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Poetry Collection Review: Guillotine by Eduardo C. Corral

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

Title: Guillotine

Author: Eduardo C. Corral

Themes: Immigration, Self-Identity, Violence, Queerness, Love, Nationalism, Racism

Three Words to Describe the Poems: Experimental, Bleak, Searching

Summary and Comments: This is a beautiful and experimental collection of poetry by Eduardo C. Corral, an assistant professor of creative writing at North Carolina State University. Corral, a son of two Mexican immigrants, uses his poems throughout this collection to explore the journey that immigrants must make when trying to cross the Mexican-American border, expose the exploitation of said immigrants by violent opportunists, comment on the casual racism seen throughout the U.S. Border Patrol, and paint bleak pictures of life as an immigrant taken hostage by the coyotes that often ferry them across the border under the cover of night and darkness, with one poem in particular, ‘1707 San Joaquin Avenue’, being an exploration of a drop house in Phoenix, AZ.

At the same time, don’t let the apparent bleakness and darkness stop you—these poems are rich and lush with language, and Corral mixes in poems that are meditations on life, love, and the sense of self throughout. Many of the poems also switch between Spanish and English at times, so casual knowledge of Spanish, or the gumption to pause and use Google Translate while reading some of the poems, will make the reading experience more enjoyable. Overall, a razor-sharp collection with innovative style and presentation of the various lines and stanzas throughout.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Favorite Poem: ‘Questions for My Body’

Why are you nocturnal

How many cathedrals have you entered

Has cruelty ever saved you

Do you remember the length of his thumbs

Isn’t that enough cake

Have you ever soaked your feet in gasoline

Do you still fear the virus

How can you sleep in this heat

Is that a soul patch

Did you laugh or cry at Keat’s grave

Have you been claimed

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