"Call all thriving things illegal: / The magnolia tree, its roots, / That vast network of veins that feeds itself / And others like it in dry soil, / Pushes space through concrete sidewalks / To breathe ... Every tough, gnarled thing holding / Its own life in a fist of vitality is illegal."
-- from" Everything is Illegal"
Coming Spring 2018
In Nightbloom & Cenote Leslie Contreras Schwartz traverses a nighttime landscape with eyes purposefully wide open. She descends into "nightcups of hurt and stains"—navigates rugged territory––where most would refuse to tread. In these darkened depths, Leslie pushes against every uncomfortable edge: personal and generational affronts. She relents, "there is too much to move, that won’t." Yet, she keeps stepping with her gaze focused on what wilts and blooms. In her hometown of Houston, she reflects on both literal and metaphorical landscapes, "where streetlights bust out and stay busted." She’s bold in her witnessing though her poems seem to palpate under her exacting "knife, the sharp edge/ that we use to make something, /Even if it disappears." In this brilliant volume, Schwartz instructs best in how she navigates loss. "Let me walk unsteadily. /Let me lose and lose/my body in parts while I watch and sing anyway." Her verse though sorrow-tinged––shouts a powerful song of resistance. She bade us sing no matter what we withstand.
--Glenis Redmond, author of What My Hand Say
"Nightbloom & Cenote is an absorbing collection that is an elegant and powerful meditation on the author's reverence for the corporeality of the body, on girlhood and parenting, on space and place, and especially the city of Houston, a city that is at times the warrior and at times the tool of war. Every sentence is spellbinding, so read it slowly. Schwartz goes after our hearts."
Dr. Jamie Wagman, Assistant Professor of Women and Gender Studies at St. Mary’s College
“In (Nightbloom & Cenote) the smallest detail opens a kind of world all its own: “I am made of those sweat-filled / sheets of sorrow, / a clothesline of flinching blouses / waiting for that slap and back beat / to dry.” I loved this, and I loved also the intensity of being a single person as exhibited in the lyric voice of this work.”
“The night-blooming jasmine invoked by this book’s title reveals its flowers not in daylight but in darkness, and in that same way, this stunning collection by Leslie Contreras Schwartz unfolds what’s hidden, whether it’s the personal and cultural histories we carry inside us, the hundreds of dollars concealed in a grandmother’s curtains, the words we want to say but don’t, or ‘those wings’—as one poems says—“that flutter/within my cells.” At its core, so much of this book tells the unspoken truth of what it means to inhabit a body, with its frailties and beauties and abuses and miracles. The insight of these poems will leave you shaken.”
One of the miracles of Leslie's collection is an almost-unearthly, tonal quiet: in the midst of violence, or not, and against the terror of the diurnal is the counter-force of incredulity, the unlikeliness of it all: life, the zygote that becomes you or me, and its corollary, the fledgling that falls dead from its nest …
There's not a perpetual forgiveness of sins in Nightbloom & Cenote –– there are limits. But just as the title itself is astounding –– the rarest of flowers on the one hand and the most despicable doom of young girls on the other –– that perpetual balancing act in the book is something Schwartz manages with the utmost deftness and gentleness. One would not expect "gentleness" in such a collection, yet it lies at the heart. An amazing accomplishment.