Las Vegas, NM – A memorable journey is never limited to the physical act of leaving one place and arriving at another. It is often a hard-to-describe recipe of our experience, sense of place in the present, reflection, and our hopes and ambitions. It’s a path worn by those who have stepped before us, where we erode the earth with our footprints, changing the trail, even slightly, for those who have yet to begin.
It is in that space Migratory Sound, a recently published collection of poetry by Highlands professor Sara Lupita Olivares, emerges.
“There’s a looking back,” said Olivares, who joined the university’s English Department faculty this year. “Throughout the book, I’m trying to look clearly at something and framing a view.”
Inspired and crafted during her years spent in Texas, New York, and Michigan, Migratory Sound explores the ideas of motion, movement and place. It speaks to loss and continuation.
“The book is embedded in movement,” Olivares said, noting she drew inspiration from Romantic-era writers and painters.
“Romantic writers showed me to look at nature to find one’s voice,” she said.
“I’ve been told it’s a bit somber,” Olivares said. “That’s something that is defining with my relationship with nature. The collection practices looking directly at things and embracing flux.”
Olivares said one of the most meaningful poems to her in the collection is the first one, “Night,” which begins “before loss there is a habit the moon implied beyond a fence….”
“I was thinking about generational mobility,” Olivares said. “I was thinking of the work my mom and dad did, working in factories so I could go to school and get my Ph.D. I started thinking about what this means to my daughter, to be in this location and part of this lineage.”
Olivares said she was interested in looking at female voices and the ways they have been historically muted.
“That’s been a process since the beginning of the book: the role of one’s voice and trying to find a sense of freedom.”
Another poem in the collection, “Drawings of a Red-Billed Pigeon,” reflects Olivares’ returning to the natural world: “you can see only the shape of the red-billed pigeon/in the bathroom window, opaqueness/a distance the yard/repeats….”
“This poem felt like an accumulation of images I had stored up through the years,” Olivares said. It sums up time and memory in a way that feels important.”
Roberto Tejada, author of Still Nowhere in an Empty Vastness, wrote Migratory Sound is a rare, evocative, and haunting book.
“I found myself returning again and again to its atmospheric method of knowing; to its structure of restraint and elegance,” Tejada wrote in a review.
Olivares joined the Highlands English faculty during the fall semester and said she is eager to explore New Mexico and discover how the Land of Enchantment speaks to her.
“After a year of living in New Mexico, I’ll be at a different understanding,” she said. “Right now, I’m in the place of observing,” noting the element of the unknown is important to her work.
“The best poems are the ones that surprise you,” Olivares said. “I always try to stay out of the way of my poems as much as I can and see where they end up. You’re letting go to see what images and memories pop up, seeing what resurfaces and presents themselves.”
Migratory Sound is available on the University of Arkansas Press’ website at www.uapress.com/product/migratory-sound/.