Cut­ting the Wire: Pho­to­graphs and Po­etry from the Us-mex­ico Bor­der

Ray Gon­za­lez, Lawrence Welsh Bruce Ber­man (Pho­tog­ra­pher) Univer­sity of New Mex­ico Press (OC­TO­BER) Soft­cover $29.95 (136pp), 978-0-8263-5900-1

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Nonfiction - HO LIN

While politi­cians and civil rights groups have their day re­gard­ing the bor­der be­tween the US and Mex­ico, it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing the or­di­nary hu­man be­ings who es­cape the news cy­cle’s no­tice. Cut­ting the Wire, a timely com­pi­la­tion of po­ems and pho­to­graphs, cuts past polemics to de­liver a strik­ing view of life on both sides of the bor­der.

The book is neatly di­vided into two halves, with Mex­i­can poet Ray Gon­za­lez dom­i­nat­ing the front end and Amer­i­can poet Lawrence Welsh fill­ing out the re­main­der. Ed­i­tor Lisa Mc­niel pairs up Ber­man’s pho­tog­ra­phy with each poem in fas­ci­nat­ing ways.

Some con­nec­tions are plain to see, as when a photo of trick-or-treaters in the bar­rio is matched with Welsh’s “Yel­low Car­na­tions / Day of the Dead.” Oth­ers are more sug­ges­tive in in­ter­pre­ta­tion, as when Gon­za­lez’s poem “Foot­prints,” which imag­ines a pair of foot­prints dis­ap­pear­ing into the desert and sands of time, is placed along­side a photo of a freshly mar­ried El Paso cou­ple, pre­sum­ably start­ing their own jour­ney.

The con­stant con­trasts be­tween each poem and Ber­man’s pho­tog­ra­phy give Cut­ting the Wire breadth and depth. Gon­za­lez’s po­ems have a keen sense of place and time; he draws par­al­lels that con­nect the gritty re­al­ity of to­day’s Mex­ico with the mythol­ogy of its land and peo­ple, as well as his own fam­ily his­tory. Welsh’s work is more terse and im­pres­sion­is­tic, pre­serv­ing sin­gle scenes or mo­ments. Ber­man’s pho­tog­ra­phy dis­plays im­pres­sive range, from can­did slice-of-life shots to al­most sur­real col­li­sions of land­scape and hu­man-made ob­jects.

Cut­ting the Wire doesn’t pro­vide a straight an­swer to our so­cial and po­lit­i­cal trou­bles at the bor­der; it has dif­fer­ent goals in mind. In its ob­ser­va­tional clar­ity and its free flow across ge­o­graphic and cul­tural bound­aries, it makes a com­pelling case for the com­mu­nal power of art.

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