In the tradition of women as the unsung keepers of history, Deborah Paredez’s second poetry collection tells her story as a Latina daughter of the Vietnam War.
The title refers to the year 1970—the Year of the Metal Dog in the lunar calendar—which was the year of the author’s birth, the year her father prepared to deploy to Vietnam along with many other Mexican-American immigrant soldiers, and a year of tremendous upheaval across the United States. Images from iconic photographs and her father’s snapshots are incorporated, fragmented, scrutinized, and reconstructed throughout the collection as Paredez recalls untold stories from a war that changed her family and the nation.
In poems and lamentations that evoke Hecuba, the mythic figure so consumed by grief over the atrocities of war that she was transformed into a howling dog, and La Llorona, the weeping woman in Mexican folklore who haunts the riverbanks in mourning and threatens to disturb the complicity of those living in the present, Paredez recontextualizes the Vietnam era, from the arrest of Angela Davis to the haunting image of Mary Ann Vecchio at the Kent State Massacre, never forgetting the outcry and outrage that women’s voices have carried across time.
When the forsaken city starts to burn,
after the men and children have fled,
stand still, silent as prey, and slowly turn
back. Behold the curse. Stay and mourn
the collapsing doorways, the unbroken bread
in the forsaken city starting to burn.
Don’t flinch. Don’t join in.
Resist the righteous scurry and instead
stand still, silent as prey. Slowly turn
your thoughts away from escape: the iron
gates unlatched, the responsibilities shed.
When the forsaken city starts to burn,
surrender to your calling, show concern
for those who remain. Come to a dead
standstill. Silent as prey, slowly turn
into something essential. Learn
the names of the fallen. Refuse to run ahead
when the forsaken city starts to burn.
Stand still and silent. Pray. Return.
“Deborah Paredez’s book The Year of the Dog presents a palimpsest of grief howling at the exposed face of Empire. Mixing myth, memory, image, and textual documentary, her verse invents, fragments, constructs, and disfigures. Collectively the poems speak with chilling and touching clarity as they address systemic brutality and militarized power in service to state, nation, and whiteness. This book is fierce, moving, and necessary.”
—Hoa Nguyen, author of Violet Energy Ingots
“Deborah Paredez’s Year of the Dog refuses to lay static on white space. Time is a character in this engaging collection, beginning in the tumultuous late ‘60s and reaching into now, today. Each poem becomes lyrical evidence laid before us—personal—and reckoned with. One feels the timeline has been lived. Yet, borders are crossed, fences jumped, and experimental detours—even graphic renderings—hold it all together. The echo of war and protest lingers. Paredez’s Year of the Dog is a song for now, as one confronts recent history through needful reflection.”
—Yusef Komunyakaa, author of Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems
“Deborah Paredez’s new collection, Year of the Dog, is a hauntingly beautiful collage, poems that move seamlessly between the close-up, intimate detail to a bird’s-eye view of history—like looking at one small segment of a large canvas then stepping back to take in the whole arresting sweep of it. Here, what it means to contend with grief, to live in the aftermath of national and personal trauma—the casualties and collateral damage of war and injustice—is in the hands of an unflinching witness. This is the inheritance of a poet born in the year of the dog: bound to the duty of remembering and to singing the names of the dead and the living in a voice turned again and again ‘into something essential.’”
—Natasha Trethewey, author of Monument: Poems: New and Selected
“In this striking and powerful collection, Deborah Paredez explores the personal and mythical dimensions of war. Weaving images with autobiography, history with poetry, and self with family, Year of the Dog is an essential work for understanding how war is connected to every facet of our lives.”
—Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer