Later the House Stood Empty

Poetry by Melina Draper
ISBN: 978-1597099738
Size: 6x9
Binding: Tradepaper
Price: US $17.95

Later the House Stood Empty

by Melina Draper


Melina Draper’s wonderful poems recall the author’s magical childhood and adolescence in South America. Blending the personal with history, they are populated with fascinating characters, including the eccentric and engaging street people of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, a mysterious photographer-lover, and the youthful Charles Darwin on the loose in a scientifically uncharted continent. Darwin, who turns up a number of times, gives a foundation in the deeper past to this work of memory and nostalgia. With its arresting lyricism and formal craft, Later the House Stood Empty brings a stirring new voice to contemporary American poetry.

—John Morgan

Any minute now I will rise up and fly above the town’ is a line from Melina Draper’s new collection of poems that accurately describes how I feel as I read and reread this wonderful book. Later the House Stood Empty crosses borders, over the river and back again, where imagination and reality are neighboring countries. These finely wrought poems are both explorations and evolutions as they consider inner and outer landscapes, love and history. How perfect that Charles Darwin is one of the characters who travels these waters and languages with us, discovering.

—Derick Burleson

In this engrossing collection of skillfully wrought poems, both free and formal, Melina Draper takes the reader almost forcibly into her life, to be surrounded by complex memories and images: the natural landscapes of South America—la selva at its most inviting and disquieting—and, with equal ambivalence, the teeming city of Buenos Ayres. Charles Darwin informs the journey through quotations from his notes, and characters from the history and folklore of the continent shed their own light on its realities. Half-told personal stories, dreams and near-confessions flicker through these poems, as indeterminate shapes may appear and disappear through dense flora, or faces on an urban street. Events and fantasies are not wholly distinct, but mingled, as languages are, or past and present in the mind, or the identity of the deracinated who briefly return ‘home.’ It’s miraculous how a book with such disparate contexts coheres into a strong, individual response to the dislocating experiences of the person with memories of life lived ‘elsewhere.’ I loved it for that, for the oddly familiar strangeness of its dogs and street vendors, its casual violence and distanced family portraits.

—Rhina P. Espaillat



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How do the Aymara conceive
of the future behind, the past ahead?
A woman gestures with her arm

forward, meaning yesterday, last year.
What she knows is what she's seen.
I squint to see the past ahead.

Tomorrow, unknown, is behind me.
What a relief not to
anticipate it. I am surrounded

by the past, plural like old friends,
a disagreement or two still
festering. Toppled buildings stand

in shadow where they were.
Look, my friend's mother's at the door.
He's not there, is there

batting Nescafé to a froth.
We are at the pier wishing for mate.
I like me there, there, and there.

I can see us sitting,
our legs dangling down
against the rocks.

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Eva SaulitisMelina Draper is the author of Later the House Stood Empty. Her poems have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Cimarron Review, Borderlands: Texas Review, PALABRA: A Magazine of Chicano & Latino Literary Art, Salamander, and other journals. Her book Place of Origin/Lugar de Origen (Oyster River Press, 2008), co-authored with her mother, Argentine writer Elena Lafert, won the Latino Book Award for Best Bilingual Book of Poetry in 2009. She holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and an MA in fiction from the University of New Hampshire. She lives in Geneva, New York.

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