Alexandra Lytton Regalado’s lushly written and insightful poetry, Salvadoran Lotería, is a true sequence, not merely a grouping of poems. Regalado has not merely assembled her poems, she has created a work that is dynamic: it propels the reader forward through a complex poetic landscape. What Robert Frost said about the book of poems (the book itself is the final poem) is also true of the poetic sequence. This collection has an intrinsic shape, each poem like a stop on a journey or a scene in a film. A reader begins outside, in the market and the village, and then moves toward the interior. Regalado subtly changes her point-of-view, advancing from a character in a market, a woman selling fruit, to a girl accosted after selling tamales at a soccer game, to focus on the intimate domestic interior: a child sweeping her mother’s floor, the death and burial of a pet chick (one of the most remarkable poems in the sequence). Finally, the poems move to the other edge of this landscape—an etching depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe—which places El Salvador in the larger cultural, political, and religious history of Central America. Throughout this journey, the diction crackles, as do the images. Regalado is mistress of the vivid detail; the poems swarm with color and movement. The fruit seller at the market “slings the braided lasso of her hair/over her shoulder,” a storm is described as having “a belt-lash of lightning” and western thunderheads that “jeer and smolder.” Salvadoran Lotería has the heft that the beginning of a full-length book has. This is a wonderful, talented debut.
—Lynn Emanuel, Contest Judge