Peru: Intermezzo Tropical. 2021. 116 pages.
Besides the act of discovering a new society, the sensation of strangeness is one of the constants in the lives of migrants. In addition, apprehensive feelings for the land and nostalgia appear because, when a person leaves their home, they are also leaving a part of themselves. These topics constitute the principal axis of Kauneus, the latest book written by poet and cultural promoter Roxana Crisólogo. Her poetic activity started in the nineties, a period when she was a member of Noble Caterva, one of the most important groups in the Peruvian literary field. This group, formed at the Federico Villarreal National University, also included poets such as Leoncio Luque and Johnny Barbieri.
Kauneus is a vital poetry collection that describes intense emotions. This book invites us to not forget our roots, to take part in the history of our people and culture. Above all, Kauneus teaches us the skills for finding and conserving the beauty that surrounds us, reminding us of our humanity through varied manifestations of the quotidian. The work is made up of four sections: “She,” “Postals,” “Smoke Signals,” and “The Beauty.” Themes of migration and its impact characterize every section. The first two segments express vital experiences through a style close to that of chronicles. The author presents vicissitudes she has to confront as mother and daughter. One line says: “One good and sweet mother / forgets herself / the hand does not forget me / and pushes / the anxiety of one hundred eyes waiting for something to happen” (13), highlighting that, across distances, the vinculum between a mother and her daughter is invincible. Here the writer speaks as the protagonist of both roles. The recollections of her childhood, being a mother and a daughter, increase intensely because of her uprooting from her homeland, a wound she accepts with suffering. In another verse, we read: “Your buried name / is the history of Peru / narrated in 4 letters / cut into little pieces” (18). Nonetheless, she preserves her identity thanks to her attempts to find a shiny side to her days and, as a result, the wound’s pain is reduced. She also feels a profound connection to Peruvian heroes such as Tupac Amaru and to herself as a strong woman who stands up to obstacles, abuses, stereotypes, and conformity.
In “Smoke Signals,” the book transports us to a sensorial journey across Peru’s major cities. This mobility appears in the following stanzas: “Me and my sisters come here for a plate of food / refried and agitated / as is Peruvian history” (20). The poem’s tone conveys a tenuous fragility through feelings of migrant melancholy. Furthermore, the lyric speaker underscores differences between her country and the host society in Europe (Finland), a singularity expressed through foreign vocables included in the book. In this section, we also recognise a recurrent theme in Crisólogo’s work: the forest as a ritual image that vitalizes and increases the memories of the protagonist, a woman who shows us the paths of her life in multiple geographies and roles. For example, she talks about the relevance of Amazonian health practices in these verses: “with medicinal plants from the Amazon / and thread of faith” (63). She also mentions the value of preserving native customs such as the respect for nature that cures any pain, a pain that in different ways tries to find a route for oppressing us, a pain we must control in order to avoid breakages and instability.
The last segment, titled “The Beauty,” expresses the logic of this book. This section directly confronts the dilemma of being a foreigner, a stranger who is seeking their dreams, opportunities, and love. Despite the adversities and solitudes provoked by migration, the lyric speaker battles against isolation and tries to learn from other experiences, sharing with us her travels across diverse continents: Europe, Africa, and America. Thanks to the knowledge gained on these trips, she can deal with the violent clash between European and Latin American traditions. The protagonist invites us, the readers of her life history, to be strong during the process of adaptation without losing or altering our identity.
Kauneus is a work that produces an intimate and solid relation with readers, affecting us through descriptions of daily troubles in a transparent language, integrating foreign languages such as Finnish, Quechua, and Portuguese. Indeed, the book depicts a plasticity that does not lose its impact on philosophical matters. By contrast, this poetry is based on the representation of quotidian elements (plants, airplanes, balloons, and water, among others) to show us a variety of emotions enriched with a repertoire of natural images—in particular, references to the forest and the sea. These characteristics mirror the axis and process of Kauneus. In this venue, we can identify one last message in this book: to understand the simple and transparent beauty that lives in the most insignificant objects, in the shining of the sun over a stone column, in the flower that opens a path through the middle of the cement or roadside pollution. This is a quality also applicable to persons. Authentic beauty is in our inner nature, in our mood, in the behavior that comes in the face of misfortunes, in the presence or absence of compassion towards our neighbor. Thus, the book deconstructs the concept of beauty, breaking the limitations of the sensible, the knowledge and the anxiety of beautiful bodies, either in men or women.
Thanks to this text, the reader can comprehend the connotations of nostalgia, land, and quotidian experiences. They have the opportunity to learn the value of their history and home that, in spite of high and low moments, help to ameliorate afflictions in contexts of migration. After all, beyond customs and distances, land is a latent presence in the heart of every lonely migrant.