A groundbreaking collection of poems addressing how every kind of love—self, brotherly, romantic, familial, cultural—is birthed, shaped, and complicated by the invisible forces of gender, capitalism, religion, migration, and so on.
Love is at the heart of everything we do, and yet it is often mishandled, misrepresented, or narrowly defined. In the words of José Olivarez: “How many bad lovers have gotten poems? How many crushes? No disrespect to romantic love—but what about our friends? Those homies who show up when the romance ends to help you heal your heart. Those homies who are there all along—cheering for us and reminding us that love is abundant.”
Written in English and combined with a Spanish translation by poet David Ruano, “Promises of Gold explores many forms of love and how “a promise made isn’t always a promise kept,” as Olivarez grapples with the contradictions of the American Dream laying bare the ways in which “love is complicated by forces larger than our hearts.”
He writes, “For those of us who are hyphenated Americans, where do we belong? Promises of Gold attempts to reckon with colonial legacy and the reality of what those promises have borne out for Mexican descendants. I wrote this book to imagine and document an ongoing practice of healing—healing that requires me to show up for myself, my community, my friends, my family, and my loves every day.”
Whether readers enter this collection in English or Spanish, these extraordinary poems are sure to become beloved for their illuminations of life—and love.
About the Author
José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants. His debut book of poems, Citizen Illegal, was a finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Award and a winner of the 2018 Chicago Review of Books Poetry Prize. It was named a top book of 2018 by the Adroit Journal, NPR, and the New York Public Library. Along with Felicia Chavez and Willie Perdomo, he coedited the poetry anthology The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext. He cohosts the poetry podcast The Poetry Gods.
“Glistening. . . . Olivarez elevates small but notable moments through a sensitive, introspective speaker who must learn tough lessons on the streets of Calumet City. . . Bilingual readers will enjoy flipping back and forth to see how the prism of each poem changes its hue in the light of another language.”
—Booklist starred review
“The truth is: Technically, I don’t understand poetry. I never have. I miss everything in it. It’s a language I can’t process. And, for me anyway, that’s what makes Jose special. Because when he writes poetry, I don’t need to understand it—at least, not in the traditional sense—because I FEEL it. I feel his words under my fingertips like velvet. I feel his words in my chest like I’m looking at a painting that moves me in a way I can’t fully explain. And, again, for me anyway, that’s more important.”
—Shea Serrano, bestselling author of Hip Hop (And Other Things)
“Visceral and moving.”
—Kate Baer, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of What Kind of Woman
““My people I am poly with the tortillas” might be my favorite single sentence I have ever read in a poem. Get the book for that line alone. Promises of Gold is a heartfelt and hilarious series of odes to the large and small joys of life. It is also a battle rap and a clapback to all the death-making institutions we live under at every level. I could call this book soft and I would only be telling a half-truth. This is a collection that delights in the softness of every kind of love from familial to homie to culinary to romantic. But this is also a book that is hard on colonizers, and cruel billionaires, and capitalist exploitation. This book shines bright as the gold that got us into all this colonial mess.”
—Nate Marshall, author of Finna
“Details grounded in the everyday world capture great fulfillment. . . . The poet’s sensitive and insightful voice allows these stirring poems to successfully explore the forces acting on love in a complex world, and the unshakable promise of understanding and belonging.”
—Publishers Weekly starred review