Literature Annotations


Campo, Rafael
The Other Man Was Me: A Voyage to the New World


On-Line Text and Audio
Genre Collection (Poems) (118 pp.)
KeywordsAcculturation, Family Relationships, Father-Son Relationship, Human Worth, Individuality, Latina/Latino Experience, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Issues, Loneliness, Memory, Physician Experience
Summary

The subtitle of this collection is "A Voyage to the New World." In the first section, Campo begins his voyage to a new world of self-understanding by experimenting with the language of family, intimacy, healing, and magic. In "I Don’t Know What I Can’t Say, or, Genet on Keats," the poet writes: "There are two sides to life. The side where life / Remains unconsummated, reticent" and the other, which is "the act itself laid bare--a hand / Inside the lion’s mouth . . . . " Campo chooses the latter.

In the next section, his voyage takes him through several connected series of 16-line sonnets; each of these series plumbs the depths of a different intimate relationship: Song for My Grandfather, for My Father, for My Lover, and for Our Son. Some of Campo’s finest poems are in this section, including (just a handful from the many) "Grandfather’s Will," "Anatomy Lesson," "Planning a Family," "My Father’s View of Poetry," "Translation," and "Political Poem."

In the final section, Campo brings the insight of a seasoned voyager to his day-to-day life experience as a gay Latino physician: "To teach me my own life, to share my grief." ("Planning a Family," p. 49)

Commentary

This fine collection was one of the five winners of the 1993 National Poetry Series Award. Campo’s poetry is technically brilliant, especially the 64 16-line, irregular sonnets that constitute the heart of this work. The book is essentially a voyage of self-discovery, grounded in the connectedness of the poet’s family and culture.

Some of the poems deal directly or indirectly with medical themes, but Campo voyages through a broader range of roots and relationships. He understands well that the key to becoming a healer is first to discover wholeness in oneself; otherwise, he might truly undergo the transformation described in Technology and Medicine(see this database): "The transformation is complete. My eyes / Are microscopes and cathode X-ray tubes . . . " and "my mouth, for instance, / So small and sharp, a dry computer chip . . . "--lines that perhaps describe too many of today’s physicians.

PublisherArte Publico
Edition1994
Place PublishedHouston
Annotated by Coulehan, Jack
Date of Entry 11/07/95
Last Revised 09/05/06