Raquel Salas Rivera’s star has risen swiftly in the poetry world, and this, his 6th book, promises to cement his status as one of the most important poets working today. In sharp, crystalline verses, written in both Spanish and English versions, antes que isla es volcán daringly imagines a decolonial Puerto Rico.
Salas Rivera 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 3rd in which the poet demands his right to a future and its immediate distribution. The verses are rigorous and sophisticated, engaging with literary and political theory, yet are also hard-hitting, 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?”).
These poems tap unflinchingly into the explosive energy of the island, transforming it into protest, into spirit, into art.