If you are interested in a collection of poetry about the first year of the Donald J. Trump Presidency, look no further than award-winning poet Thelma T. Reyna’s latest collection of
poetry,”Reading Tea Leaves After Trump,” published
by Golden Foothills Press.
This bold and courageous indictment of the policies of the Trump administration marks a first in the poetry world. The melding of poetry and politics and art and reality give us, the readers, a
bridge from the real to a reflection of that real.
The former Altadena Library District Poet Laureate weaves newspaper articles with real and fictional characters to give the poetry a well-worn feel and a vivid imagination leading to a prudent and
specific, yet colorful and peacock-like
picture of the fears, hopes, dreams, aspirations and everyday tragedies of Americans in both red and blue states under President Trump’s watch.
Whether you like poetry or not, the result is a delicious, delicate, deliberate and daring four course meal of opinions, metaphors, rhyme and alliteration aimed at either breaking your heart or
flooding your brain.
The Altadena resident makes it clear from page one what side of the fence she is sitting on.
The poem “THIS,” for instance, explains the nature of loss.
“This is how words tremble through verse
sprinkled with ink from a sundered heart.
This is how ash unfolds its skirts,
smoothing and stroking bones vapored in sun.
This is how loss is tucked into earth,
stuttering, stricken like pearls unstrung.”
Like a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy, the collection is arranged into five chapters or Acts.
This quintuplet of candor merely makes the poetry that much more powerful and the message clearer.
No one dare accuse the Texas native of watering down her work to please the status quo.
Nor of not pouring her considerable heart and soul into every syllable.
Reyna means what she says in this 165-page tome.
The work here is nothing less than electric, healing and illuminating.
It inspires us to think not only about the state of the country, but the emotional and psychological state that we are in personally.
The work is of such a layered, deep and sincere nature that it fills undulating valleys and sways tall, steep mountains.
Settling into this Oedipus Rex of political narrative is, despite its blunt spine, like falling into a lush meadow or amber field of roses.
From the groundbreaking cover to the beautiful black ink,
“Reading Tea Leaves After Trump” succeeds because of its fierce examination of the Trump Presidency, not despite it.
The eight-time national literary award-winner is on top of her game in this, her fifth book.
She leaves no one, from ordinary citizens to President Trump himself, in the dark as to the direction she believes this nation is going and the President’s pivotal role in pointing America in that direction.
The poem “CROOKED” on pages 28-29, is a perfect example of this kind of critical thinking.
“He hung that word like a millstone ’round her neck and dragged her to
her death. The letter A could not have soiled, could not have killed this woman faster or more surely.
But if she’s crooked, curl me like plastic straws, twist me in the meanest
knot, and write my name in her book of warriors.
If she’s crooked, let me swab sweat from her brow and anoint it on my
face that I might fight like her.
If she’s crooked, let me bind her heart as it bled when two towers
crumpled and heroes fled into flames.
If she’s crooked, let me sit at her knee to watch her learn, head down
with midnight books, immersed in details that spin men’s heads.
If she’s crooked, fill me with a fraction of her passion that I, too, might
fly a million miles to comfort orphans in refugee tents and tell girls in
dusty towns that they’ll inherit this earth.
If she’s crooked, grant me a cup of her courage, spine ramrod straight,
as she parried little men’s slanders in hearings from hell.
If she’s crooked, fill me with one ounce of her tenacity through thirty
years of tirades from men who trembled at her strength.
Crooked. Just a word, an instant word, concocted by a crooked man
with a crooked past cooking crooked plans to convolute a billion lives
contorted with lies.
But if she’s crooked, fill me with a memory deep and long of her
childhood path and how it diverged from his.
Let me count the hurts she healed, the lives she touched, the ceilings
If she’s crooked, heavens have lost their bearings, and no human being
can be credible again.”
In the end, this collection of poetry is a trailblazing ride through the rough and tumble world of politics, circa 2016-17.
It underscores perhaps the most unique, intriguing and thought-provoking Presidential election in this country’s history, when a billionaire with no political experience
defeated a woman nicknamed “the resume” by her political peers.
Reyna masterfully captures the mood of the race from President Trump’s announcement to run for the highest office in the land to election day and
the state of the country afterwards.
This is no mere mortal reporting on an election.
It is a dazzling poet at the height of her powers commenting on possibly the largest and most meaningful upset victory in the history of the world.
Like a master playwright, Reyna pulls at our deepest emotions, fears, feelings and beliefs and makes Filet Mignon, not New York Strip, out of them.
All hail the Queen of Political Poetry.
Conquering this genre is a towering achievement.
Combining the two subjects in important, enthralling and educational verse is almost unheard of, and the first time this critic has seen it done this well.
If tea leaves continue to be read,
they will certainly speak of the brilliant talent of this female wordsmith.
It is non plus ultra.
The poem “HER DAUGHTERS,” then, gives a wonderfully clean, honest, generous and genuine photograph of the world women have to look forward to under President Trump,
according to Reyna.
“4 girls she has at home: 4 girls who watch and listen
girls who’ll grow up in a loud man’s land
4 girls who see her gallop to keep the madman calm
girls who see her pander, just to stay on top
4 girls who know their mother is superior to her boss
girls who cringe when he comes near them, or her
4 girls who ponder daily how she concocts her lies
girls who sit in Sunday school and pray to Christ”
Reyna is a singularly gifted writer making a sensitive, but strong contribution to mankind.
A rarity without parity.
By Radomir Vojtech Luza
Theatre and Book Critic
Published by Golden Foothills Press
Review of Thelma T. Reyna’s Latest Collection of Poetry READING TEA LEAVES AFTER TRUMP May 27th, 2019Radomir Vojtech Luza