Gary Soto: Overview

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Author: Joseph Bruchac
Editor: Thomas Riggs
Date: 1995
From: Contemporary Poets(6th ed.)
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 799 words

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Few poems are as closely linked to twentieth-century agrarian reality as those of Gary Soto. Yet his subjects are not the familiar Midwest farmers of Sandburg or the independent tillers of rocky soil found in Frost. Instead, Soto presents the worlds of Chicano workers whose lands are seldom their own and whose visions of America are those of ones looking up from the bottom, not out over wide expanses of possibility. It is somewhat ironic that a poet such as Soto, with the concerns of an existentialist Cesar Chavez, should find himself regularly published in The New Yorker and in beautiful volumes from a university press. However, despite their poverty, their despair, and the ugliness of their surroundings, his characters inhabit a world which is precisely visioned, full of a fierce love for life. Further, Soto's diction is classically spare, his images exact in creating this dangerous world where, as in his poem "The Street," from The Tale of Sunlight,

One could say a bottle That emptied like a cough Turned over, slashed at a face, And later a car tire.

One could say the wound tears again Opening like an eye From a sleep That is never deep...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420007569