Desgraciado: (The Collected Letters)
Author: Angel Dominguez
Publisher: Nightboat Books (2022)
In Desgraciado, Angel Dominguez navigates language and memory to illuminate the ongoing traumas of misremembered and missing histories and their lasting impacts. Dominguez unravels a critical and tender language of lived experience in letters addressed to their ancestral oppressor, Diego de Landa, (a Spanish friar who attempted to destroy the written Maya language in Mani Yucatán, on July 12th 1562), to articulate an old rage, dreaming of a futurity beyond the wreckage and ruin of the colonial imaginary. This collection doesn't seek to heal the incurable wound of colonization so much as attempt to re-articulate a language towards recuperation.
"We need each other and we need each other’s words. We need freedom the way we need each other, the way we need love. It is a need that only understands its fulfillment or loss. Those who oppress us will never fulfill us. That is why this book is a book about desire, because the desire for freedom structures colonial relations, and the impossibility of its fulfillment drives colonial production. Dominguez has always understood this."
–Raquel Salas Rivera
"Desgraciado takes the embers of the colonizer, the knowing and people they attempted to extinguish, and chooses to 'press on with ancestral compass disarming my enemy with language.' A relentless re-imagining of an epistolary series that never looks away while staring into the eyes of the murderous. Dominguez invokes a portal, tracing the crimes of 1562 Mani Yucatán to the present, all while holding 'a mess of flowers' that have survived pyre and empire. These words are incantations, ransoms, clapbacks, curses, intimacies, provocations, and remedies that reveal themselves as navigational cyphers guiding us toward a language and future of liberation."
"What do we need from a poetry collection anymore? What emerges from the tender dialogic pulse of the epistolary? Desgraciado belies its title, brings grace to the intercambio, symbiosis to the lyric. This book has formal invention throughout, blood and tears too. Angel Dominguez ruthlessly breaks pyramids open in a resistance to the whiteness that defines how they navigate the intersecting colonizations they call home: masculinity, the academy, the state, and the earth. This book is also heartbreakingly tinged with the pursuit of weaving with the other in a dismantled world."
–Carmen Giménez Smith
"Angel Dominguez writes against the ontological inertia that lives at the vertices that activate the colonial wound. What does it mean to fashion the kaleidoscopic self out of the ancestral rubble where a language, deprived and forgotten, persists? In Desgraciado Domínguez raises their lantern into the labyrinth where horror, corruption and banality collide with a complicated desire for obfuscation and relief from the pain of being held hostage to our most recognizable dispossessions. These admissions of furious want made in the raging lyric of the epistolary form tremble on every page. A would-be fugitive truth-teller to ignite a resistance movement, Dominguez looks over their shoulder in the realms that exalted Diego de Landa. I can't think of a higher honor for a writer."
"It's not even the evil that's irredeemable; it's the idea that there was ever a grace worth hoarding. Angel Dominguez taught me this when once I said to them something like, 'try writing a letter to your oppressor,' and in response they made this dreamway into the center point of colonial genocide only to thread back the entire fabric of spacetime into a billowing folding and unfolding that lifts the lie of ourselves long enough for our first breath to begin. Everyone, disgraced, enters on the inhale. On each exhale, disgraced, we sense how we're 'polishing our dreams into something resembling a mirror, only more luminous.'"