by Juan Pablo Mobili
Finalist in The Poetry Box Chapbook Prize, 2021
Juan Pablo Mobili’s poems are born from living life with eyes that wish to stop seeing but remained open, and bear the record of being a citizen of one family and two countries. In them you will meet the people he loved and deeply shaped what he must pay attention to, and a personal city that keeps establishing its presence and its mark —the cadence of Buenos Aires and the rhythm of New York— full of memories of beauty and the insistent tragedies that still take place, the injustices committed on people who have not deserved them.
In Contraband’s poems you will meet the poet’s mother and his father who visit long after they passed, accounts of the blessings and the curses of remembering what he has witnessed, watching the world struggling with itself and, sometimes, reaching redemption.
Ultimately, these are poems about a certain hard-earned joy, having managed some reconciliation with turning out the way he has, a human being—“the only animal that blushes, or needs to,” as Mark Twain wrote—still skeptical but rooting for kindness winning its fight against indifference. Molten material to shape into poems that may matter to the reader, or at least a way to make the world a more hospitable place.
ENJOY A VIDEO OF JUAN READING FROM THE BOOK:
Juan Pablo Mobili — A Featured Poet on The Poetry Box LIVE (March 2022)
Juan’s Pushcart Prize Nominated Poem:
They Thought They Were Angels
Those were the years when the Flying Panini Brothers
would soar onto the modest void of their small tent
holding a rose’s stem between their teeth like a bear carries her cubs
As imperfect as they were, they thought they were angels;
on the ground they were fallible creatures, but in mid-air
they felt holy, like hummingbirds God made with His own hands
Those were the years when young women came back from the prom
with their brand-new dresses ripped under their coats
after some holy boy dropped them off at their homes
You could see them driving away, drunk and laughing
down the street, and disappear into a darkness that would last
forever in the young girls’ hearts
Those were the years where all of God’s voices led us to silence
to admire men because they seemed to glide under the circus tent,
unimpeached by conscience or society under their tiny capes
and now they are beginning to fall one at a time
like the fruit of a misshapen tree that finally dies
like impostors with wings who thought they were angels.
About the Author
Juan Pablo Mobili was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is an adopted son of the City of New York. The son of a teacher and a poet, his work tells the story of the joys and tragedies of a citizen of two countries, willing to face life head on.
His poems have appeared in The Worcester Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Mason Street Review, The Red Wheelbarrow Review, The Banyan Review, First Literary Review-East, New Feathers Anthology, and Spirit Fire Review, among many others.
In addition to that, one of his poems received Honorable Mention by the International Human Rights Art Festival for the Creators Justice Awards 2020, while others have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net Anthology. He has also co-written a chapbook of poems in collaboration with Madalasa Mobili, titled Three Unknown Poets, which was published by Seranam Press.
If there’s a thread to his poems, is his lifelong intention to have poetry make the world a more hospitable place.
Early Praise for Contraband:
At once intimate and broad in scope, Contraband deftly and poignantly bridges the political and the personal, and is, at its core, a lyrical and cutting exploration of the meeting place between human suffering and resilience. In the seam, breath is outlawed, men stand on rooftops cursing bombers as explosions fall across the land. But here there is also a grandmother falling in love. This in-between place is a world where warmth and tenderness feast at the same table as dictators.
—Caprice Garvin, poet and novelist
These poems are full of gorgeous and fresh imagery. Often, their extended metaphors are used to bring attention to and examine our everyday lives. In this examination they magnify the nuances of ordinary moments, showing the beauty and grief and, sometimes, uncertainty and confusion of life without ever forcing an answer. These poems are a testament to how the mundane is sacred.
—Rebecca Watkins, poet, author of Sometimes in These Places
Juan Pablo Mobili navigates the branches of image that reach toward and draw from memory without a false step. His worlds, his family, his perceptions all do a dance that is a wonder to get caught up in, and the delicacy of his words belies the power of their impact. There are very few poets whose work is so consistently thought-provoking and heartfelt.
—Siwsan Gimprich, poet
I was struck immediately by its humanism, its lyrical command born of precision and restraint. Whether he is writing about the death of his parents, or the secrets that move within us like a second body, his poems are quiet chronicles of our mysterious journeys as living creatures.
—Robert Hirschfield, poet and essayist, author of The Road to Canaan
Juan Pablo Mobili has a rare depth of understanding that shines in everything he writes. He expresses feelings with an authenticity that sometimes will lead you to tears and at other times, a humor that will make you laugh out loud.
—Judy Emery, publisher and editor of selections from the tape letters of Robert Lax