The Gospel of Wildflowers and Weeds
96 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:15 Aug 2022

The Gospel of Wildflowers and Weeds


University of New Mexico Press

The poems in The Gospel of Wildflowers and Weeds expand the sacred within a baroque, magical-realist poetics that immerses itself in the flora and fauna of the Caribbean and the region's complex interplay of African, Judeo-Christian, and Taíno (Arawak) cultures. Menes engages with the Catholic sacraments, saints' lives, and the artistic heritage of this universal faith as well as Cuban art through the use of a variety of poetic styles across the collection. An established poet, he pays homage to those writers who have made him the Caribbean poet that he is, specifically Alejo Carpentier, José Lezama Lima, and even Hart Crane. Readers will want to join Menes on this journey as he travels the globe to explore the fantastic and the marvelous while searching for faith and divine grace.

In his sixth full-length collection . . . Orlando Ricardo Menes limns the fervent, sensuous textures of a childhood in Peru, his background as a Cuban American, and works by painters like Carlos Enríquez and writers like Federico García Lorca.'--David Woo, Harriet Books
Menes creates lush and startling soundscapes from the raw, material quality of language, as if to say there is no other place than this, there is no other way except through.'--Plume Poetry
Never are Menes's many speakers without God as they traverse historical and personal landscapes, and never are they without the comfort of literary and artistic ancestors that have paved the way for beauty, truth, and an understanding of the world that transcends any one ideology.'--Esteban Rodriguez, EcoTheo
Armpits of martyrs, altar boys, Ave Maria and Teresa of Avila begin this winsome, perspicacious, gritty, eloquent gospel. Ambivalent and detached from his Roman Catholicism, not an uncommon position for a poet in the modern world, I nevertheless felt a passion close to religion here, maybe more Shakespeare than Herbert, but something Godly notwithstanding. Menes states: 'I'm an earthy creature, the son of mud and the grandson of slime.' Our Cuban American Caliban is a cross between Pattiann Rogers and Luis Cernuda. Between cha-cha-chas and sassy bananas, Menes becomes a modern Prospero: 'With these words I take root in the quicksand of diaspora.' Are the best poems homeless? Are modern poets lost prophets? Menes's cornucopia of precise poems overflows with hope and joy and mercy--whether his intention or not, the more I read, the more God I saw.'--Spencer Reece, author of The Clerk's Tale and The Road to Emmaus
Orlando Menes's The Gospel of Wildflowers and Weeds is a tour de force. Its sweep is epic--ranging from the history of Catholicism to tourism in contemporary Cuba--and its language is viscerally lyric, each line so imbued with the pith of the sensory world that you can nearly smell and taste it in its 'snarled, crusted, curdled, mottled, & spirally' particularity. Speaking in the voices of visual artists and saints as well as his own, Menes excavates both the joys and the widespread oppression wrought by religious experience. This is an ecumenical and earthy gospel of wonder, spoken by a master poet of prophetic and oracular gifts that ultimately stand in service to 'the human, not the divine-- / This ragged, restless world my only shrine.''--Christina Pugh, author of Stardust Media
The poems of Orlando Ricardo Menes's The Gospel of Wildflowers and Weeds read like the intoxicatingly vivid scenes and portraits one finds in books of illumination. With every keenly extravagant brushstroke, with every turn, one enters a new vantage, a new vista, a new and extraordinarily imagined window--even in our belated, fractious, yet desultory moment--to what was once called the sacred.'--Daniel Tobin, author of Blood Labors
Orlando Ricardo Menes teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Notre Dame, where he is a professor of English. He is also the author of several other works of poetry, including Memoria, Fetish, and Heresies (UNM Press). He lives in South Bend, Indiana.

The Blackberry Tree
Altar Boy
The Transverberation of St. Teresa of Ávila
Homage to the Olive
St. Teresa of Ávila upon Reading the Song of Songs

First Communion
Triptych Number 1: Fidelio Ponce
Requeté, Soldier of God
St. Apollonia, Patroness of Dentists
Tower of Babel
The Sacrifice of Isaac

Théophile Gautier in Istanbul
Dalí at Port Lligat, 1936
Mercato del Pesce, Catania
Off-Off-Variation on Théophile Gautier's "Promenade Nocturne"
St. Lapsia, Patroness for Catholics Lapsed & Re-Lapsed
Sister Aurea, OCD, Rails against the Animals to Her Third Graders
St. Tatua, Patroness of Tattooists
Ave Maria
St. Lucy, Patroness of Those Troubled by Their Eyes
The Nuclear Scientist Code-Named Ismail Avows Holy War

Hear Me, Hart Crane
Letter to José Lezama Lima
Triptych Number 2: Carlos Enríquez
Caliban to the Sea Nymph Ananai
The Patriarch Jakob as an Arawak
The Magnificent Jeremiah Expounds on the Impending Doom of Miami
Triptych Number 3: Víctor Manuel

El Patio de Mi Casa
Lorca in the Forest of Goatskin Trees
Homage to Alejo Carpentier
Prayer for Obatalá
Nonce Sonnet for Rousseau
The Incredible Gringa Called Giganta
Cuban Triolet
Solar de la Habana (In Praise of the Washerwomen)
Triptych Number 4: Wifredo Lam


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