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Catalog Archive / Fall 2024

Cowboy Park

Wisconsin Poetry Series
Sean Bishop and Jesse Lee Kercheval, Series Editors
Ronald Wallace, Founding Series Editor

“Pain has an echo. Maybe the pursuit of pleasure is braided with that pain. And, of course, memory is difficult to outrun. In Cowboy Park, Eduardo Martínez-Leyva is like Orpheus at the lip of the Underworld, trying to rescue his own heart. His speaker is at the edge of himself, straddling the past and present of the body. The power of this book rests in an aesthetic swirl of cigarette smoke, cheap liquor, dust, salt, and sweat. Martínez-Leyva is unflinching, leaning into bitterness and beauty: ‘I wouldn’t lie. I shine. The way blood shines as it’s leaving the body.’ His artistry is capturing the arc between invitation and surrender, how song collapses to prayer, then pleading, then inevitably back to song. Sometimes, a poet dares us to not look away.”
—Amaud Jamaul Johnson

Winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry

“There are fevers you still wish to forget,” writes Eduardo Martínez-Leyva, but how fortunate for the rest of us that he remembers. These tenderly crafted autobiographical poems pierce through to the heart of pain, love, loss, and the ongoing search for salvation—or at least a salve. Housed in the lived experiences of a queer Latinx person born and raised in the border town of El Paso, Cowboy Park seamlessly blends themes of masculinity, identity, and the immigrant experience, offering a new perspective on the iconic image of the cowboy and a deeper understanding of the complexities of human experience.

The detainment and deportation of Martínez-Leyva’s brother grounds this exquisite collection in the all-too-common familial tragedy of political violence and discrimination. Martínez-Leyva honors the people, language, culture, and traditions that shaped him, revealing the indignations, large and small, experienced by a community that is too often misrepresented and maligned. “My voice was the only thing keeping us warm,” he writes, and the warmth from this striking debut collection is beautiful to behold.

In Spanish, the act of coring an apple
is called “descorazonar,” to dishearten.

All these years, I've kept my hands away
from everyone’s heart, including my own.

I’d always love the things that bruised so easily.

—Excerpt from “Scenes from the Bone Orchard”


Eduardo Martinez-Leyva. Eduardo Martínez-Leyva was born in El Paso, Texas, to Mexican immigrants. His work has appeared in Poetry, The Boston Review, The Adroit Journal, Frontier Poetry, The Hopkins Review, Best New Poets, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from CantoMundo, the Frost Place, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Lambda Literary Foundation, along with a teaching fellowship from Columbia University, where he earned his MFA. He was the writer-in-residence at St. Alban’s School for Boys in Washington, DC, and teaches and resides in New York City.


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Table of Contents


Learning the Language
ESL Lesson
The Boy inside the Gun
I Never Wanted to Speak
Grief Workshop
Lone Star
Portrait of My Mother in Her Youth
Son of a Gun
Composite Sketch
I Was Only a Boy
Portrait of Aging Father
With Jesus in Our Mouths
Portrait of My Mother Studying for Her Citizenship Exam
Sin Documentos
Don’t Look Back, Little Halo
Still Life with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Portrait of Angelo with his Possessions


Scenes from the Bone Orchard
Portrait of a Boy on the Other Side of a Glory Hole
Small Vices
Cowboy Park
Show Pony
And God Punished Him for Being Disobedient
God May Squeeze but Won’t Strangle You
Mud Song
God Made Dirt, and Dirt Don’t Hurt
God Gave You Hands, So Use Them
Now You’re Talking
Ode to a Leather Harness
Bracero with a Tattoo of the Virgin Mother
Negation Litany for a Fallen God
There is Little Left to Say About Harm
Nostalgia Cruising


When I Spoke the Language of Donkeys
After the Shooting, You Have a Panic Attack In the Supermarket
Portrait of an Absent Brother
What’s Above Us Is Either Dead or Still Dying
Angelo Is Probably Dead
A Protagonist Once Said
Letters from a Younger Brother, Mourning
Portrait of Speaker inside a Burning House
Broomtail Ballad
The Simple Hour
Cowboy Park
Portrait of the Speaker Riding a Greyhound Bus



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November 2024
104 pp. 6 x 9

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Paper $17.95
ISBN 9780299350840
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