I recently read Furia by Orlando Ricardo Menes (Milkweed Edition, 2005) and was interested in how the author was able to move from the autobiographical to the mythological, drawing upon experiences of being born in Lima, Peru, to Cuban parents and one family line from China, all while being influenced by Miami and his move to the United States.
Throughout Furia, Orlando Ricardo Menes uses the global staple of rice to help glues his exploration of the political and global to the concerns of everyday people and members of his own family. This central image, whether used throughout a collection or in an individual poem, can help ground and add earthiness to work that might otherwise be too preachy or myopic. Below is one one of the poems from Furia, Mythopoesis, first published in Sycamore Review.
Rice was not a gift of T’ien Ti,
God of Heaven, but that of a wild
dog. Long ago, on the plains
of Xietan, a flood killed all crops
so that humans had to hunt
in summer, scavenge in winter.
One day the clumsiest of hunters
saw a wild dog leave a marsh,
rice seeds stuck to its tail.
These grew and soon he harvested
them with his bare hands.
Thus the dog’s reward would
forever be a sweet and sticky ball
of glutinous brown rice.