Sundress Publications announces the release of Nicole Arocho Hernández’s I Have No Ocean, a chapbook that 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?
The poems in this chap read like prayers for the unmoored, where “in the eye of the storm, no one / waits for whimper. Everyone / expects song.” Our speaker admits, “I believe in judging the living and the dead. / I believe in the spirit / of many hells.” There is a dichotomy in these poems, a mirror reflecting the pain of the island—one that stares out at those who caused it.
The longing is palpable: “I have no ocean / I have no tongue. I write with spilled wreckage.” The search for an answer to this ache runs deep in these pages. There is a wonder at how an identity is formed, “the white birthed the colonia / the colonia birthed me.” But what truly makes this collection shine is the way that Arocho Hernández flips religion on its head, using prayer to condemn the government’s response to Hurricane María: “Guillotinx / You who never sleeps / I want you to spit / My pain on / Uncle Sam. Please grant me / This prayer.” It is through this intentional deconstruction of language—alluding to the French guillotine used in past Puerto Rican protests, reflecting the sharp edge by which governments fail their colonial enterprises, and christening her people’s demands—that allows Hernández to both recognize and reveal the diaspora of her inhabited, inherited, political, and cultural position.
Nicole Arocho Hernández is a poet and translator from Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. She has a BA in Writing from Ithaca College and is pursuing an MFA in Poetry at Arizona State University. Her poems have been featured in Great Weather for Media, the VS podcast, Variant Literature, and The Acentos Review. Her spirit never left Puerto Rico. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram: @nimaarhe.