The poems in Mario Chard’s first collection follow three entangled strands — a contemporary immigrant story, echoes of the Fall in Paradise Lost, and meditations on fatherhood in the shadow of Abraham’s command to sacrifice a son. The poet speaks from the American hemisphere, immersed in histories of loss from long before Magellan first glimpsed his tierra del fuego. This Land of Fire is close at hand though we try and insist upon its distance, like the sun, like Milton’s Pandemonium, like the wars outside our borders or within. “Chard’s debut collection of poetry takes its title from the English translation of Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost tip of his Argentine motherland. The son of an American father and an Argentine mother, Chard unearths his cultural and linguistic heritage, laces it with Christian mythos and reflections on fatherhood, and ignites the mixture into smoldering flames, like the hillside fires of the native Selk’nam and Yaghan peoples that Magellan spotted in 1520 and that inspired the mountainous terrain’s namesake. Chard’s poems burst with allusions to biblical scripture, with migrants and prophets playing equal roles, embedded in searing landscapes rich with the distinctively windswept branches of banner trees in Patagonia, ‘like severed arms, the hands still grasping.’ ‘Dystocia’ reconceives the virgin birth: ‘Sometimes a myth / delivers its prophet // breech.’ Chard’s verses reverberate with such soft notes and quick turns, like the pause before a stunning full stop. ‘The Oath’ catches the speaker’s newly naturalized mother when ‘the cords that first / learned Spanish in her throat / spoke first.’
Mario Chard was born in northern Utah, the son of an Argentine immigrant mother and an American father. Recent poems have appeared in the The New Yorker, Boston Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, FIELD, and Image. Winner of the “Discovery” / Boston Review Poetry Prize and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, he currently teaches in Atlanta, Georgia, where he lives with his wife and sons.