Pulp Poetry

Review: Valentin Sandoval’s South Sun Rises

Valentin Sandoval’s debut prose collection, South Sun Rises, is a true American chronicle. The collection, published last December, features poems of familial ties and struggles with its personal and shared traumas. Sandoval’s slice of American pie is bubbling at the surface and grabbing at your feet. Sandoval’s lust for life comes across in “La Rutera,”

His Father,
those Ancient Ones unite to see
me, who is them
in full form.
They teach me how to
laugh at the sickness
when it overwhelms,
like a Buddha I roar
my laugh into the dark.

Valentin Sandoval

Valentin Sandoval

He speaks from the womb, and as his mother. The on-again, off-again maternal protagonist radiates, and then, in a poem like “El Coyote,” the Chihuahua Desert becomes part of the narrative and the dual protagonists become immersed into the narrative landscape. He also reaches out from an omnipresent voice. From Sandoval’s “Narcopreneurs”:

I pray,
“Oh Great Creator,
Gran Creador,
Juarez needs salvation,
their souls need to be sown
into the life of Juarez,
the beautiful city
where there live
young hearts hoping
to claim the new folklore
of their own making,
their own meaning”

South Sun Rises is directly grounded to the source of its setting. What’s most evident in these works is the necessity for the slowing down of time into blood, sweat and tears.

As the poems progress the collection takes on the ideas of the beauty of place, fragility of family, breaking of cycles, survival and resilience. Best embodied in “The Desert Cold Again,”

Sandoval comes across like Faulkner here, the sound and the fury of a pseudo Compson family on the border, stressing the guilt that weighs on the history of our communities and on the best of us.

What stands fresh throughout is Sandoval’s willingness to bear his own traumas, his naked and afraid moments, all of this tied to a journey of hope into wonder, highlighted by his mother. This is Americana through the lens of the border, not just for the mestizaje baked under the Chihuahuan Desert sun, but all the pseudo desert dogs from sea to shining sea.