Winner of the American Book Award for his poetry collection "Calendar of Dust" which also happens to be his first. His first collection of poetry, Calendar of Dust, was honored with an American Book Award in 1991.
A series of personal and historical poems that tells the history of the desert Saenz loves in poetic form.
Saenz’ poetry has always been centered in the geography and cultures of the desert Southwest. Dark and Perfect Angels moves deeper into that territory, exploring the difficult braiding of Mexican, Indian, and European traditions of his heritage, the struggles and complications of family life, the visceral nature of religious faith in Mexico “where any saint worth praying to must be adorned with blood as well as gold,” a priests’ anointing of a young man dying from gunshot, the shedding of the priest’s robes and the secular quest for faith.
Indeed, this is a book about faith—a cry for honesty, compassion and community as antidotes to the cold hearted self-interest that drives so much of American culture. - Alison Hawthorn Deming
This gripping suite of twelve dreams, infused with the conflict along the border of Mexico and the United States, traces humanity's addiction to violence and killing--from boys stepping on ants to men shooting animals, men shooting women, men shooting enemies. The Dreams begin in a desert landscape where poverty and wealth grate against each other, and the ever present war becomes "as invisible as the desert sands we trample on." The dreams, however, move toward a greater peace with Sáenz providing an unforgettable reading experience.
Benjamin Saenz writes, “In the desert, we live in a desert of translation.” That is exactly what he sets out to do, in this, his third of poems—translate experience into words. He writes of history and learning and death. He writes of loss and knowledge and the difficulties of coming to terms with the harsh and untamable landscape of the border. Ultimately, his elegies are “stones that praise the lives” of those who have given him words.
A major Latino writer's intimate but healing journey through addiction, human desire and broken love.
From "He Leaves a Message in the Middle of the Night"
He loved beer
and crack. He loved heroin, ecstasy, the sad music
of the bars. He said he loved you too. You are
thinking of the night you met him. Late October
night, the breeze as soft as his black eyes. He was
so hungry for trouble. You were so hungry
for anything that resembled love. Your finger
tracing the tattoos on his chest, you dreamed
of living in the prison of his arms. But you refused
to live in the prison of his deadly nights. You
can't survive without the morning
Three poetic statements unite and intertwine in this slim volume to create a rare insight into the lives of people who bear witness to the exclusionary nature of society's most basic assumptions about the nature of gender and desire: men in women's bodies, outcasts, who make their living as prostitutes.
With the caring eye of an intimate observer, Benjamin Alire Saenz allows the reader to witness the hopes, fears and dangers of their transformations, sketching their daily lives in a series of short fragmentary prose-poems, showing the familiarity of the seemingly alien.
Jimmy Santiago Baca's first person poem pushes the transformation further still, allowing as well as forcing the reader to recognize the frailty and pain caused by a culture's ideas of what constitutes the normal.
Benjamin Alire Saenz uses language with uncommon passion, lyricism, and urgency to act as the intentional witness in a transitional space: the border between the United Sates and Mexico. Within his narratives the desert’s austere beauty and the brutality of border politics mirror every person’s capacities for generosity and cruelty. Borderland spaces, real and imaged, are constants in these poems, and within them Saenz directly confronts crises of faith, civil rights, and contemporary politics.