Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Poetry: Natural Takeover of Small Things by Tim Z. Hernandez

Natural Takeover of Small Things
by Tim Z. Hernandez
Natural Takeover of Small Things by Tim Z. Hernandez is an intimate portrayal of life in California's San Joaquin Valley with all its beauty and exposed flaws. Mr. Hernandez's poetry is personal and while some poems are rendered with deeply moving, lyrical and rhythmic prose, others are rather straight forward, raw and cutting in nature. There is no real place for nostalgia in Hernandez's memories of "home;" instead there is realism filled with love and care in the shaping of moments, places and people who live and die in the valley -- from campesinos who work the land to those who become collateral damage.

The culture of the West and Western Latino culture permeate Hernandez's poetry. Readers experience the pride embodied by hardworking men and women, as well as substandard living conditions, wasted lives, and personal loses. But there is also taste and smell to savor in Hernandez's poetry: menudo, lengua, the fruits of the valley, the earthy smell of the campo -- the beauty and the tragedy.

This 80 page book is divided into three sections: The Arms in Dead Heat, San Joaquin Sutra, and Natural Takeover of Small Things.

I. Arms in Dead Heat includes memories of life in the San Joaquin Valley beginning with the poem that hooked me, Home:
Fresno is the inexhaustible nerve
in the twitching leg of a dog [...]
II. San Joaquin Sutra describes the beauty and the tragedy;
San Joaquin Valley,
where tired faces water quaint gardens with cut hoses,
bending to bury
the corn next to the sugarcane, reaching
for the avocado on the highest branch,
the melon's elusive fragrance
in all directions toward all the windows in all the houses on all the streets,
sweet invisible nectars drifting
in vastness of big sky
where taunts a kite
broken free
of its

☀ ☀ ☀
San Joaquin -
where sickly bodies of old Texan mothers draped in aprons of sunflower
and waning seasons sit idly by, waiting for some slick cancer to escort
their last days to proms of disintegration, while the souls of
amputated limbs
twitch anxious habits for workloads of the waiting day, [...]
III. Natural Takeover of Small Things is full of reflections on those little details that make up life and bring eventual death, the letting go of one life to begin another. Adios, Fresno says is all . . .
Adios, Fresno
You could use more letters of love.
Here, take these. You owe me nothing, except back pay.
But I won't mention it again.
Trust me when I say I'll have no regrets leaving you. [...]

About the Author: Tim Z. Hernandez is a poet, novelist, and performance artist whose awards include the 2006 American Book Award, the 2010 Premio Aztlan Prize in Fiction, and the James Duval Phelan Award from the San Francisco Foundation. He is the author of a previous book of poetry, Skin Tax, and the novel Breathing in Dust. In 2011 the Poetry Society of America named him one of sixteen New American Poets. His novel of historical fiction, Mañana Means Heaven, based on the life of Bea Franco, will release in Fall of 2013. He holds a BA from Naropa University and an MFA from Bennington College.

Category: Poetry
Series: Camino del Sol: A Latina and Latino Literary Series
ARC provided by Publisher: The University of Arizona Press
Publication Date: February 21, 2013

All poetry quotes taken from Natural Takeover of Small Things by Tim Z. Hernandez. © Tim Z. Hernandez, 2013.


  1. Lovely review Hils. I must confess to having been burnt by poetry at college (the US equivalent = high school :) Maybe one day I can take the time to learn to appreciate it :)

    1. Thank you, Orannia. That's interesting. I didn't truly begin enjoying poetry until I was in my late 20's early 30's. Before that time, poetry didn't do it for me at all! And, it was a slow process, a book here another there... one poet at a time (sometimes one poet for a long, long time) *g* So, yes... it is never too late.


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