Mexica Mix, Marina Sanchez

Verve Press, 2021     £7.50

Blended myths and delicious language

Marina Sanchez’s pamphlet is a fascinating mix of Aztec and Spanish stories blended into family myths and rooted in a broader celebration of the Earth. Quite different from what I usually read, it pulled me in with its delicious language. Hearing the poet read at its launch was wonderful — a foretaste of her bewitching delivery.

In the poem ‘Clouds of Doubt’, Marina Sanchez introduces us to her interest in family identity, using beautifully colourful language. Her mother considers her origin and attempts to censor the uncomfortable. What is truth, what lies? ‘Mother’s mouth was a storytelling flower’, describing ‘beloved volcanoes’ and telling us ‘we came from Mixtecs’, perhaps. The poem ends in ambiguity with the line ‘My ancestors lie like budbursts in these tales.’ We aren’t told exactly where they rooted.

In an urban setting, ‘Black Madonna in Wood Green Shopping City’ celebrates Our Lady of Guadalupe, weirdly found rising above ‘Gift World’. She’s an icon of the narrator’s childhood who made a strong impression on her:

She takes me to the birth country within,
where the orange haze hangs
over the city, volcanoes rising
from the valley to heaven

The most politically charged poem is ‘Wall’. In it, the narrator recounts the experience of being an illegal immigrant at the US border and powerfully lists what she ‘will not describe’. A litany of rich images are laid bare like a journal account:

I will not describe how someone taps, raps, bangs,
hits, knocks and pounds with his hands and sticks
the high steel beans, the colour of dried blood.

Marina Sanchez delivers a perfectly balanced set of poems, tuned to elemental forces, human experience and a mix of cultural influences.

Maggie Mackay