Guillermo Filice Castro, 2013 Emerge-Surface-Be Fellow, read at The Poetry Project on January 13, 2014. His mentor for the program, Patricia Spears Jones, introduced him. Here is the introduction and video of his reading!
At the start of the great film, The Landlord, a Black nationalist teacher asked his very young students “How are we to live?” That line by screenwriter, Bill Gunn, Black and gay, echoes through the work of Guillermo Filice Castro.
Guillermo Castro is a poet who explores the interstices between Argentina and America; between Spanish and English. His poetry flows from the instances of mis understandings and cultural interplay and is intently explored at length in the title poem of his manuscript “Beso Americano.” There, issues of intimacy, cultural difference, and styles of masculinity are focused on how kisses define us—my favorite line is: “Mother sighs, ‘They don’t kiss as much as we do’.” And how does she know through the relentless mediated image of America and Americans. An image that Castro deconstructs repeatedly as he makes his way into American culture: gay, educated, an Anglophile with a healthy love of his own heritage.
The narrator, in his manuscript, wrestles with a few demons, seduces and is seduced, but keeps the irony at a minimum, and the earnestness too. Castro is a poet fully voiced and sagacious. The poems focused on his parents’ respective illnesses and deaths are poignant, tender and rueful. The poems about his various adventures in lust land are funny, knowing, sexy and yes tender. Indeed, there is a sense of openness, playfulness and generosity that I rarely see in writing about sex and sexuality from gay or straight writers these days. It’s refreshing.
Castro is equally adept as a photography-observant of the urban landscape-his pictures taken in and around Union Square serves as document and ephemera—as if the subjects once caught, could at any moment go up in smoke.
Indeed, it is that sense of taking life on as it is and transforming it that makes Castro’s work entertaining, but also challenging. His word play, his sense of voice, and musicality may come across lightly to some, but look again to that line: “They don’t kiss as much as we do”. He is asking how does one culture look at another? How can we tell what is truth and what is myth? How can either be exploited? Where may this lead? More kisses? Intimacy, irony, earnestness, poignancy, playfulness, questioning—these are the words that mark Castro’s work. Listen. Enjoy. Kiss the poet.