“Buena Suerte in Red Glitter,” by Bruce Craven

Bruce Craven

Bruce Craven (photo by Mark Shaw)

Reviewed by Lei Lei

In Buena Suerte in Red Glitter, Bruce Craven brings his keenly lyrical sensibility to shed new light on the modern person’s existence in a capitalist society. When the poet exclaims that “a poem is an organization. Of moments, a strategy for memory. A hope to be captured, not managed like a division,” we see a soul courageously resisting the dehumanizing institutional culture that reduces the person to mere functionality.

Craven is not only a fighter against dehumanization. He’s also concerned with our primal experiences, those of love, fear, and hope, which connect us with our shared humanity. Some of his poems, such as “In A Lonely Place,” portray the raw experience of lost love. However, Craven does not stop at the feeling of loss; he pushes us to use radical honesty to confront the shadows of the past. In that, there is the redemption of the heart.

In “1966,” a little boy reads a picture book about a group of children adventuring into a miraculous jungle. They escape the fierce pursuit of blood-thirsty natives by drawing magical doors with paint. Only that in the real jungle of the Vietnam War, soldiers were stuck in the nightmare of the country’s own making, with no magical doors through which to escape. The children painted themselves into the jungle, just like America sent itself into war. By juxtaposing the personal and the national, he valorizes the universal longing for home—felt by the children and the soldiers—while hinting at the tragic, wishful characterization of the decision to go to war.

Readers will be captured by the creative recounting of family saga in “Wedding Bells.” Craven rewrites his father’s story with his own sense of courage and optimism. It is a hero’s journey imagined by a loving son. The father’s story, moreover, is the son’s spell. One is either enchanted by it or breaks it. But Craven shows there is a third option: by treading his own journey, he begins writing a new family saga.

Buena Suerte in Red Glitter is about finding hope in the most unlikely of places. By examining personal, national and historical moments from Manhattan to Los Angles, Craven reminds us that every last one of us can do better than give up.

Craven received a BA in Politics and Literature from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Columbia University. He lives with his wife and two sons in the Coachella Valley in California.

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