The Outer Bands
by Gabe Gomez
The Outer Bands is a first collection of poems from Andrés Montoya prize-winner Gabriel Gomez. The book is an expansive examination of language and landscape, voice and memory, where the balance between experimentation and tradition coexist. The poems realize a reconciliation between the writer’s voice and the voice of witness, wonder, and tragedy; a dialogue between two worlds that employ an equally paradoxical imagery of the American Southwest and the marshes of Southern Louisiana. The book concludes with its namesake poem, “The Outer Bands,” a twenty-eight-day chronicle of the days between Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, which together decimated the Gulf Coast region in 2005. The sequence poem, a pastiche and re-contextualization of images, news blurbs, and political rhetoric, travels and responds in a spare subjectivity to the storm. Gabriel Gomez completed it during a two-month emergency residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute after his home in New Orleans was destroyed.
"Gabriel Gomez has a perceptive eye and a cunning ear, bands of cellos and bands of starlings. And then The Outer Bands, where none of us is untouched or unmoved by the hurricane of devastation, this new century, so replete with human failures. For Gomez the longing of retablos, the aching after faith, is balanced with clarity and knowing. His poetry is a kindness in the midst of a disordered world; a spire rising from the floodwaters. What a remarkable gift to us all." - D. A. Powell
“Gabriel Gomez is an accomplished poet, one who honors the resonance of language as well as reverberations of form. And, like a retablo, each poem shimmers with reverence, if not for saints and Biblical figures, but for the beauty and poignancy of complex, contemporary life.” - Valerie Martinez, from the introduction
"Gomez gifts us with his words like the eye of the storm. His poetry is heavily punctuated and relentlessly measured, but his subject matter is sublime: meditations on Vitruvian triptychs, on architecture, on aging photos of strangers, on wordless grief experienced by a person who literally loses his footing in the physical world." - Farren Stanley, Santa Fe Reporter, October 2005
"Color, mathematics, language, texture and touch imbue these poems with mystery . The poems are alters at which we can worship the fragmented nature of our world." - Sheryl Luna, El Paso Times, April 2008
The Seed Bank
Praise for The Seed Bank
"This is a book that sows words like seeds in the breach of sense and language, body and place, monument and ruin, self and nation. "There is material here that will start the rebuilding," Gabe Gómez assures us, and that material is found in the "the foreign/ body," the "broken English of immigrants," a "patois," and in "our mother tongue," where "a kind of melody/stifled by letters" tries to "sound out the new world." These seeds, "find patterns/ in the mayhem//from patterns in their flight." The Seed Bank offers hope, then, in the very materials discarded, splintered, unvalued, forgotten in the wake of natural disaster or assimilation or Monsanto: what each of us holds in our hands, our ancient seeds, our memories and nouns, our desires and verbs, our individual and hybrid voices, which can take root anywhere and disrupt the order with a field of wildflowers. We need this book to remind us, again and again, of our strength, our flexible syntax, our "hard breath blooming" against a grammar of destruction."
"Gabe Gomez composes spare and elliptical poems whose 'envelopes of waiting seed yield / an epistolary of vine and gerunds.' These poems marvelously conflate endings and beginnings, emptiness and fullness."
"In this startling series of linked poems, Gabe Gomez sets into dynamic tension a set of desires that seem at first radically incompatible: the will to change, to “plant” the new and to evolve into new selves, new formations, and the need for history, continuity, loyalty and its architecture, the stability of form. Gomez makes powerful elegant poems of these tensions and attentions, inventing verbal structures to embody the new growth as it “grips down” (as W C Williams has it) “and begins to awaken.”
“There is a permeation of poetic language and memory in Gabe Gomez’s second book of poetry, The Seed Bank. We hear and visualize “in illo tempore” in moments of ruination within body and landscape from a natural disaster. And we begin to meditate on the fragmentation of selfhood as “they stare up to their hands from cold paper / where a clutch of nouns ignite.” Though, even in the midst of catastrophe, words, sound, instill and create a process toward the renovation of person, place, thing; enough for us to experience “its / drinking / of the story.”
“The Seed Bank tells of that place where cultivation is to the cultural landscape what syllables are to a public climate---an “epistolary of vine and gerunds,” visual diffusion, “short sentence river,” or the mercenary timbre of other survivals. In the end, Gabe Gomez works into specific objects of sight and sound the hard matter that is the medium’s condition.”