“Fetish” Book Review

The book Fetish by Orlando Ricardo Menes takes readers on a journey through the languid memories of the author’s life and what they mean to him. It starts with the beautiful, exotic depictions of scenery, and then leads to the more tragic abruptness of reality; this collection of poetry bares all. Even if the reader is not of Cuban descent, they will feel like they have known the culture and experience of the author their whole life. This is especially apparent in the poem “Maracas of Rain”:

“enjoy acolytes’ calypso, then at dusk

stroll down the nave of reliquary lamps

& songbirds in tabernacles. Mass is sumptuous

when passion buds bloom, the conch

stoups full of spicy rum, the Eucharistic cha-cha-cha”

                Menes describes through lyrical poetry, the ways of his religion and the unity it brings for the Natives of his homeland. He uses the senses to hear the rhythm of the calypso in his verse, to taste the rum in his words, to feel the passion in his remembrance. This poem immerses you in warm sandy pews, as little crabs scuttle over the vivid images of this tropical paradise he creates for you.

                Not only does Menes know how to put you in a relaxing and nostalgic mood but he just as easily can throw you into the harsh reality of a peasant’s life in Cuba in the 50’s.  Using a short film entitled El Mégano Menes creates a poem called Aubade: The Charcoal Makers. One reason why this poem is worth reading is because it can stand alone without the movie but the movie combined with the poem make for a perfect recollection of what life is like for the not so fortunate.

                                                                “At sunrise when moths molt to orchids,

                                                                & moon frogs sleep in wetland hollows,

                                                                The peasants emerge from dead embers,

                                                                Walking into daylight like bone marionettes

                                                                With charcoal skin, loincloths of bark.”

                It is almost dreamlike, the visions of Cubans young and old walking like hollow, fragile figures to fulfill the same daunting duties continuously.  You can picture the depth of color in their skin from working under the hot sun all day- the constant heat burning them into ashes yet they must continue to wake up. Menes shows that although Cuba has a picturesque beauty, the history and lives’ most lead are a stark opposite. 

                With these two poems it is obvious why Fetish should be read by every poetry lover. If you are looking for quality diction, and a superb combination of delight and sorrow then this collection of poetry is right for you. Each poem will invite your senses to explore the writer’s experience which is exactly what any writer should be able to do, and this is exactly what Orlando Ricardo Menes does.

By: Morgan Addy