Book Review — Wonderful Wasteland and other natural disasters by Elidio La Torre Lagares


Wonderful Wasteland and other natural disasters

Elidio La Torre Lagares

The University of Kentucky


A Deluge Commands No Disciples

A Book Review by Mark Antony Rossi


The turbulent chambers of the creative heart conjure a prophetic glimpse into the substance of tomorrow. The human temperature, a poorly kept secret, is universally revealed in the direst of circumstances. And when our cherished home is threatened by terrestrial trauma, how can we retain our identity, how can we regain our sanity amidst debilitating dysfunction and municipal devastation.

Such are the emotional trials and spiritual treatises of “Wonderful Wasteland and other natural disasters” a poetic collection of highly accessible verse meant to metaphorically document the decline of a vibrant culture and the fragility of the family unit. I found myself in the middle of this book feeling displaced like if I had post stress tracking my every moment. How could I find my bearings with nature making toothpicks of trees and mi familia a memory floating away with flotsam and jetsam.

La Torre Lagares’ choice of phrasing and metaphysical imagery elevates elocution permitting readers to witness firsthand accounts of twin storm fronts orchestrated by Mother Nature and Human Nature.

From --- a theory of you in the flood


“as you look to the camera in frozen awe

holding onto the languid limb of a tree

and in the picture, you and I are together

again; I am the piece of deadwood”


 From --- story with the face of midnight


“you’re a story with the face

of midnight --- a universe burning at

both ends, and I, a collateral damage on

a Nietzschean drama or a self-invention ---

Apollonian and dripping from your mouth”


Other natural disasters are intelligently interwoven and are not that dissimilar from the private civil wars orbiting the complicated; often soul-devouring clusters we traditionally define as family. What depths of despair can a poet travel to have to contend with an Act of God and a Matter of Crisis when emotionally navigating the sudden dissolution of an island nation and a primary relationship.


From --- natural disaster # 3: becoming my father


“other words can replace bastard? or son of a bitch? ---can he

rebuke the contempt? ---even if he were here and what I really


to say was ‘I love you, Dad’ –yet the immensity of my mouth

burdens with light and I’m still the shattered plate in the kitchen”


In a brilliant thematic fashion set forth by engaging the natural muse imbued from the absorption of the arts before him and the torrential realities in front of him, La Torre Lagares’ leaves the reader unable to distinguish between the catastrophic rains of a historic storm or the tears of a truehearted heir seeking explanation for the unexplainable. The imagery is seamless as it flows in and out of injury and family; infamy and fidelity without pausing for warranted moments of self- consciousness. The very best cinematographers edit the finest motion pictures in this manner by expertly understanding editing is less about removing and more about keeping the vision intact.


From – natural disaster # 4: broken people


“as for me, my pictures will disappear

from the living’s wall – I’ll become the disposable

petty published poet with self-centered ambitions

writing that useless poem – good or bad –

about the day you died and you pulled us back

together as a tale of broken people.”


Earth has seen its mighty share of cataclysmic events. Its thick crust a cosmic-tough sphinx gatekeeper to natural recovery and supernatural resurrection of vast ecosystems. The challenge for humanity is not the disasters we face but how we face such disasters. Through seemingly endless waves of pain come spiritual awakenings no different than the birth of a newborn baby. What is left behind cannot be forgotten since it is precisely how people gain strength from endurance which in the final reckoning should bring restoration for a precious culture and a noble artist.

Elido La Torre Lagares teaches literature and creative writing in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras. His work has appeared in a number of journals and magazines including Acentos Review, Ariel Chart International Literary Journal, Azahares, CENTRO Journal, Malpais Review, Nagari, and Sargasso. He was nominated for the 2019 Pushcart Prize for Poetry by Ariel Chart International Literary Journal.

Mark Antony Rossi is the author of a number of titles including the most recent "Less Human Than Human: Mechs and Mindfields." He is the editor in chief of Ariel Chart and the host of the literary podcast "Strength To Be Human"


  1. Memorable review of no doubt moving work about storm and stress. Can't wait to read the book.

  2. wish you had a spanish version but grateful this story is out there.

  3. Such a glorious review for such a heartbreaking tale no doubt.

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