I Have No Ocean by Nicole Arocho Hernández
Nicole Arocho Hernández’s I Have No Ocean conveys a vivid Puerto Rico set against the backdrop of Hurricane María and the resulting devastation and displacement. How do we make sense of the senseless when home lives in a land that “swallows birth’s/ breath”? And how do we reckon with violence, with death caused by both colonial and natural destruction?
“I Have No Ocean makes a splash with its lit/any of puns and pugnas and its bold(ed) invitation to ‘let yourself be feral.’ Even when we don’t have a notion what these poems are about, we are happy to wander about with them as they freely dissociate their own dysplacesure principles (‘Rompecabezas / It’s puzzling, isn’t it?’): whether prayers to and from a post-hurricane Puerto Rico or word crevices for a gleefully erasured North. These poems don’t play (‘I sleep with the machete / by my side’), except as parranda (co?)splay with a ‘troll-sized smile.’ Layout here is its own ley, and in these (en)tropics we all get laid on and off the page. (Y)ay! No hay duda, Nicole Arocho Hernández is as clear as the I of the storm: ‘I am a motherfucker of invention.'”
-Urayoán Noel, author of Buzzing Hemisphere / Rumor Hemisférico
“In the poem, “Maybe/the thing/I trust/the most/is/my anger” at center is a hole in which white text blares out, ‘It’s scary to / let yourself / be feral.’ The poem serves as hinge, as oracle, as portal between the worlds revealed in I Have No Ocean. In the flurry of the hurricane, María is the tormenting tempest whose womb is death (that of thousands post-Hurricane María in Puerto Rico) as much as she is the Catholic mother of a God also used to subjugate a land and a people. That exploration of the effect of María as archetype deliberately reveals the present traumatic effects of that hurricane as an extension of a long history of colonizing violations of Puerto Rico as island and people. Arocho Hernández dares to fear and be fearsome, divining the definition of feral as wildness especially after escape from captivity. This is a deeply considered, densely historically and socio-politically informed poetic and prophetic work, one that exists in the space of hope AND despair at seeing history repeating itself over and over again, particularly through a slow massacre of the Boricua people. Our people. With a devastating formal dexterity in and between languages and poetic structures, she interrogates the intersectional villainy of religious oppression, patriarchy, and colonialism, daringly returning to language as a liberatory and galvanizing force. These are calls for spirits to rise, both ancestral and walking among us; these are poems of dance through darkness, resist, clang, yell, and make way.”
-Raina J. León, PhD, author of profeta without refuge and Âreyto to Atabey: Essays on the Mother(ing) Self
“Nicole Arocho Hernández and I met in cyberspace space, between work hours, two years after hurricane María made landfall in Puerto Rico. In I Have No Ocean, she has made a brutal song for that meta diaspora we tended to after an unending string of mediated catastrophes in the archipelago. Her poems deploy and challenge the lore and the detritus of empire, esa jerga colonial that barters for our lines, without mercy, and will not save us. The texture of her work, her hymnal, becomes the hymn itself: she sings because “everyone expects a song” but also saves for us a tender yet relentless song.”
-Ricardo Alberto Maldonado, author of The Life Assignment and co-editor of Puerto Rico en mi corazón