Orlando Ricardo Menes

The Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry Series

96 pages


September 2013


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July 2022


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September 2013


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About the Book

From sensual pleasures and perils, moments and memories of darkness and light, the poems in Orlando Ricardo Menes’s collection sew together stories of dislocation and loss, of survival and hope, and of a world patched together by a family over five generations of diaspora. This is Menes’s tapestry of the Americas. From Miami to Cuba, Panama to Bolivia and Peru, through the textures, sounds, colors, shapes, and scents of exile and emigration, we find refuge at last in a sense of wholeness and belonging residing in this intensely felt, finely crafted poetry.   


Author Bio

Orlando Ricardo Menes is an associate professor of English and Faculty Fellow of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. His poetry collections include, among others, Furia: Poems and Rumba atop the Stones.


"Well versed in the uprooted life of an immigrant, Menes's profound references not only convey local color but also bring the essence of his family history eye level with the reader in these striking verses."—World Literature Today

"The poems in the collection are powerful, yet engaging narratives crafted by a gifted poet and story-teller."—Mary Alexander, Caribbean Writer

"With flowing language, vivid imagery, and brilliant word choices, Menes can tell a heart-wrenching story in four stanzas."—Mary Christy, Big Muddy

“Drenched with the flavor and savor of the Caribbean, Orlando Ricardo Menes’s Fetish is a treat for the mouth and the ear, as well as for the mind. Striking characters abound: Zvi Mendel, ‘retired tobacconist to Havana’s Ashkenazim’; an unnamed female survivor of a prison called ‘Den of the Lioness.’ Anger at injustice often surfaces. The beauty of the region springs up everywhere. But it is sound that powers these poems, a piquant blend of English spiced with Español. . . . These delectable poems beg to be tasted. To be spoken. To be sung.”—Charles Harper Webb, author of Shadow Ball


“Open Orlando Ricardo Menes’s exquisite poetry collection Fetish, and you’ll quickly see a folk sculpture of Eleggua, though I should warn you. In the Cuban Santería religion, this deity has 101 manifestations, or roads, he may take you down. In this way, he is not unlike Menes’s poems, which may lead us, in a matter of pages, from suburban Indiana to Miami to Panamá to Kichwa-speaking villages in the Andes. Although the destinies of these roads offer vastly different insights, if we survive them, there is a sensibility that unifies the whole: Menes does not easily identify with grand ideologies and personal arrogance. Rather, he keeps his eye on those who go largely unrecorded by history: a poor great-uncle alienated from his own family by politics, a daughter with severe ADHD, a papá assiduously mending used furniture, a political prisoner who survives cruelty by caring for the earth’s smallest creatures—lame rat, pregnant mouse, chirping cricket.”—Maurice Kilwein Guevara, author of Poema and Postmortem

“Orlando Ricardo Menes’s Fetish is a rare work of the American Creole Sublime, conjuring visions of his Cuban homeland as a sacred geography of vanquished mestizo dreams, his Florida boyhood a world of transmuting tropical wonder. At once mythic, syncretic, and autobiographical, transported on strains of epiphanic geomancy, Menes’s work subtly presents a new vision of América that Martí, Stevens and Walcott would all embrace. You want to whisper in a fever, ‘Adelante!’”—John Phillip Santos, University Distinguished Scholar in Mestizo Cultural Studies, University of Texas at San Antonio


Table of Contents



Acknowledgments   000


Part 1. Ars Poetica


Courtyard of Clotheslines, Angel Hill     000

Golgotha    000

Fetish      000

Mambo 000

Maracas of Rain   000

Aubade: The Charcoal Makers   000

Zvi Mendel  000

The Maximum Leader Addresses His Island Nation  000

Spiderman in Havana     000

Den of the Lioness      000

Libros      000

Refrigeradores    000

Elegy for Great-Uncle Julio, Cane Cutter  000

Tía Gladys, Backroom Seamstress     000

Zafra 000

Ars Poetica 000


Part 2. El Cristo de Piedra


Windfall Antiques 000

Horses      000

Lalo, Peddler     000

Television, a Patient Teacher 000

Sal    000

Village of the Water People   000

El Cristo de Piedra     000

Birthing Adrian   000

Tantrums    000

Braille     000

Pyx   000

Adderall    000

St. Joseph River  000

Ashes 000

Mole  000


Part 3. The Gringo Called Ñakak


Soroche     000

The Gringo Called Ñakak 000

Altiplano   000

Panegyric for the Condor      000

The Devil's Miner 000

The Boy from Chimbote   000

Parable     000

Our Lord of Miracles    000

Top   000

Toro  000

Breakfast with Capitalists    000

Juancito's Wake   000


Source Acknowledgments  000

Notes for Poems   000

Glossary    000

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