Is there a way to be gone and stillbelong? Travel that takes you home?
Is that life?—to stand by a river and go?[i]
—William Stafford, “Quo Vadis”
In these lines I read filaments Xánath Caraza weaves into her vivid, incantatory, and enchanting Conjuro. Caraza is a poet who travels across languages and geographies, histories and identities, in conjuring a new language that helps her to travel home. Through this poetic journey—part American Indian (Nahuatl), part African, part Midwestern American, and part European—she calls on her readers to experience within poetry’s music the feeling of being gone yet still needing to belong. I evoke Stafford simply because he’s often remembered for growing up in Kansas, where his imagination became rooted and restless, and although he lived a majority of his poetic life outside Kansas, Stafford became the great American poet from the Middle West—and I make this connection in order to read and place Xánath Caraza’s poetic achievement within this heartland, while also considering how Caraza poetically dwells within and travels from the Middle West; navigates rich and strong linguistic currents; and creates a terrestrial tapestry that shares the magical enchantment of her poetry. Xánath Caraza is a scholar, teacher, and activist—a poeta deeply residing in the earth. The speaker of “Of Synonyms, Euphemisms, and Other Figures of Speech” sings:
Freedom and education are synonyms for me.
Professor, teacher, and social activist, are likewise.
Pronouncing ancestral languages of my heritage is resistance.
The voice of the Sun is a euphemism.
The SB 1070 Arizona law is as a shame. A simile.
Wind brings the time of freedom to the silence of the desert. An alliteration. (47)(Prose from Fred Arroyo's introduction to Conjuro)