Isthmus to Abya Yala

Isthmus to Abya Yala

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Author: Roberto Harrison

Publisher: City Lights (2024)

“Abya Yala”–“land of life” or “land of vital blood”–is a Pre-Columbian term of the Guna people of Panamá and Colombia to refer to the American continent and more recently has signified the idea of a decolonized “New World” among various Indigenous movements. In Isthmus to Abya Yala, Panamanian American poet Roberto Harrison summons a mythic consciousness in response to this political and spiritual struggle.

In his poems, with mystic fervor, Harrison finds phonetic unities concealing conceptual oppositions he must transcend. Invoking “mobilian” as an ur-language against racism and toward an all-inclusive humanity–in opposition to the “mobile” of phone-mediated existence–the poems of Isthmus to Abya Yala burn with a visionary ardor that overpowers rationality through an intensive accumulation of imagery. They even sometimes manifest as visual poems in the form of drawings he calls “Tecs,” opposing the dominance of technology to the advocacy of pan-Indian nationhood by 19th century Shawnee leader Tecumseh. “Tecumseh Republic” is the poet’s name for a new post-racial, post-national, post-binary, post-colonial, holistic and earth-oriented society with no national borders, with Panamá, the isthmus, as its only entry and exit.