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I received a copy of Jose Her­nan­dez Diaz’s The Fire Eater for review pur­pos­es. As always, this review reflects only my hon­est thoughts on the book.

The Fire Eater
by Jose Hernandez Diaz

Pub­li­ca­tion Date: 20 Feb­ru­ary 2020
Pub­lish­er: Texas Review Press
Paper­back; 54 Pages

Genre: Prose Poetry

 

 

Sur­re­al, play­ful, and always poignant, the prose poems in Jose Her­nan­dez Diaz’s mas­ter­ful debut chap­book intro­duce us to a mime, a skele­ton, and the man in the Pink Floyd t‑shirt, all of whom explore their inner selves in Her­nan­dez Diaz’s star­tling and spare style. With nods to Rus­sell Edson and the sur­re­al­ists, Her­nan­dez Diaz explores the ordi­nary and the not-so-ordi­nary occur­rences of life, set against the back­drop of the moon, and the poet’s native Los Angeles.

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My Review

I con­nect­ed with Jose Her­nan­dez Diaz a while back through Twit­ter, but hon­est­ly had­n’t read very much of his work. So, when the oppor­tu­ni­ty to read and review The Fire Eater came my way, I was super excit­ed to expe­ri­ence it. So much so, in fact, that I’ve since read it thrice!

The expe­ri­ence of read­ing this chap­book is, in a word, sur­re­al. To be entire­ly hon­est, the col­lec­tion did­n’t quite hit me the first time around. But I was com­pelled to return to The Fire Eater two more times, and I’m sure those won’t be the last.

By the third read­ing, I found myself extrap­o­lat­ing all kinds of inter­pre­ta­tions for the prose poems in this col­lec­tion. Skele­tons, astro­nauts, the man in the Pink Floyd shirt, and the epony­mous fire eater alike weave togeth­er a sur­re­al fan­ta­sy that begs you to dive in. You want to smoke a cig­a­rette and sip cof­fee in Los Ange­les. You want to try your hand at long­board­ing. Hell, you want to start root­ing for the Dodgers.

The Fire Eater immers­es you in this sur­re­al fan­ta­sy realm where moon­quakes exist along­side pianist skele­tons. It gives you the sen­sa­tions of fire in your throat, of the Cal­i­for­nia sun beat­ing down on you, of buskers—from musi­cians to mimes—serenading you in the city streets until they final­ly pack up for the night. There’s an incred­i­ble sense of place (even in my lim­it­ed expe­ri­ence, I could feel how quin­tes­sen­tial­ly Cal­i­forn­ian these prose poems become) and of each moment on every page, even with sim­ple lan­guage and sen­tence structures.

All that being said, I know a few things for sure. This won’t be the last time I return to The Fire Eater (I’m going to have to put some funds aside for a print copy!). And this most cer­tain­ly won’t be the last we see of Jose’s work.

 

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About the Author

Jose Her­nan­dez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poet­ry Fel­low. He holds degrees in Eng­lish and Cre­ative Writ­ing from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley and Anti­och Uni­ver­si­ty Los Angeles.

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