert Frost poems and feel sad.
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Quotes Chris Liked

Benjamin Alire Sáenz
“You are what you remember.”
Benjamin Alire Sáenz, The Book of What Remains


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