Angelo Toro Professor Perry
December 20, 2022 ENG 201
Poetry Analysis Essay
The poem I selected was “Saguaros” by Javier Zamora. Part of a collection of poems from his book “Unaccompanied”, this particular poem talks about Javier’s early experiences when making his traumatizing journey to the US from El Salvador. From this poem, we can see and some of the early struggles and traumas he had when traveling with the “Coyotes”, a group of people who helped those escape the aftermath of the Salvadoran Civil war. In this poem, we can see how a young Javier viewed the world as shrouded in darkness, always having to look behind his back and always be wary of “la migra”.
The reason that I had chosen Saguaros as my poem for the blackout poetry assignment is because of the overall tone of the poem spoke to me. The feeling of intensity and the aura given off by the words and the description of Javier’s surroundings really made me feel as if I had experienced some of the hardships he did. The themes I am getting from reading this poem are themes of “New Life” and of “Desire”. There is the immediate desire in the poem of Javier wanting the red fruits to satiate his thirst but looking further into the meaning of the text we can also see that he has a desire for freedom of the situation he is in, and to begin a new life, one where he no longer has to be on the run and keep an eye on his back (Zamora, lines 6-8, lines 15-16). What this poem meant to me was that he would endure his hardships in order to make a better life for himself, by any means necessary.
This poem is free verse, meaning that there is no specific structure and that the author can go wild. I believe that this amplifies Javier’s work because he does not have to try and mold his traumatizing experiences to fit a rigid format. The line length for the poem was around the same per line, and each stanza ranged between two and three lines. I believe that the shortness of the stanzas helped his poem come off as more of memories that he was trying to repress, as he stated in an interview by Today with Hoda and Jenna, many of his works are drawn from his memories unearthed through therapy. As for the rhymes in the poem, there are not many, and the one I did find seemed to be an unintentional internal rhyme: “…bats in the lavender sky/like spiders when a fly is caught…” (Zamora, Lines 1-2). The lack of rhymes allows the poem to retain much of its weight and in my opinion, allows for the emotion to carry out better. There is also some repetition in the poem, with lines 1,5, and 9 mentioning bats, in this case the bats being the people he encountered and was with on his journey.
The way that these formal elements affected my interpretation was that they allowed me to better immerse myself and feel something akin to what he was feeling during that perilous time. As I continued to read over the poem, I was able to look beyond the surface level, finding the hidden meanings in the way the lines are constructed. For example, with the mention of bats, my interpretation is that while initially there may have been literal bats in the sky, he came to associate border patrol and immigration with bats, as they would have been prowling the night as well. This is further backed up by this line: “These bats speak English only” (Zamora, Line 9), meaning that these were likely not the people helping him, but people who were trying to stop him.
Another poem that I found that spoke to me was a poem from Javier titled “To Abuela Neli”. In this work, he is telling this “Abuela Neli” about the struggles he has had to endure and what has been going on in his life since arriving in America. This likely takes place around 2008-2009, as Obama’s election is mentioned (Zamora, Lines 3-4). This poem spoke to me because I found it to be a very personal work, one telling not of his struggles to getting to where he was, but one of venting to a person who is extremely close to him. It is not only the journey to America that has caused him strife, but the people back at home who are proclaiming falsehoods about him. His old friends say that he has changed from who he previously was, calling him a “coconut: brown on the outside and white on the inside” (Zamora, Lines 16-18). This poem is also free verse. There aren’t any rhymes, but some lines have some alliteration, such as line 7: “There’s no path to papers”. Along with this, the free structure allows this poem to feel much more like how it is intended to be interpreted as, as a letter. The whole poem flows nicely, and the informal words used really made this poem stand out to me.
The similarities I see between these two poems are that they are both free verse and come from deeply personal points in his life. He uses images of his childhood and of his journey to help bring forth that personal feeling and honestly made me feel like I was intruding on an intimate moment between him and his thoughts.
What these two poems tell me about Javier is that he is someone who doesn’t conform to the typical standards of poetry that we see. While he may use his experiences like other poets to create his pieces, the way that he uses his words makes it so that you do not feel like an outsider to his world. His use of free verse allows for this, as it feels more like a story being told than that of a poem being recited. In his interview with Hoda and Jenna from TODAY, Javier speaks about how difficult it was to look back onto his trauma and that vulnerable 9-year-old kid; some days he had to let it out through tears or through sleeping it off. While the interview is regarding his book, Solito, he mentions Chino, a member of a family who took him in when he was not with a Coyote or his grandfather, who had accompanied him for two weeks. This “Chino” is also mentioned in another poem, “Second Attempt Crossing”, which seems to be a farewell poem and a thank you for this young man who protected him when Javier was younger.