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By Ann Peterpaul

FEBRUARY 7, 2000: 

Lluvia en el Desierto/Rain in the Desert by Marjorie Agosín (Sherman Asher Publishing, paper, $15)

The desert is a universe unto itself -- a field of changing light and color -- a reservoir of emotion where a blue wind serves as an eternal mantle. This is the emotional spirit that weaves in and out of the poems in this bilingual collection by Chilean writer Marjorie Agosín. Beauty of the desert is celebrated, as in these beginning lines from "Taos": "Desert light:/Mauve and pink/ethereal and/motionless."

In "Bearings," a woman traveler heeds the desert's mysterious call in an ancient tradition of wanderers. The magic continues in "Blue Wind" where the flowering of the desert is melodiously described in its unique splendor.

Agosín's language is as light, simple and refreshing as a cascading waterfall -- ironically the opposite of the landscape she has chosen to immortalize. In "Desert Rain" this airy grace ventures out. The rain here is "gratuitous" unlike the one that falls on cities, "tired of its own profusion."

The themes of death and memory are gently brought to the surface by this poet who is ever so mindful of nature's cycles and humans' capacity to link their history with that of the desert's "curved rocks" -- such as in "Mothers and Daughters."

Only a few poems have a somber note. In "The Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe," white men are indicted for the massacres of indigenous people. This is but a brief departure from her inspiring ode to nature.

Agosín's strength lies in her beautiful simplicity: "The wind/a fan/among the solitudes/a caress,/a feather of happiness."

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