Rodrigo Toscano
To Leveling Swerve

ISBN 1-928650-23-6
77 pages




Ideological intention meets ideological surprise in To Leveling Swerve, Rodrigo Toscano's fourth book of poetry. While continuing to develop his overriding concern with poem as radical social interface, To Leveling Swerve extends a notion of poetic diction that is neither exclusively a problematic of aesthetics, nor enjoined to any one (social or political) culture as interpretative key, that runs instead as a volatile commingling of the two. In this book, monumentalist high-modernist motivations are unveiled as discrete rhetorical moments in history. Those moments, in turn, approximate a delicate (coarse) national literature on the verge of becoming a stout (smooth) internationalist poetic.


In times that are too serious for solemnity, the question, ‘What’s new in poetry?,’ has been echoing through the realms of innovative writing as usefully as a car alarm. Rodrigo Toscano seems to have heard this call as clearly as anyone has of late. Sincere and sarcastic historian, he contorts his poetic inheritance from the pre-Socratics to recent innovators, using rhythmic outreach, frontal and sly, to produce a danceable inventory of the present’s equivocations and aliases. To Leveling Swerve is exciting, funny, encouraging, and perspicacious without any hint of premature congratulation. What Toscano does here will remain useful: it hasn’t been done before and needs to be done more.
— Bob Perelman

“Swivillization and its bearings grinding—listen.” This is la cumbre, el culmen de los cruzares, the heights of the crossing, not in borders, but in tongues, English for now . . . inclinado, torcido, bent in its desire to Level. “Into a language I don’t speak alarms an attack” Who thought of, who pushed the tongue like a finger into the wound of this empire of fear, who? “QUICQUAM WHICHEVER LOCKED INTO A PATH OF CALVINIST SUPERSTITION LEADERS PRESSED FEARS ONTO FEARS” Feels not like “poetry” in the usual sense, but as thought form, moving across the page, a living thing, a word animus. César Vallejo said poetry did not change the world, only the human “heart.” He probably meant “heart” in the Andean sense: sonqo, spirit and consciousness.
— Cecilia Vicuña

Navigating the globe’s uneven developments, To Leveling Swerve transmits signs of life from “da’ lean masheene amerika,” while actively exploring our “historical interests” through culture: “the point is / to transform it / beyond recognition.” The depth of Toscano’s social engagement is paralleled only by the intelligence and play in his word extensions; generously composing in a wide range of mind states, these poems speak through the contradictions facing culture workers and community activists alike.
— Carol Mirakove