This short book dovetails the new with the old, the imagined with lived experiences, cementing this mosaic
of possibilities.Some terrifying moments are encased in chrysalisesof beatific clarity and certainty. Wisdom and bewildermentstare back at us from these pages. Janus-headed:historical and futuristic.
These poems lead us readers to search for answers in ourselves. I am not talking about profundity (though there are numerous profound moments here); in essence I am speaking about how those simple, overlooked glimpses at our common lives tend to rise to the troubled surface of this poetry. The voices here seem to be saying that if we "dream on the edge of history" we won't escape by feigning ignorance or innocence. Gotera paints the score in brilliant, bold, and brave strokes across an encompassing canvas. Like those
x-raypaintings by Australian Aboriginals, his journeys are inward. And we can see inside the "hollow bones of hummingbirds" alongside the desires within us. There are not easy or unearned directives here; however, there is prophecy — not mere imagistic probes among psychological landmines. Everyday motifs align with the fantastic and bizarre. Gotera dares to glance at "Pharaoh's scimitar" through a plexiglass facade, showing us our own bewildered faces in this imagistic mix. Through this poetry we can almost see what we are becoming.
What is most striking about Dragonfly, considering the fact it is a tapestry of lived and imagined extrusions, is how the poems seem to defy any rote definition. They are flighty, majestic, simple, confident, and
The voices here are having fun. They can be heavy as war, Elvis, blood, racism, and Tutankhamun's tomb; but also light and airy as mosquitoes, dragonflies, and notes from Carlos Santana's guitar on a sunny day in Berkeley. A tension through juxtaposition is what Vince Gotera's Dragonfly achieves in a miraculous light that sobers the mind. Characters ease into each other's dreams, taking us along with them, and we are better and more complete because we have humbled ourselves long enough to peer through the eyes of these sojourners.
— Yusef Komunyakaa
I am ever grateful to Yusef Komunyakaa, then a professor of creative writing at Indiana University, for his mentorship during my MFA days there and also for his continuing mentorship throughout my career. Some of this story is told in my article "Mentor and Friend: Yusef Komunyakaa as Teacher," published in a special issue of the literary journal Callaloo devoted to Yusef (28.3, Summer 2005).
Words can never express the extent and magnitude of my gratitude for your teaching, Yusef, for your taking me on as an apprentice. Salamat, as we say in Filipino, maraming salamat! Thanks, Yusef