Through lyric and narrative poems alike, the speaker of the poems in Crash Course attempts to understand the manner in which cultural traditions and expectations shape their understanding of the world. Watching a father patch up a truck ponders the effect of language across generations. A simple knock on the door provides a meditation on the immigrant experience, and the anxiety surrounding what it means to arrive with nothing in a different country. Other poems look at the complexity of familial relationships, dissecting specific moments that although appear mundane on the surface (shopping for items to put on layaway, barbecues, watching a cousin feed his pet snake), are – once fleshed out on the page – profound episodes that enlighten a labyrinth of memories.
In Crash Course, Esteban Rodríguez crafts a patient and stirring catalog of memory, of pop culture, of lineage. With a hand steady as MacGyver himself and a sensuous Baywatch eye, Rodríguez exquisitely ties a young man’s coming of age story, his desires and curiosities, to the images and clothing in which he moved through the world—from hand-me-down Dr. Martens to a fresh pair of Jordans, or a mother’s heels. One of the most honest and heartfelt collections I’ve encountered, Crash Course confronts toxic masculinity and machismo by way of an empathic, tender speaker who understands there is “more than one way / for a body to be held.” What holds this marvel of a book together, too, are the journeys that arrived him there, the son of two immigrants—how family, like memory shows us “we can love things / without owning them, that we can pray / we’ll someday return.” Read these poems and return to the things you love, to the those who got you here.