Set in Southern California's San Gabriel Valley, Diana Marie Delgado’s debut poetry collection follows the coming-of-age of a young Mexican-American woman trying to make sense of who she is amidst a family and community weighted by violence and addiction. With bracing vulnerability, the collection chronicles the effects of her father’s drug use and her brother’s incarceration, asking the reader to consider reclamation and the power of the self.
Most nights I’m face to face with the stars.
No one is more afraid of this than me.
So I find places to lie down
and signify. I’m practicing a play
where my brother’s doing time in prison
and I’m locked out of the house.
Talking is like falling down or
watching your uncle
pull himself into his wheelchair,
the sun moving over
his arms like a blessing.
At least I had a mother
who could sew her name
into my hair.
I want to lie in her stomach again,
understand the drive
to hurt something young,
wild with sky.
My father and brother enter,
and one of them says,
You should start this story
with the death of a child.
“With vigorous wit and clarity, Diana Marie Delgado writes scenes of growing up in the San Gabriel Valley of Southern California. The poet traces the rich voice of identity through the turbulent passions of childhood and adolescence and their casually spoken, pungent lines that don’t ever go away. Here, amid the myriad complications of the first phase of life, addiction and incarceration of relatives are but details, not destinies. These starkly succinct poems and prose poems map a powerful constellation of becoming. As she writes in another poem from this collection — ‘my journey is to forgive/everything that’s happened.’”
—Naomi Shihab Nye for The New York Times Magazine
“ Within Delgado’s poetics, forgiveness stems from the creation of beauty. [She] provocatively challenges the boundaries between interior and exterior, self and other, individual and collective. Delgado’s vulnerable, deep exploration of the self is memorable.”
“In her debut poetry collection, Tracing the Horse, Diana Marie Delgado uses taut language and controlled recursion to render the life of her young narrator as she navigates the boundaries of her world in La Puente, a barrio in Los Angeles’s San Gabriel Valley. The poems are ethereally beautiful—razor-sharp and dreamlike at once—as they explore the heavy realities and expectations of family, poverty, drugs, crime, and sexual exploitation. The poems gallop off from there, each title blooming into a memory, a whisper, a haunting—a horse in the night, flashing by lightning-fast. And you’ll read them lightning-fast, too, hungry for the magic of Delgado’s words.”
“Delgado’s first full-length poetry collection blooms in the barrio of La Puente in the San Gabriel Valley, and centers around a young woman and her family beset by addiction, incarceration, and other forms of violence. In one poem, the speaker wants to ‘understand why the light in my dad’s body / after the needle’s tucked in is orange / on a river so silver I can barely see him.’ In another poem that seeks to decipher her family’s troubled legend, the speaker considers the role her mother plays: ‘Maybe Mom’s the horse / because aren’t horses beautiful, / can’t they kill a man if spooked?’ A quiet sensuality underscores the domestic unrest, and Delgado’s understated lyrics read like snippets from a private conversation with an unknown interlocutor, one who shares her intimacy with both sides of the law: ‘California has a lot of prisons, all with beautiful names.’ An introspective carousel of electric, lightning lyrics.”
“Reading Diana Marie Delgado, I feel the bones she rattles, the blood currents she rides, the imagery and language that spiral up the crushed and diminished voices.”
—Luis J. Rodriguez, from the Foreword
“Multiversed, multivalenced, multivoiced verses where the point of view is singular and the vision, fractured and fractal. Enter this kaleidoscope of poems where ‘the Devil / can dance like a goddamn dream.’ Delgado's long anticipated and utterly unique first collection is a tour de force of luz y fuerza, cariño y claridad, signified and signifying: familiar as a folded tortilla, strange as an estranged father or the moon or ‘riding a horse I can't stop drawing.... / a song in a dream / whose words burn / my hands like light.’ Read this book ‘for feelings’ in a world gone one-dimensional.”
—Lorna Dee Cervantes, author of Sueño: New Poems
“Diana Marie Delgado’s emotionally complex and beautifully rendered debut volume, Tracing the Horse, fiercely and poignantly explores the dynamics of a family fraught with violence and conflict. Chronicling her coming-of-age in La Puente, California, Delgado interweaves the tensions of poverty, sexism, casual cruelty, vulnerability, loneliness, and addiction with startling moments of unexpected beauty and fleeting grace. Her evocative poems unfold with a tensile energy, while being hauntingly revelatory.”
—Maurya Simon, author of The Wilderness: New and Selected Poems