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Borrowing the poetic language found in boxing lore and in the Rocky films, Shadowboxing pieces together a poetic portrait of Josefo, a Chicano adolescent working and becoming a poet in the farm territories of Central California. Rios confounds the relationship between author, speaker, and subject within various forms and, at times, across genre. He challenges the usefulness of poetry and stands upon oral histories to demystify California’s overlooked labor class. Rios invites the reader to enter Josefo’s world of memory, experience, and talk, of packinghouse mentors, storytelling grandmothers, parable-sharing plumbers, smooth talking truck drivers, and infinitely patient literature professors.
About the Author
JOSEPH RIOS was born in Clovis, California. He is a VONA alumnus, a Macondo fellow, and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. He lives in Los Angeles.
"Rios’s debut collection, Shadowboxing: poems and impersonations, published last year by Omnidawn, is a middle finger to the institution in both form and content. What makes this collection a knockout is its investigation of the self through Josefo, a laid-back farm boy turned scholar whose concept of love, language, narrative, truth, family, academia, psyche, and music start and facilitate Rios’s objective to destabilize American notions of tradition. There is a pride in this collection that reinvigorates the Latinx/Chicanx community to find strength in their history, to love that history, to not be erased. Rios asks: What is poetry that doesn’t save nations and people?"
— The Rumpus