I Speak of the City: Paul Martínez Pompa

shots fired in Humboldt Park
Originally uploaded by squeezbox

[Pepper Spray is one excellent chapbook. After having read it, I can see why Pompa was chosen as the winner of this year’s Andrés Montoya Prize. His writing brings the brutality of police violence and joy of urban survival right in the reader’s face without relying on pathos or sympathy. These poems are executed with great poetic skill and technique that brings the streets much closer to the reader than any tabloid headline or 11 o’clock news report ever could.

When William Carlos Williams bemoaned that “it is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there,” he was beseeching the reader to seek out collections like Paul Martínez Pompa’s Pepper Spray.]

How to Hear Chicago

Here a spirit must yell
to be heard yet a bullet

need only whisper to make
its point—sometimes I imagine

you right before your death
with an entire city in your ears.

© Paul Martínez Pompa