Author: Daniel Alejandro Holnes
Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press (2022)
Winner of the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, Stepmotherland, Darrel Alejandro Holnes’s first full-length collection, is filled with poems that chronicle and question identity, family, and allegiance. This Central American love song is in constant motion as it takes us on a lyrical and sometimes narrative journey from Panamá to the USA and beyond. The driving force behind Holnes’s work is a pursuit for a new home, and as he searches, he takes the reader on a wild ride through the most pressing political issues of our time and the most intimate and transformative personal experiences of his life. Exploring a complex range of emotions, this collection is a celebration of the discovery of America, the discovery of self, and the ways they may be one and the same.
Holnes’s poems experiment with macaronic language, literary forms, and prosody. In their inventiveness, they create a new tradition that blurs the borders between poetry, visual art, and dramatic text. The new legacy he creates is one with significant reverence for the past, which informs a central desire of immigrants and native-born citizens alike: the desire for a better life. Stepmotherland documents an artist’s evolution into manhood and heralds the arrival of a stunning new poetic voice.
"From narrative poems that sing, to lyrics that make of rhythm a spell, to moving portraits, to poems that go across borders and smash those borders, Stepmotherland is a splendid debut. I love its rhapsodic, incantatory music."
"Stepmotherland is a procession of lines (lives), with one song facing forward and another facing back. It is a lyrical document that attends to the histories of touch out of which Holnes emerges, and so, in a language both lithe and live, the work teems with expanse and collapse, terror, tenderness, pleasure."
"In Stepmotherland, Darrel Alejandro Holnes teaches us the complications of love, whether it comes in the form of romantic passion or unrequited patriotism. But this is also a view of the many permutations of manhood, all of its beauty and even its bruises―and sometimes under the makeup, we find both."
–A. Van Jordan
"Stepmotherland is the brilliant and vertiginous movement of a soul from the state of innocence to experience and a remarkable and groundbreaking collection. No one who reads these stunning poems is likely to remain unmoved or unchanged by them."
“In Stepmotherland, Darrel Alejandro Holnes moves from bilingual lines to script-like dialogue to gorgeous subversions of form in his search for a language that can properly articulate what home is. . . . This book is a kind of coming of age into brilliance.”
“Stepmotherland is a balm. The lyrics to a melody that has always played in our heads. Holnes gives us the heartbreaking and healing song. A stunning debut.”
“Darrel Alejandro Holnes navigates the fraught politics of national, racial, and sexual identities with grace and wisdom beyond his years in order to locate that precarious but remarkable space that a queer Afro/Black-Latino immigrant from Panamá can call home. . . . What a unique, multivalent, and incredibly moving debut.”
"In Stepmotherland, Darrel Alejandro Holnes meditates on migration and the American dream. This collection is a satisfying book that leaves us excited for all that is to come from this poet. Revolutions always happen on rainy days, he writes, and you are left wondering: what else will he teach me?"