The Life Assignment

The Life Assignment

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Author: Ricardo Alberto Maldonado

Publisher: Four Way Books (2020)

The speaker of the poems in The Life Assignment is reviewing his history. As if combing through a box of photographs, the speaker sorts through relationships, trying to discern what was healthy from what was exploitative. Concepts of love are turned over and over in these poems: romantic love, love of family, love of country, self-love (or lack thereof). Often the speaker finds that what at first appeared to be caring was insincere all along. When tenderness is in short supply, how can one protect oneself? How can one find home? In his debut collection, Ricardo Alberto Maldonado bends poems through bilingual lyrics that present spartan observation as evidence for its exacting verdict, “We never leave when life is elsewhere. The clemency of men disappears / as does the light, tarring the roofs.” An electric debut collection.

“[A] collection whose devastating precision is only matched by its capacity to rebuild tenderness from the ashes.”

–Raquel Salas Rivera

The Life Assignment is, in its own startling terms, an ecology of late capitalist grief. . . . This outstanding first book, merciless in its beauty and wit, is a ‘schema for our lapsed world,’ a way to make sense of our ‘somber city’ and ‘the grief / we happen to be around.’”

–Urayoán Noel

“. . . Complex and unblinking, with heaps of sorrow and grace, Maldonado has a knack for the impossible, and for making his readers look headlong into it until we all come out the other side more compassionate and honest.”

–Lynn Melnick

“This bilingual collection asks us to consider how we as readers and citizens reconcile self and state, body and landscape, desire and capital, language and communication.”

Emily Skillings