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Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, The
Alberto Rios
$16.00 paperback
1-55659-173-X
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Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, The
Alberto Rios

National Book Award Finalist

Alberto Ríos explains the world through magic. These poems, set in a town that straddles the American/Mexican border, are lyric adventures, crossing boundaries as they move easily between cultures, languages, and sensibilities. Drawing upon fable, parable, and family legend, Ríos utilizes the intense, supple imagination of childhood to reveal essential relationships in all their mystery and wonder.

This is a book about people seeing inside each other, seeing the life there that has drawn them in, and trying to hold on to it so much that it gets passed to a next generation, and a next after that. Its poems fill out the stories not of newspapers, but of people and places passed over, or rendered only narrowly, or impatiently. The author’s grandparents, Margarito and Refugio, his great-grandparents, Clemente and Ventura, his parents, his wife, and his son Joaquin, they all live, at least figuratively, in one many-storied house, in a big neighborhood that straddles the border, and in a century that has ended before. The work of this poetry is not in appropriating what is already intrinsically memorable—it is in finding and keeping, if only briefly, those things that ought to be remembered.

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2002 National Book Award Finalist

2002 Southwest Book of the Year

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For Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, The, Alberto Rios

"Alberto Ríos is a poet of reverie and magical perception, and of the threshold between this world and the world just beyond. With humor, compassion, and intelligence, Ríos's poems overlay a child's observation and imagination onto our society of daily inequity, poverty, and violence. The light of memory shines on culture, language, family, neighbors, and friends saving them all in stories that become legends, a light so sensual and full it is 'swallowed into the mouth of the eye, / into the throat of the people.'"—Judges' comments on presenting the National Book Award finalist medal to Alberto Ríos

"Alberto Ríos is a poet of reverie... Whether talking about the smell of food, the essence of a crow or a bear's character or of hard-won human wisdom, Ríos writes in a serenely clear manner that enhances the drama in the quick scenes he summons up."—The New York Times Book Review

"... Rios's verse inhabits a country of his own making, sometimes political, often personal, with the familiarity and pungency of an Arizona chili."—The Christian Science Monitor

"Alberto Ríos is the man you want to sit next to when it is time to hear a story."—Southwest BookViews

"In The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, Alberto Ríos doesn't borrow a myth. Rather, he finds the myth underlying his own life—myth that translates effectively because it is not confined by language. The images of Ríos' life are so vivid, it is as if he has written a picture book that anyone can understand."—The Home & News Tribune

"In his new book of poems, Alberto Ríos has given us evidence and motive for celebration. Ríos' poems follow a path of wonder and gently move us to emotional truths that grab our breath and link our inner and outer landscapes. His alchemy works a transformation in the inner vision, turning us toward the deeper mystery of life itself."—American Book Review

"Through the perspective of an aged child, Ríos finds a voice to transcend the borders that exist around, above, and below him. Ríos plays the trickster not by hiding his magical tricks but by blinding the reader with them, by continually pushing the mundane into the magical until there is neither, only the illusive world that Ríos creates."—Big Muddy, A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley

"Thank you for publishing Ríos. His is a voice I begin to depend on. And certainly learn from. Like a magician's slight of hand: effortless."—Jonathan Hartt, from a "Reader Response" card

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