, Author
Kara Candito
The University of Utah Press, 2014

Kara Candito’s second poetry collection is anything but a comedy, although it ends happily. At the book’s center is the struggle of a U.S. citizen and a Mexican citizen to find a common space and language in their relationship while navigating the U.S. immigration system, a process that sometimes requires magical thinking just to endure. By employing a kind of documentary poetics that views the application process through different angles and perspectives, Candito crafts discourses around xenophobia, otherness, and national and ethnic identity.

“In the waiting room of the third government office, / you will invent your own religion,” writes Candito in “Ars Amatoria: So You Want to Marry a Foreign National,” a tragicomic sequence written in Roman-numeric fragments reminiscent of an official document’s formatting. Interspersed with moments of lyric urgency (“I am here / to learn how to suffer more beautifully”) and disconcerting cinematic observation (“One wore an assault rifle across his back, // another pointed a video camera at our faces.”), Spectator charts the plural self’s course through a world of airplane travel, drug wars, and customs forms.

From Italy to Boston, from Lorca’s Granada to New York City, and from the dusty streets of Mexico City to the snowy parking lots of the Midwest, the speakers of Spectator probe the jagged boundaries between past and present, observer and observed, and political and personal. The book becomes an homage to anyone who’s been displaced or redefined by bureaucratic systems of power.