“Shores-Argüello (In the Absence of Clocks) returns to his mother’s Costa Rican hometown on the occasion of her death in his latest, winner of the inaugural CantoMundo Poetry Prize. The title also references the poet’s home—or one of them. In poems displaying consummate craft, Shores-Argüello continues his exploration of the “back and forth” of transnationalism, whereby people experience multiple ways of belonging to multiple locales simultaneously. That belonging is tinged with longing. Stepping from a bus into “the orchid heat,” Shores-Argüello asks, “How is it that I have come this far/ with nothing, that I am empty-/ handed in this country of blessings?” The book is equal parts elegy, travel journal, and compilation of recipes, rules, and prayers. Structurally, the open and varied forms of the first and last sections relieve the tension of the formally segregated sonnets of the second section and the couplets of the third. Shores-Argüello records encounters between strangers, loved ones, and new acquaintances, those “little connections” that help the poet both grasp and release “the shaggy wolf called grief.” And truths of the Costa Rican cloud forest gleam throughout: “We live in the permeable/ skin of an amphibian, all the world’s a frog.” Though the collection can sometimes feel too neatly organized, as a whole it works a magic of distraction, reparation, and healing.”
Publisher’s Weekly, November 2017