How does one capture the pain, confusion, and brokenness of Argentina’s Dirty War?
Jeremy Paden’s prison recipes explores this dark time of turmoil.
Throughout his chapbook, shocking images are portrayed in lines slashed to pieces, seeming to represent a broken state of mind while in captivity. His “how-to” poems often lead to unimagined places, transforming simple items into unfamiliar territory.
From the generous detail Paden provides, it’s clear that he spent a considerable amount of time researching the conditions of Argentine prisons. In “on the need to clean everything from your mess plate,” he shows the reader the frightening image of prisoners grinding and eating eggshells in order to get enough protein and minerals to survive:
use like salt/your gums
will still bleed/hair lose luster/bear
the grit for your bones/the hardness
of your teeth/your heart and nerves
This world of hard survival is unfamiliar to most readers, but Paden makes it accessible with clarity and detail in his writing. He creates an artful balance between clarity and ambiguity in his poems, leaving some parts open to imagination.
Paden also shows how violence affected those outside of the prisons. During this time in Argentina, countless families were torn apart by war. His poems often represent a yearning or searching for lost loved ones. In “poem 2 after juan gelman’s carta abierta a mi hijo,” Paden writes,
I turn about on my bed/ I twist
through these city streets/for waking
& sleeping is now the same to me/
where are you?
These haunting notes of longing give a human face to these prisoners. Paden’s close attention to the emotions and thoughts of his subjects makes his poetry effective and poignant. Throughout his chapbook, Paden is true to the struggle and pain of his subjects.
About the reviewer
Hannah Stone is an undergraduate student of Creative Writing in Cleveland, Tennessee. She enjoys poetry and fiction, and hopes to pursue an MFA upon completing her undergraduate program.