The Journey of Joy by Piedad Guzman, a Bolivian American, is distinguished by its focus on human rights and social justice movements. It’s also a very structured book, with four chapters (“New York,” “Love,” “Reality,” “Life”) plus an introduction, summary, and glossary.
Guzman aims to inspire as well as provide practical information. Her rhetoric in these poems is that of encouragement, as in the poem “Our Race,” which cheers on the reader to “Be a UN refugee agency donor—develop your inner shell / Proclaim economic justice and peace! worldwide / Be proud of your race! The color of your inner shell / You will acquire the color of the Universal Self.” On the facing page, there is a quote by the Buddha and information about various international aid organizations.
Many of the poems in the book tie spirituality with civic engagement. The poem “Death and Report” sounds a warning tone: “It is time to return Home, / The final grade! will tell us where we will go; / Reports are prepared in our lifetime / Choosing our home while we are in the world—“ and implies that there will be judgment in the afterlife. The photograph on the facing page is of a demonstration on a city street with a sign that reads “Imagine students, workers, the unemployed, and retirees, all demanding a fair economy…AND GETTING IT.” )
Unfortunately, the poems here aren’t distinguished by evocative language or imagery: in fact, too many lack specificity and lean on overused words such as “dream,” “soul,” “love,” “bliss,” “peace.” However, the combination of quotes, photographs, resources, and the international perspective on human struggle makes this a unique offering that may appeal to readers for reasons beyond the poetry’s level of sophistication. Those who share Guzman’s universal values may be inspired by her hope and energy. Others looking for artful poetry that evokes powerful emotion and startling insights will want to look elsewhere.
Also available in hardcover.