Antes que isla es volcán / Before Island is Volcano

Congratulations to Raquel Salas Rivera, whose antes que isla es volcán / before Island is Volcano (Beacon Press, 2022) just won the Juan Felipe Herrera Best Poetry Book Award in the 2022 Latino Book Awards. [The cover art is by Xavier Valcárcel.]

Description (Beacon Press): Raquel Salas Rivera’s star has been rising in the poetry world for years, and this, his sixth book, promises to cement his status as one of the most important poets working today. In sharp, crystalline verses, presented in both Spanish and English, antes que isla looks to the decolonial future of Puerto Rico and is thus composed of questions—most pressingly the question of its independence or statehood. Structure is one of Salas Rivera’s most powerful tools, and he unfurls series after series of poems that build in intensity: one that casts Puerto Rico as the island of Caliban in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, another that imagines a multiverse of possibilities for Puerto Rico’s fate, a third in which the poet demands his right to a future and its immediate distribution. These verses are rigorous and sophisticated, engaging with literary and political theory, yet also charismatic and quotable (“won’t you be sorry? / won’t you wish you had a boss? / won’t you get restless / with all that freedom?”) The islands of Puerto Rico were once volcanos, Salas Rivera reminds us, and that explosive energy still burns within the people there.

Daniel Borzutzky writes: “To dream other worlds in the face of colonial apocalypse. To interrogate what independence really means in the face of political and economic abandonment. To leave behind the museum of accumulation. To imagine a future when the future has been assassinated, when bodies and homes and streets and loves and lives are erased. To imagine how the impossible can emerge from the broken sea and the broken sky and the broken mountains. To imagine we might transcend the perpetual state of emergency we find ourselves in. To imagine we might exit the perpetual state of crisis inflicted by the earth, the state, and the bank.

This imagining is what the poems – the poem – that is before island is volcano – generously and powerfully offers us. Since the tertiary, one of the most important books of our time, Raquel Salas Rivera, has been documenting—with acuity, and clarity, and beauty—the colonial hole, creating life-giving books, in multiple languages, and channeling multiple universes, to gift us the words we need as we ward off the nations they send to kill us.”

For more information, see and

Also see  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s