Poetry. Latino/Latina Studies. No simple tourist trip, no three-hour tour, Vincent Toro's carefully-structured STEREO.ISLAND.MOSAIC. draws the reader into lived experience of culture. Confronted with Puerto Rico, other Americans—Leonard Bernstein in West Side Story—often declare the island 'exotic.' Certainly such signifiers abound on this version of the island: mangos to eat, men wearing the Guayabera, tropical flora spilling everywhere. But our dive here is deeper: into the mind of an elderly man losing language, into the ocean in one century to wash up on the mainland in another time that compels the island native to assimilate. To become a 'Sorta Rican,' in Toro's book, is to become what the epigraph calls a 'hybridized subject.' Even the already-syncretized religion, Santería, finds its 'Orishas... hostage' to disability and alcoholism, like its believers, like their descendants and neighbors. These scattered migrants, shown in fragmented images, live in a New York as crowded and bright as a Romare Bearden collage. The voice of the island itself plays in stereo through the broken language of the book, now jazz and now hip-hop, coming from everywhere and nowhere. What we are given in STEREO.ISLAND.MOSAIC. is not a comfortable beauty; we feel the 'torn... tendons' of the worker who comes to the mainland to earn money for home. The pattern that emerges is necessary, packed with living history of the island people like the 'epic memory' of the Taino Indians' ritual theater.
Vincent Toro is a poet and playwright from New York, where he teaches for The City University of New York's Bronx Community College and The Dream Project, a nonprofit organization that places working artists in the schools and local communities. He has an MFA from Rutgers University, received a 2014 Poet's House Emerging Poet's Fellowship, and was awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry for 2014. His poems have been published in Rattapallax, The Paterson Literary Review, Vallum, Bordersenses, Kweli Literary Journal, The Buenos Aires Review, Really System, Five Quarterly, Codex, Duende Literary Journal, and in the anthologies CHORUS (MTV Books, 2012), edited by Saul Williams, and The Waiting Room Reader 2, edited by Rachel Hadas.Author City: FORT LEE, NJ USA