An Introduction to Rodrigo Toscano by Henk Rossouw

If the sonnet as a form were rooted not in the argument of the turn but in the openness of the question, we’d get a little closer to defining the radical terrain of Rodrigo Toscano’s new work. From the performance-oriented Collapsible Poetics Theatre to the electrifying repetitions and variations of Explosion Rocks Springfield to, most recently, the “highly energized sonics” of The Charm & The Dread, there’s little poetic terrain that Toscano hasn’t delved into during the wild rollercoaster ride—call it the Political Economy Theme Park—of his ten poetry books thus far. So, it’s such a thrill to see Toscano take on the sonnet, perhaps the form most associated with the rigidity of entrenched power differentials, and give suppleness to what the sonnet can achieve through his characteristic sonic ferocity and sense of humor. Of note is the self-aware way Toscano includes poetry production in his critique, where “chintzy lines” are as complicit in the given of global capitalism as Halliburton: “So goes the arms industrial complex / Amassing armies, navies, chintzy lines.” These lines made me laugh! Or, in the sarcastic love triangle of “American Sonnet,” Shakespeare’s Dark Lady becomes democracy itself: “Pardon me, which way towards democracy / When it’s coupled to this oligarchy?” Toscano makes the sonnet new.