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In Rodrigo Toscano’s The Charm and The Dread, the unraveling of the American Imperium is rendered frontally, through strange adjacencies. Always an astute observer of tectonic shifts in political culture, Toscano plumbs the inter-locking crises that have kicked us into these 2020’s. From formal sonnets to high-speed screeds unspooling syntax, uncanny portraiture to earnest inquiry and appeal to specks of emergent new moralities, Toscano’s ninth collection is a guidestar for our time. The Charm and The Dread jostles political and aesthetic complacency, and invigorates us toward a viable baseline attitude for the new decade. A somatized, personified trajectory as synaesthetically rich as that of tarot or any other hallowed divinatory tool of the ages, The Charm and the Dread brings a naturalized, dreaming body into an awake state in the traumascope of virtualized pandemic humanscape, the place in which we can again breathe, and speak. In these poems we find that the pandemic is “an interiority in search of an externality.” Speaking and breathing these rhapsodic scripts of good-humored yet uncompromised, felt-and-seen engagement of our complete catastrophe, we move from “The crimson yellow of no past // The charcoal pink of no future” through “the squander of recourses // Of leadership” into real encounters with Justice, Revolution, and Flesh. Prescient and unafraid to look, Rodrigo Toscano asks, “What’s the use of any [insurrection] today //If tomorrow and many days to come // Aren’t shaped differently, aren’t lived differently”?

The Charm and the Dread

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