Winner of the 2017 Anhinga Robert Dana Prize selected by Eduardo C. Corral Arsonist is a shape-shifter of a book a book that leaves the reader with an existential "shivering " yet it is on fire. Loaded with lethal chemicals like let us say desire abandonment separation and industrialized lives without homelands burning in their brutal severance Arsonist is a spilling and boiling caldron of zig-zag figures of wild colors split from their root "a son's desperate attempt to / clear the air" - of things that long to congeal yet they smash into blanks smoke and the questions of forgiveness and birth. Here a relentless piercing clarity a precious text without trappings an examination of loss and love. I salute Zihuatanejo for this blistering beauty among the ashes. -Juan Felipe Herrera Poet Laureate of the United States 2015-2017
Joaquín Zihuatanejo received his MFA in creative writing with a concentration in poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe New Mexico. His work has been published in Prairie Schooner Yellow Medicine Review Sonora Review Southwestern American Literature and Huizache among other journals and anthologies. His poetry has been featured on HBO NBC and on NPR in Historias and The National Teacher's Initiative. Joaquín has two passions in his life his wife Aída and poetry always in that order.
Joaquín Zihuatanejo brings us close right to him into the very thing one is made of: blood. Father. Mother. And it is not simple. He is fearless in his questions and the burning searing death of letting go all the more courageous in recovering the bright language left from that fire. What relief as Zihuatanejo faces absence head on embraces then transmutes it. These poems glow in moving forms and elegant punctuation yes even the periods serve as marks of light. He writes "my dead father / is not in the dirt / nor is he in the poems- / he is in me." And I can feel-because I am shown-how absence loss conflict and contradictions are not to be feared but with work with line and word become the very substance of self a fiery wholeness. Beautiful. -Layli Long Soldier Author of WHEREAS
Joaquín Zihuatanejo is a brilliant poet. His testimonials and songs and explorations are multilingual structurally adventurous. The wide range of forms and dictions makes visible his ravenous curiosity and intellect. His language rippling with the loss of a father and racial and cultural tensions resists one-dimensional answers. His nouns and verbs wonder croon weep question and roar. The deep attention to language and to the shaping of language infuses the work with a riveting self-awareness of the self-in this case a Mexican American man unafraid to remember to love. Beautifully crafted and richly imagined Arsonist is a remarkable debut. -Eduardo C. Corral Author of Slow Lightning