Almost all of my poetry reviews begin the same way: with me expressing that I don’t know how to review poetry. With that in mind, I’m going to keep this review pretty brief, because I don’t think I have much to add to the conversation. As a personal preference, I usually enjoy poetry that is fairly straightforward. Very symbolic poetry tends to lead me confused. This Is What Happened In Our Other Life is a poetry collection that leans more towards that second category. It is less accessible than the poetry books I read right before it: When I Was Straight by Julie Marie Wade.
The poems in this collection felt like they slipped out of my grasp as I read them. I felt like I could almost, but not quite, understand what was happening, like they were vague hints that I wasn’t able to link. Take the opening paragraph of “Monday In April”:
All your lovers come to you in April,
or you to them.
Spring offerings, rain and rhododendron.
Later, the smell of smoke.
The poem I liked the most is not surprisingly the one that is more literal: “Transitions”, which describes a moment after a breakup that feels visceral. I don’t doubt that Obejas is a skilled poet, but this collection was clearly not one for me. If you do enjoy more symbolic poetry with sparse, beautiful language, you probably would enjoy this one.