By Mike Soto
A Narco-Acid Western in profound poetic form, using themes from the ongoing drug war taking place in a fictional U.S./Mexico border town.
Publication Date: July 28, 2020
A Narco-Acid Western told in a series of interlinked poems, Soto’s striking debut collection follows the converging paths of two protagonists through El Sumidero, a fictional US/Mexico border town where an ongoing drug war is raging. The surreal verse of Soto’s poems portrays a bleak political climate as it coincides with the rituals of love & loss, culture & spirituality, & the quest for a better life at all costs. Following the narrative arc of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s classic cult film, El Topo, A Grave is Given Supper builds a world saturated with a mystical aura that describes the finite tensions & complicated desires of lives taking place in the borderland.
Mike Soto is a first generation Mexican American, raised in East Dallas and in a small town in Michoacán. He is the author of the chapbooks Beyond the Shadow’s Ink and most recently Dallas Spleen (Deep Vellum). He received his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College & was awarded the James Merrill Poetry Fellowship by Vermont Studio Center in 2019. A Grave Is Given Supper is his debut collection of poetry.
Adapted into an original literary-theatric performance by Teatro Dallas directed by Claudia Acosta and starring Elena Hurst
LONGLISTED for Reading the West Book Award
“The landscape in A Grave is Given a Supper recalls the tones of Frank Stanford, steeped with our phantasmagoric Texan borderlands. Soto offers up each poem like a votive candle, wreath of roses, or weapon, to lay on the altar of the outlaw Jesus Malverde, announcing the arrival of a new literary voice.” —Fernando A. Flores, author of Pig Latin and Stuck on a Razor
“Soto describes insects, femicide and the border wall in mystical terms.” —Jaime Dunaway, Advocate Mag
“A surreal exploration of the Mexican drug war written in free verse… While many poems traverse…dreamlike terrain, they’re also sometimes grounded in reality. This is where the book is most gripping and provocative.” —Tim Diovanni, Dallas Morning News
"Los Tigres del Norte warn, in a classic narcocorrido that I can imagine sputtering over the static of a sun-bleached radio in the border town where this collection is set, Sin talento no busques grandeza. In A Grave Is Given Supper, a debut as hauntingly moving as a dog's three-legged waltz, Soto displays a talent that achieves that greatness, lyrically guiding us through the desperation, dehumanization, and senseless tragedies born of our war on drugs." —David Shook, author of Obsidian Tongues
"Across the book, poems spastically display the weight of both people and landscape in heartbreak and obituary...Holding the book together is the poet’s consistency of tone; Soto’s poems never falter at being both maturely concise and emotionally staggering." — Greg Bem, Rain Taxi
“Combines neoclassicism’s equal temperament, the incisive excesses of the metaphysical poets, and Jamie Sabines-like political sensibilities.” —Joe Milazzo, ENTROPY
"It’s been wonderful workshopping with Mike and adapting his words for the stage. A lot of our team are first-or second-generation people who have experienced some of the things touched on in the show: migration, drug wars, a journey from Mexico to the U.S.”—Sara Cardona, Executive Artistic Director of Teatro Dallas
On Dallas Spleen and previous work:
“Soto drives a relentless narrative from poem to poem… a narrative composed of equal parts joy and rage.” —The Literary Review
“Soto eases into discomfort and renders it stunning.” —Katy Dycus, The Wild Detectives
“There is a deep, inescapable sadness in many of Mike Soto’s poems but it is a sadness for the world and never himself. It’s wrong to stereotype poets, even positively, but I think Soto’s Mexican literary heritage is deep in his bone marrow. It’s a rich, earthly, mystical tradition in which to have one’s taproots. These poems of light and life are compressed, but never crushed.” —Thomas Lux