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spacer.gif   TOP DOG: RAUL NINO
Posted by : cj on Tuesday, September 04, 2007 - 11:36 AM
Chicago Poetry Reviews: Click Headlines .
A Book of Mornings
by Raúl Niño
MARCH/Abrazo Press
Reviewed by C. J. Laity

Question: What do you get when you combine a legendary Chicago poetry publisher with a legendary Chicago poet? March Abrazo Press is the publishing arm of an organization that was founded in 1975; it has been publishing literature by and about Latinos and Native Americans for two decades. Some of the noted authors this press has published include Sandra Cisneros, Trinidad Sanchez, Carlos Cumpián, Carlos Cortez, Frank Varela, Mark Turcotte, Beatriz Badikian, and many others. Raúl Niño has been a part of the Chicago Poetry Scene for as long as there has been a scene. In 1992 he won a poetry slam that took him to Mexico City on a reading tour as a cultural ambassador. In 1993 Gwendolyn Brooks presented him with the Significant Illinois Writers Award. He also worked with the original Letter eX, which was a free poetry newspaper that was published from 1985 to 1995 and which laid the groundwork for the creation of So what do you get when you combine March Abrazo with Raúl Niño? You might expect something explosive. But instead what you get is something so tender, so wonderfully neutral, that you will sigh at the beauty of it as you read it.

A Book of Mornings is by far the best book of nature poems to come out in 2007. Niño creates a vast landscape of life with this small chapbook. The twenty half-page poems in this book exist as parts to one epic poem that explores part of the author's life, from falling in love to conception to childbirth to fatherhood. Each part of this epic is a glimpse, often no more than a second in time, of a morning in the life of the poet, but Niño manages to include infinity in each of these seconds. The design of this book is symbolic of this theme. Each poem exists on the page without title or page number, so that the poem on the blank page appears to be a rising sun. This is a wonderfully thought out concept. I get the feeling Niño wrote these poems in the morning and that they are about actual things that he perceived; they come off as too honest to be otherwise. The poems also seem to be published in the chronological order that they were written in over a long period of time.

Niño's book starts out with a reminder that morning takes place at different times, depending on what part of the world you live in. While he does this, he paints a larger picture concerning destiny, about how two people from opposite sides of the world can meet, fall in love and create life. Niño personifies the universe, breathing life into everything he sees ("Moon seduces oceans"). At times the vantage point of the imagery in this book may be that of God:

while a stubborn moon
still lolls in the sky,
a clipped thumbnail, remnant
of a celestial manicure

Everything depends upon the sun rising, so what would a book about mornings be without stunning descriptions of the horizon?

graffiti of trees
against a growing blue sky.

Sometimes the sun rises slowly and sometimes it explodes, but what defines a morning to Niño goes way beyond the sun rising. Differences in weather, season, health or mood also add to his definition of a morning. Mornings are colors, are birds, are dreams, are smells, are sounds; mornings are a time for a headache, a time for sexual arousal, often a time for rituals:

First church bell sounds
as dry leaves of oaks and elms
sound a chorus touching a breeze,
above them a prism of blue grows.

Niño's point of view that there is magnificence in ritual, glory in sameness, is convincing. The fact that the robin, or the cat, or his wife, or his child is there for him each morning as sure as the sun rises is touching. Above all Niño sees morning as witness to his life.

Niño also reminds us that today is merely a continuation of yesterday which is merely a continuation of history, and that the rising sun has remained consistent over the centuries, over the ages, since time began. Each departure is also an arrival; each sunrise is also a sunset.

Niño often skips extravagant use of his imagination, and he seems to have little use for metaphor or symbolism, because the shear splendor of what he is observing and recording speaks for itself.

The key to enjoying this book's full potential is reading each line of poetry slowly, as if tasting a fine wine, taking in each word individually. Niño achieves a lot with his haiku-like verse, and each word has been selected ever so carefully to achieve the perfection that is this book.

I want to thank Raúl Niño and March Abrazo for this book. After reading this book, I found myself observing nature more curiously. In the troubled times that we live in, with darkness pouring out of our television sets minute by minute, it is extremely important that a book like this exists to remind us just how beautiful the world actually is. A Book of Mornings is about as fine as a chapbook can get.

--CJ Laity

To find information about how to order A Book of Mornings, Click Here.

Go Back to the other Top Dogs.

**We hope you found the information on this page useful. needs your help. We are holding a fundraising drive in order to stay online. There are two ways that you can help:
Click here to offer a financial gift or click here to order the new book by Press.

Note: Here is a review of Raul Nino's new book, A Book of Mornings.

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