Book Review: Theresa Muñoz, “Settle”

Several months ago, I received a lovely package from Vagabond Voices (a Glasgow-based publisher) containing four poetry books. Of the four, Theresa Muñoz’s Settle was my first choice and I’ve continued to return to her words on more than one occasion.

In her debut book of poetry, Muñoz works through the themes of migration and technology. Muñoz begins her first sequence of poems reflecting upon her parents with poems outlining their chance meeting in a stationary aisle, their budding careers in Canada, and their experience with immigration. The sequence of poems also delve into Muñoz’s own experiences as an immigrant. In the poem “Twenty-two,” Muñoz examines the parallels she shares with her mother: they both left their homes to live in a new city at 22 (Muñoz from Vancouver to Glasgow, her mother from Manila to Toronto). Along with the parallels, Muñoz also highlights the difference in her experience from her mother’s, highlighting moments of racism she has faced in the public spaces of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

In her second sequence, Muñoz speaks of her digital life. As part of the generation where Facebook first laid roots, Muñoz reflects what it is like to feel “at home” online. From the death of laptops to the token holiday selfie to the pains of waiting for someone to return an e-mail or text, Munoz unearths an almost somber humor in the electronic gears moving us day by day. The poem “Friends” especially sticks out, pinpointing the ways in which people present themselves on Facebook, be it for better or worse. Lines such as “read their rage on war, politics, oil / know nothing of their real sorrow” strikes a chord, reminding us that not everything is as it seems. It’s perfection and chaos that brings likes, isn’t it, anyway?

Probing questions of culture and identity, Settle is a thought-provoking read that leads readers to look at the world through a new lens. Muñoz leaves a piece of herself in each line of poetry creating an open and honest piece of literature. Openness such as this, in my opinion, is the definition of what poetry should be.

You can purchase Settle here.

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