La Dona la Llorona
La Doña, La Llorona by Paul David Adkins
Finalist in the 5th annual CNY Book Awards for poetry
La Doña, La Llorona is a poetry book about alienation and inclusion. With imperviousness and ferocity, this famous Mexican ghost crisscrosses the northern border and makes both nations her own. The stories highlight her pride, beauty, and vanity. In La Doña, La Llorona, the ghost is a woman with a past, a story common to American mythology. She is Mexican, American, a woman unafraid, the most terrifying of specters. In a nation where immigrants face deportation, even death, La Doña, La Llorona is a resounding voice of victory.
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“La Dona, La Llorona has come to steal your heart and force you to question the state of the world around you. Paul David Adkins has the uncanny ability to write beyond the legend of a woman doomed to spend eternity searching for the children she has drowned. This collection is hauntingly playful and honest as Adkins delves into the mindset of La Llorona who has a lot to say about herself, her audience, and other ancient legends. In this collection, La Llorona is more than a ghostly figure, she is a critic of culture and polarizing figures from Cortez to Trump, and a host of women who have committed similar crimes to her own. What is truly refreshing is the speaker’s agency and authority. This collection is brave, ambitious, and dynamic. It is a work that is richly grounded in place and time, a talent that Adkins accomplishes while leaving his speaker to wander from one era to another. A line from the opening piece begins, “Who are those children? Will they come with her?” The only fitting response is borrowed from the same piece: Oh, we will.” —Autumn Spriggs, Editor-in-Chief, The Fem Lit Mag.
“La Llorona herself has gripped Paul David Adkins with her icy fingers and whispered these tales, these dark secrets of death, in his ears. Bend close to these midnight visions and admire the way he’s become her most lyric, most cunning, and most effective ethnographer and lover to date.” —Sarah Cortez, Poet and councilor, Texas Institute of Letters, Author of Cold Blue Steel
“In Paul David Adkins La Doña, La Llorona, the history of the past and the strangeness of the present are melded to create a brand new narrative of grieving ghost mothers caught between love and maliciousness. Vernacular and literary dialects merge to create a text bizarrely lively and vibrant despite its talk of the dead. Striking images abound throughout the book. Phantoms descend the dim stairwells of other phantoms’ hearts, and the “crescent light” of a horse’s eyes is a “sickle sweeping.” La llorona “can tell where she is by her absence.” Her name is “sizzled on the black face of a pan” and she is a “red droplet in the snow you mistake for the bud of a peony.” I would recommend this book to anyone who wants an engaging story that will keep them awake at night until they reach the end.” —Lisa M. Cole, Author of Dreams of the Living
“Where is La Llorona now, and for whom does she weep? What can she have to say to Donald Trump, to Susan Smith, to indocumentados stuffed in the back of a truck crossing Texas, and a mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Discovery? Paul David Adkins finds her again and again in these inventive poems, “swaddled// at the midnight door,/ a baby in a basket,” or telling Telemundo what she thinks of their programming, or beholding herself in a mirror, “Dress on a hanger.// Wing on the wind,// cold as the palm/ of a porcelain doll.” By turns wry and desolate, elegiac and prophetic, this collection casts a voice that rings with fresh terror and enduring grief. These poems will haunt you with their mythic heft, will take your fears and drag them, like children, toward the river.” —Sally Rosen Kindred, Author of Book of Asters
“Though la Llorona lives in the spectral world, Paul David Adkins captures her in the natural one. Each poem is titled with anchoring facts of date and location, in both the U.S. and Mexico, spanning from 1975 to 2016. La Llorona would love her name on a Hollywood star, and is a student of pop culture. She observes and responds to current events in the form of rants and interviews: Marilyn Monroe, J. Lo, Winnie the Pooh, Tiger Woods’ wife, Jerry Springer, and even Donald Trump make cameo appearances, in a way that allows readers to identify la Llorona’s spectral experience with their daily one.” – Jubalee Penuliar on Saw Palm.