Making Scenes: Three Writers on Puerto Rican Syndrome (on Justin Torres’s Blackouts; Urayoán Noel’s Transversal; and Éric Morales-Franceschini’s Syndrome)

Scene 1

A small, stuffy bedroom in a boardinghouse called the Palace, window thrown open to the desert night. Two men have reunited after meeting nearly a decade ago when both were committed to a mental hospital, where they knew each other for eighteen consequential days. Juan Gay is old and on his deathbed, “a skeleton in the entranceway.” The other is twenty-seven, his name a secret to readers but for Juan’s term of endearment for him, “nene” [baby]. The younger man has come to see and care for Juan in his final weeks. On this relatively peaceful night among a string of increasingly fitful and painful ones, Juan teaches him about “the forced institutionalization of our people.” He reminds his confidant that until 1974 the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) declared that, in Juan’s words, “to be queer was unequivocally to be insane.” The DSM, which Juan calls the “biblia loca” with a sort of cockeyed reverence, classified homosexuality as an “abnormal” disorder. A couple of beats later, their conversation returns to the “crazy bible,” with Juan resuming his antic teacherly method:

“You’ll forgive me for returning to the pedantic mode, but let’s go back to the biblia loca for a moment. If you move along, you’ll find another diagnosis, introduced in the 1950s, by army doctors, a condition with which I was first diagnosed when they brought me to the nuthouse: Puerto Rican Syndrome.”

“In the DSM? That’s not a thing.”

“As I live and breathe.”

“As you die and breathe.”

“Wicked child.”

“I don’t believe it. How can you make a syndrome of a people?”
“What’s the vulgar little expression you’re so fond of . . .”

“It makes no sense, Juan.”

“. . . I shit you not.” 

During the meandering book-length conversation that is Justin Torres’s National Book Award–winning novel Blackouts, there are only three direct references to Puerto Rican Syndrome. This conversation occurs when the two men are approaching the halfway point of their alternatingly lucid and dreamlike dialogue. The second appears near the end, on page 260. The third appears in the book’s “Blinkered Endnotes.” In “straight” pedagogical fashion, this endnote briefly summarizes The Puerto Rican Syndrome, Patricia Gherovici’s 2003 psychoanalytic study.

The novel focuses instead on the history of Juan’s subversively redacted copy of Sex Variants: A Study of Homosexual Patterns, one of the first (and worst) systematic studies of the desires and practices of queer men and women, and on piecing together the sometimes intersecting and often wildly divergent lives of two queer Puerto Rican men of very different generations. Yet it is arguably the “strange psychiatric condition,” or more precisely, “reports” of it “coming north” from Puerto Rico in the 1950s, which underpins the novel’s meditations on the history of homophobia and its variants. In this light, “our people” counts queers and Puerto Ricans. Like Juan and the unnamed narrator, for queer Boricuas, the syndrome’s ataques de nervios or, simply, ataques (“episodes”), do double duty. 

Many readers will be familiar with the fact that Puerto Rico is the world’s oldest colony, although it’s officially an Unincorporated Territory (or Commonwealth) of the U.S. They may not know that Puerto Ricans are the only people to have had a syndrome named after them. Following the Korean War, U.S. military doctors pathologized Puerto Rican soldiers’ PTSD and its accompanying “psychological resistance” to their condition as colonized subjects of the U.S. empire. When language failed to articulate the intensity of the soldiers’ pain, alienation, and dispossession, their bodies developed their own “hysterical” mechanisms for registering disgust, dissent, and refusal, from seizures to glossolalia. Juan redirects the narrator’s incredulity—“How can you make a syndrome of a people?”—to a “vulgarity” that underscores the impossibility of reasoning through (or beyond) colonial logic with any language, let alone a decorous one.

Torres’s title Blackouts refers to the novel’s redactions of Sex Variants as well as the historical erasures of queer joy, community, and complexity. In addition, it alludes to the narrator’s fainting episodes, from which it is difficult for him to retrieve memories, whether traumatic or pleasurable, apart from disorienting flashbacks and lingering embodied sensations. Although the novel does not address the contemporary situation of Puerto Rico, it is also instructive to read the title as a veiled reference to the devastating electricity blackouts following Hurricane María, in September 2017, when the island’s electrical grid collapsed. Some histories have been blacked out. Some archives need to be. And, sometimes, an entire island is, both literally and figuratively. To revise the subtitle of while they sleep (2019), Roque Raquel Salas Rivera’s uncompromising book of the hurricane’s aftershocks, under Juan’s deathbed is another country. This country haunts the Puerto Rican diaspora’s long nights, but it also waits for opportune moments to create scenes for disturbing the colonizer’s dreams of paradise. 

In three recent books by Puerto Rican writers, each with a portentous one-word title—Torres’s Blackouts, Urayoán Noel’s Transversal, and Éric Morales-Franceschini’s Syndrome—such scenes emerge as energizing creative critiques of colonialism and delayed dreams of its demise. In these writers’ hands, Puerto Rican Syndrome is unmoored from its pathologizing foundations and torqued into an unpredictable array of formal and political possibilities.


Scene 2

A poet’s house in the South Bronx. He paces, “wokitokiteki” [walking, talking, texting], his smartphone illuminating a warm and worried face. He sends messages, he scrolls for updates, he takes voice notes for future poems. One standout is “No Longer Ode,” the opening poem and emotional anchor of Urayoán Noel’s most recent book, Transversal. The poem is dedicated to Noel’s grandmother (“para mi abuela en la isla”), who, like so many in the Puerto Rican archipelago, struggled with the practical and psychological consequences of Hurricane María, including the U.S.’s indifferent response to the widespread suffering. In the first quatrain, Noel addresses her directly from across the geographic and digital divides of the Puerto Rican diaspora:

A hurricane destroyed your sense of home

and all you wanted was to pack your bags

in dead of night, still waving mental flags,

forgetting the nation is a syndrome. 

Here, “syndrome” undergoes a reversal. Rather than the supposed pathology afflicting Puerto Ricans, it now belongs to the colonizer. The nation, not the colony, is the disorder. Nationalism, whether it’s emancipatory or repressive, becomes a risk factor. But more is afoot than a reversal, no matter how poignant. When language (and poetry, that heightened form of language, in particular) failed him in the aftermath of Hurricane María, Noel turned to what he calls, in an author’s note on, “the solace of form.” Expressing admiration for Keats’s “clarity of vision” as well as the irreverence of the Puerto Rican décima, Noel creates a variation on the three-stanza Keatsian ode, with two Petrarchan sonnets followed by a ten-line décima.

If, for Noel, poetic form may provide solace and clarity, if not transformation, the political and cultural forms of both the nation and the state fail to offer much of value in assessing the past or in envisioning the future. Consider the implicit distinction that Noel makes between a nation and a state. His line is not “forgetting that the state is a syndrome.” The sonics of that rejected line are, if anything, more melodic, both in terms of its rhythm and in the menacing sibilance of “s” sounds. That said, the ambiguous syntax in the actual line—“forgetting the nation is a syndrome”—suggests that it’s also feasible that “forgetting the nation” is the syndrome, rather than the nation itself that is the syndrome. Regardless, Noel’s choice of “nation” rather than “state” underscores several dimensions of the “syndrome” scenes in these three books. First, Puerto Rico is often theorized as a cultural nation without a state, typically in positive registers of identification and affirmation. Second, “nation” points toward the foundations of culture, ideology, and myth making that have been fundamental to nation building, national identity, and the romance of revolution and independence. Third, and most significantly for present purposes, the nation—as in the United States—will consolidate in Scenes 3 and 4 in Éric Morales-Franceschini’s Syndrome the full might of the empire’s hold on Puerto Rico’s collective memory.

In these governing contexts, the highly suggestive rhyme “home” / “syndrome” collects the poem’s end rhymes into a revelatory concurrence. These sonic resonances pry open the scant possibilities for home-making and community-building during states of syndromic oppression, no matter the durability of Puerto Rican cultural nationalism. The O.E.D. defines “syndrome” simply as “a concurrence of several symptoms in a disease.” Across the poem’s three stanzas, “home” and “syndrome” gather the coordinates of Puerto Rican existence from life to death. The end rhymes range from biology and genetics (sea “foam,” “biome,” “honeycomb,” “genome,” “chromosome”) to scenes of suffering and spectacle: the New Orleans Superdome in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the “phantom tab[s]” on Google Chrome that smuggle image after image of devastation and pain into our homes. When the speaker tells his abuela, “All that’s left of the sea in you is foam,” it indexes an incalculable loss for an island resident. It is no coincidence then that a primary symptom of Puerto Rican Syndrome is foaming at the mouth. When no words come, one is left with only “dreams of honeycomb,” which may promise sweetness but carry the risk of stings and, for the hyperallergic, anaphylaxis, the state of which resembles nothing so much as an ataque. 

Noel perceptively leverages the semantic and sonic resonances as well as the material and symbolic histories of “syndrome.” The poem ends evocatively with “tome” and “catacomb.” When abuela María writes her “tome”—an impossibly heavy record of a life as a syndrome—how could it not be a “biblia loca”? In this crazy bible, “each word” of abuela María’s and Hurricane María’s “tomes” “must be a catacomb.” Even the shortest words—I y yo—will be mass graves. Even more incisive are terms such as “genome” and “chromosome,” which suggest the sordid legacies of scientific racism, eugenics, and forced sterilization, of which Puerto Ricans have been particular targets. When “austere sharks sequence the island’s genome,” they plunder the people’s inheritance, their homes, beaches, and mountains, even their very bodies. The disaster capitalists who invaded the island after María may be “sharks,” but they are predators driven as much by cold calculation as the instinct for blood and vulnerability. Yet they too appear susceptible to the dangers they harness. “Beyond the indigenous chromosome” opens the final stanza, where “beyond” portends not paradise (earthly or otherwise) but “chains,” “gags,” death, seemingly for shark and prey alike. 

In the previous paragraph, I use the verb “leverages” pointedly. Its economic and financial registers—as when individuals or institutions leverage their debt to pursue some other financial aim—point to the poem’s fully realized homonym “ode” / “owed.” The island’s debt crisis, leveraged by “austere sharks” for the enrichment of investors, is, like Hurricane María, a manifestation of colonial violence that can only be fleetingly resisted with language, let alone called to a halt with concerted political action. 

Like the homonym “ode” / “owed,” the title’s wordplay in “No Longer” expands the horizon for imaginative and political activities. “No Longer” leverages a range of concepts: a temporality (something that has ceased to exist), a distance (a state of play that cannot exceed a certain span), a length (a text or production that cannot surpass a specific length), and, finally, a pose of collective refusal of the current state of affairs (as in the popular Spanish-language call to resistance, ¡Ya basta! [Enough!]). These multiple possibilities reject the official, singular diagnosis of a syndrome for which there is no known cure. After all, how can one cease being Puerto Rican or queer, short of the abominable (and doomed) practices of conversation therapy?  


Scene 3

A family’s kitchen table in Tampa, Florida. Like many such tables, this one provokes, then stages, an emotional confrontation. The enlistment papers of a twenty-year-old Éric Morales-Franceschini stand in the middle of the table like a bouquet of man-eating flowers. Syndrome, Morales-Franceschini’s first full-length book of poems, develops Torres’s and Noel’s subtle literary critiques of “Puerto Rican Syndrome.” The book dramatizes various psychological “syndromes,” some of them much discussed in popular culture: Impostor, Stockholm, Puerto Rican, Rally ’Round the Flag, and New World. The poet (and former U.S. Army soldier) calls each of these syndrome poems “A hystory,” after Gherovici’s neologism, as Morales-Franceschini explains in his endnotes, which carry the promising name “Notes (for a Counter-Diagnosis).” “Hystory,” he writes, is a history beset by hysteria, in which a feminized, racialized pathology of otherness distorts self-perceptions and external perceptions in ways that damage both the colonized and their colonizer. 

“A hystory, otherwise known as Puerto Rican Syndrome” details the domestic scene. When the speaker-poet’s mother discovers he has enlisted in the U.S. Army, she experiences an ataque. It begins with a scream, then unfolds into “a drama unlike any [he] had witnessed.” She “foam[s] at the mouth,” “howl[s] like a / feral witch, demonically possessed.” Her “body a convulsion,” she “retch[es] and / writhe[s],” ripped “asunder” into “a hysteria and a haunting.” Years later, the speaker-poet confesses he had no clue of the hystory his mother enacted:

and little did I know we were already haunted,

this already had a name: Puerto Rican Syndrome,

the army medical officers in San Juan, the Korean

war vets thrashing about, uttering gibberish

stripped naked, hallucinating, a 

flamboyant “culturally bound” hysteria

Young people join the military, sometimes for reasons of money, sometimes for lack of options, sometimes for those of patriotism, “otherwise known as Rally ’Round the Flag Syndrome.” Sometimes their mothers freak out, fearing for their children’s lives. But this “hysterical” response differs from other emotional outbursts because it repeats a “hystory.” The speaker-poet’s grandmother had a similar ataque when she learned that both of her sons—the speaker-poet’s father and uncle—had been drafted into the U.S. War in Vietnam.

“A hystory, otherwise known as Stockholm Syndrome” poses (and answers) a perplexing, related question. Why on earth would a Puerto Rican join the colonizer’s military? (Similarly, in Cruel Fiction [2018], the Mexican American poet Wendy Trevino asks why the U.S. Border Patrol is over fifty percent Latinx.) When the Army recruiter knocks on the young Morales-Franceschini’s door, the speaker-poet asks, “Why are there so few heroes?” The recruiter’s enigmatic answer is translated as “You have no choice.” “Except,” the speaker-poet retorts to himself, “to hold” 

closely to a prayer

that I’d live to see

my daughter’s face,

tell her bedtime stories 

for a benevolent assimilation

this bowing to a


of excessive loyalty

The “syndrome” allusion in Noel’s “No Longer Ode” provides context for the young speaker-poet’s decision. The myths of U.S. nationalism (and its attendant exceptionalism), including the American Dream, the slogan “One Nation Under God,” which structures the Pledge of Allegiance, and other ideological coordinates can persuade an impressionable young person from a cash-strapped family to sign up for duty. (As has been widely reported, the allure of these myths was especially strong in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.) The machinations of a state’s political economy, its governance and institutional structures, surely cannot. Significantly, it is “the enlistment papers” themselves, not the news of his enlistment, which set off the poet’s mother’s ataque de nervios. These papers constitute the official “tome,” to borrow Noel’s grave term, in which “each word must be a catacomb.” Puerto Ricans have been a “paperless people,” Lisa Sánchez González argues in Boricua Literature: A Literary History of the Puerto Rican Diaspora (2003). Shut out of the literary canon, shunted from the historical record, stateless and paperless, one time-tested way to enter the archive is to sign up for military service.

One of the book’s many skinny poems in the style of the late, great Chicano poet Francisco X. Alarcón, “A hystory, otherwise known as Stockholm Syndrome” begins with a claim of simultaneously sobering and intoxicating origin. This opening statement solidifies Syndrome’s animating matrix of race, class, and militarism:

I was born 

to a subpoena



of lumpen rum

The poem ends with a situated reinterpretation of Stockholm Syndrome, that condition when the hostage identifies with their captor, which is, the speaker-poet concludes,

otherwise known





it takes.

This qualified defense of the hostage’s psychological response implies that while identifying with one’s captor may bring on shame, the loss of language, even hysteria, it may be “what / it takes” to survive. 

The poet’s subpoena—that paper summons to appear before the empire’s court of law, properly uniformed and obedient—awaits him the second he breaches his mother’s birth canal. Both his racialization and his class status hail him as a soldier. Unlike his father, he cannot wait until he turns eighteen to be drafted. And yet the evocative sonics of “lumpen rum” may reveal more about Morales-Franceschini’s background than the subpoena. “Lumpen rum” not only sounds better than “cheap rum.” It is sourced (even distilled) in the alienations and resistances of the lumpenproletariat, that class of the dispossessed who must do what it takes to reproduce themselves and their families without access to the solidarities (and the pensions) of the industrial proletariat. 

What does it take? The book’s final poem, “New World Syndrome: an anti-ekphrasis,” is a long, rail-thin vision that recalls the mystical revolutionary poem by the Puerto Rican vanguardist Clemente Soto Vélez, La tierra prometida / The Promised Land (1979). As “an anti-ekphrasis,” the poem looks away from, rather than at, the “Birth of the New World” statue. This statue, dedicated to Columbus and the tallest in the Americas, is located near Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Morales-Franceschini suggests that radical personal and social transformation takes doing


as we







And what must “we” do to thrive rather than merely to survive in the empire’s wheezing “biome,” to return again to Noel’s word? Practically, it means tearing these monuments down. Philosophically, per this poem’s prophetic vision, it means striving together “for / conspiratorial / love,” “bidding / to become / bioluminescent,” and moving resolutely 





a new


This collective rebirth forms part of the poet’s “counter-diagnosis” for each of the book’s syndromes. This alternative communal birth counters the etymology reconstructed in the prose poem “Postpartum.” It begins with the “curious word” eugenics “(eu- ‘good’ + genus ‘birth’).” It ends with the idea that “the policy of ‘good births’ ” in Puerto Rico required “outlaw[ing]” and “mock[ing]” the knowledge of midwives as “extravagant tenderness,” in short, as hysteria. The endnote has the receipts. By the late 1960s, in a procedure known simply and ominously as “la operación,” otherwise STILL known as a hysterectomy, its linguistic legacy of eugenics fully intact, Puerto Rican women were “sterilized at ten times the rate of women in the mainland.” To follow Juan Gay’s recourse to nene’s favorite “vulgar little expression”: I shit you not.


Scene 4

The three preceding domestic scenes span from birth to death, and from biological to social reproduction, the generations crossing in transversal patterns of inheritance and rejection. The final scene moves into public, opening onto the streets of San Juan after Hurricane María. The disgraced governor Ricky Rosselló declares, “the time to buy is when there is blood in the streets.” Urayoán Noel’s “austere sharks” smell the blood from Wall Street and Silicon Valley and wherever venture and disaster capitalists circle. Pablo Neruda’s famous lines, “and through the streets the blood of the children / ran simply, like children’s blood,” flow from the Spanish Civil War to Puerto Rico’s playas agringadas [gringoified beaches]. And, from his house in Athens, Georgia, Éric Morales-Franceschini considers his “options” for writing the disaster, to borrow the title of Maurice Blanchot’s book about the impossibility of writing in the aftermath of utter devastation (1995). 

“Jurakán” catalogs these “options,” each undesirable, in eight bullet points of prose. I cite the opening phrase of each of the first seven, the eighth in full:

      You write a meticulously dignified elegy . . . 

      and so you write a testimonial . . .

      and so you write an anthropomorphic rendition . . .

      and so you write a poignant and remorseful lyric . . .

      and so you write a cadenced bolero . . .

      and so you write a vanguard soliloquy . . .

      and so you write all of the above . . .

    and so none of the above, having learned that jubilees don’t abide by hope, they abide by bodies assembled, overjoyed and spellbound, like oracles writhing in the temple, upending the lie of their promesas and the mythology of our mere mortality.

These are not really “bullet points.” Instead, when viewed as bubbles on a standardized test or on an official ballot, they draw an equivalence between the poet’s choices and Puerto Rico’s. The last one alludes to the plebiscite of 1998, when the island voted for the option “None of the Above” over Independence, Commonwealth Status (as is), Commonwealth Status (revised), and U.S. Statehood. Much ink has been spilled about the import of plebiscites in Puerto Rico and elsewhere. “The Fetishism of the Plebiscite and Its Secret” offers Morales-Franceschini’s fresh approach. In this persona poem, the plebiscite speaks: “I am a thousand plateaus / of banality.”

In “Jurakán,” the poet’s blank ballot, with the options yet to be blacked out, registers more than a symbolic protest against such “banality.” It validates another option, yet to be written, embedded in the eighth entry. The allusion there to jubilees and promesas [promises] returns us to Noel’s “No Longer Ode.” The Spanish acronym PROMESA stands for the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (2016). This legislation authorized a panel of (sketchy) judges to “manage” the island’s assets, liquidate its debts, and impose harsh austerity measures on the island’s public goods and services. Referred to colloquially as “La Junta,” PROMESA promises more of the same coloniality, but with more acronyms. And celebrities. 

The found poem with footnote “Why I’ve never seen Hamilton” uses Alexander Hamilton’s own words to needle Lin-Manuel Miranda, a prominent supporter of PROMESA. In this context, the last answer in “Jurakán” moves beyond language to a communal ataque that is “overjoyed,” “spellbound,” and “writhing,” even, possibly, immortal. This collective power move, otherwise known as making a scene, is Éric Morales-Franceschini’s enduring “counter-diagnosis” for bringing the empire to its knees. 



Éric Morales-Franceschini’s Syndrome may be the book of a former soldier, but it is foremost a book composed by a teacher who is also an innovative scholar. Like Justin Torres’s “Blinkered Endnotes” in Blackouts, Syndrome’s “Notes (for a Counter-Diagnosis)” cement the collection’s pedagogical aim and acumen. In her article “Poetry Is Theft,” the poet-scholar Rachel Galvin identifies the popularity of endnotes in contemporary poetry collections. Morales-Franceschini extends this fashion with gusto. Twenty-one of the collection’s thirty-three poems have notes. They do more than simply give credit to the poems’ influences and imprints. They move effortlessly between scholarly detail, teacherly invitation, and playful political commitment. In Transversal, for his part, Urayoán Noel continues his extensive noting practice. Unlike other poets, Noel places his notes section before the poems. We might call them “For(e)notes.” Like Morales-Franceschini, Noel is a groundbreaking scholar; his In Visible Movement: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties to Slam (2014) is the most dogeared monograph on my bookshelves. That it is rare for novels to include endnotes (fictional or otherwise) underscores the depth of Torres’s archival research in Blackouts and thus his affiliation with Noel’s and Morales-Franceschini’s books. 

The notes to Syndrome also answer the teenage poet’s question to his Army recruiter: Where are all the heroes? The many writers—the poet’s heroes—whose names appear in Syndrome are often referred to with a refreshing familiarity and warmth. None of that exalted veneration so common in such sections of poetry collections. For example, in one note, Morales-Franceschini calls Ada Limón, the poet laureate of the U.S., “compañera Ada.” Such politically and poetically aligned comrades and heroes are perhaps best understood as Morales-Franceschini’s own teachers. For his arsenal of “syndrome” forms, he draws from the works and deeds of Pedro Albizu Campos, Eloisa Amezcua, Daniel Borzutzky, Julia de Burgos, Mahmoud Darwish, Eduardo Galeano, Lolita Lebrón, Ada Limón, J. Michael Martinez, Pedro Pietri, heidi restrepo rhodes, Craig Santos Perez, and many more writers and rabble rousers. 

But perhaps the poet’s most important teacher is his mother. She opens Syndrome by passing down her hard-won, earthbound, and mystical wisdom to her son. The first poem, titled “I ask my mother why we left Puerto Rico and she says . . . ,” ends with this stanza of her deceptively simple music: 

so why not ask me / who cried / the day we left / because I can

only teach you / how to make your shadow small / when the sun  

is ablaze / how to make yourself / a girasol / hungry for more

With both tenderness and stern caution, the mother teaches her son how to act like a sunflower (girasol). This figure of vulnerability and strength envisions a way to receive and to give light, to barely cast a shadow and to emanate light simultaneously.

Inspired by Éric Morales-Franceschini’s “syndrome” poems, while writing this essay I played De La Soul’s “Down Syndrome” (1996) repeatedly. I have always liked the song, but I’ve also been puzzled and troubled by the title, which is referenced only once in the lyrics. The regrettable implicit riff on Down’s Syndrome limits the song’s critical capacity. Yet when the song locates its true aim, subtly alluding to the dangers of unthinking, sycophantic allegiance to the fading legends “you once imitated in a mirror,” it finds a more durable footing. The relentless desire to be “down” with the powerful, to catch the scraps of their destructive will to power, constitutes, for De La Soul, a syndrome related to Stockholm. Every time “to down syndrome you kneel” the washed-up empire, built on dastardly heroes such as Columbus and their porous hystories, reigns another year. The album title on which “Down Syndrome” stars? Stakes Is High. In 2024 and beyond, as Éric Morales-Franceschini dramatizes from the light of a single girasol to that of a plenitude, the stakes couldn’t be higher.


*An essay-review of
Blackouts. By Justin Torres. 305 pp. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2023. 305 pp. $30.00.
Transversal. By Urayoán Noel. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2021. 113 pp. $16.95.
Syndrome. By Éric Morales-Franceschini. 2022 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. Selected by Juan Felipe Herrera. Tallahassee: Anhinga Press, 2024. 80 pp. $20.00. 


Michael Dowdy is the author of the forthcoming book of lyric essays Tell Me about Your Bad Guys (University of Nebraska Press, 2025). His other books include the critical anthology Poetics of Social Engagement, coedited with Claudia Rankine (Wesleyan University Press, 2018); the collection of poems Urbilly (Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, 2017); and the study of Latinx poetry Broken Souths (University of Arizona Press, 2013). He teaches Latinx literature at Villanova University.