Winner, 2019 CantoMundo Poetry Prize
Cascading through each of the poems in Gina Franco’s The Accidental is a question: What does it mean to be human in a world where the soul is exalted but the body brutalized? Franco explores the terrain of the borderlands—not just the physical space of the American southwest, but the spaces where lines are drawn between body and soul, God and self, violence and ecstasy. Unfolding along these borders in a torrent of deep contemplation, Franco’s poems bring the reader to the line between accident and choice, delving into the role each plays in creating the lives we are born into and in determining how those lives end. A body caught in a tree after a flood—an accident—calls to mind deliberate violences: crucifixion and lynching.
Guided, even so, by a stark hopefulness, The Accidental makes a character of the soul and traces its pilgrimage from suffering toward transcendence. “The soul saw,” Franco writes, “that it saw through the wound.” This book tenders a creation myth steeped in existential philosophy and shimmering with the vernacular of the ecstatic.
“Once again, Gina Franco delivers a stunning collection. Elegant, yet bracing, these poems cast an eye toward the ineffable bright border of the eternal.”
—Luis Alberto Urrea
“Being is the work of the visionary, and in The Accidental, Gina Franco—one of the visionary American poets now working—has made a book alight with being. In these poems, Franco writes deep down into the day beneath the day, the day the visionary sees, the day in which the soul discovers a wound in its skin and finds that ‘The green spring wept out of it, the sun’s darting glance through the wound’s lips in the skin went out of it. It wept itself inside out, and the soul saw that it saw through the wound.’ And Franco sees the day entire, beautifully.”
—Shane A. McCrae
“In these intricate poems, ‘[r]ain falls in the mind,’ ‘the wound [is] a source,’ and the heart ‘monolithic’: the mind, the flesh, and the corazón press against the world, an attentiveness that’s meditative, rigorous, choral. Pulsing with grief and wonder, the poems refuse resolution. Instead, the language inhabits and explores the silences in our devotion to others and to the divine. The Accidental is a gorgeous achievement, a testament to how the cuerpo, the mind, and the heart survey and harmonize.”
“Gina Franco’s second collection evinces a visionary intensity (and indeed, Simone Weil is referenced not once, not twice, but four times, alongside Hegel, Aquinas, Heidegger, Stevens, Ashbery, and the Mexican photographer and novelist Juan Rulfo). ‘I thought if I could / put the dream down // facts would emerge // from the remains,’ Franco writes, ‘bones / from liquefaction’—‘if I could put the dream down, the dream / would emerge absolved of all dream, all / dreaminess in its destroyed.’ This dreamwork makes possible an elegy for the father, or more precisely, for the image of a father, that lingers with the poet: a companion who, having spoken in and through image, can no longer speak back.”
—G. C. Waldrep
“These poems reveal the spirit, the intellect, and the body together working through loss and grief, engaging mystics, philosophers, history, and the immediate world. As I was reading them, I often felt that I was in the presence of someone in a transcendent state. Once I started reading, I could not stop.”