Review: No Budu Please by Wingston González

Reading No Budu Please is like committing to the excavation of the continual traumas that occur within a post-colonial consciousness that is paradoxically both foreign and too familiar.

A seminal Guatemalan poet and musician known for his fractured poetic aesthetics, González utilizes the musicality and rhythm of his compositions to bewitch his readers into following him on journeys to examine the immaterial, the spiritual, the periphery. The collection opens with a poem titled “myth of myself,” which begins with a quote from Walt Whitman as its prelude (which is surprising given Whitman’s race politics). The quote states: “And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.” Which coupled with lines describing “an artificial boy” in a “plastic prairie,” lends itself to the construction of this great myth where the external world has the power to transmute the internal selves into destructive forces. This notion is pushed even farther as the landscape of this external world further reveals itself throughout the course of these six poems.

Translator Urayoán Noel reveals himself to be an exemplary translator for this particular text on a personal level, thanks to his Puerto Rican cultural identity, which carries a similar transnational, colonial history and is also characterized by a fraught relationship to the “homeland.” Puerto Ricans, like Garifungu, do not have a true, singular homeland. They are both the products of indigenous, European, and African peoples, which each contain singular cultural traditions and histories. González’s searching for the self and for home is complicated by this racial, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic mélange, which “more dan bringing me closer to things dribes dem away,” as he writes in the last lines of the final poem “St. Vincent.”

Perhaps, fear of further alienation was the same motivator for Noel to make the distinctive, stylistic choice to only incorporate the Garifuna English dialect into the preceding five poems and not the first. Noel thereby using the first poem to introductorily welcome English readers into this unfamiliar world which operates in the specific context of the Garifuna people’s history. This way, the intelligibility of the narrative within these six poems becomes increasingly fragmented for the English reader and, ultimately, further aligns the reader with the speaker’s experience of confusion, distrust, and isolation.

The process of fully appreciating González’s beautiful and haunting tribute to Garifuna people requires effort, research, and diligence, but if you remain faithful in this journey, it is sure to deliver a transformational poetic experience.

About the author

Juliana Clark is a writer who splits her time between New York City and Los Angeles.

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