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Taking its title from Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Leslie Sainz’s Have You Been Long Enough at Table explores the personal and historical tragedies of the Cuban American experience through a distinctly feminine lens. Formally diverse with echoes of Spanish throughout, this debut collection critiques power and patriarchy as weaponized by the governments of the United States and the Republic of Cuba. In investigating the realities of displacement and inherited exile, Sainz honors her imagined past, present, and future as a result of the “revolution within the revolution”—the emancipation of Cuban women.
Through lyric and associative meditations, Sainz anatomizes the unique grief of immigrant daughters, as her speakers discover how family can be a microcosm of the very violence that displaced them. What emerges is a spiritual blueprint for disinheritance, radical self-determination, and the nuanced examinations of myth, ritual, and resistance.
About the Author
The daughter of Cuban exiles, Leslie Sainz is the recipient of a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship. Her work has appeared in the Yale Review, New England Review, Kenyon Review Online, AGNI, jubilat, Narrative, and elsewhere. A three-time National Poetry Series finalist, she’s received scholarships, fellowships, and honors from CantoMundo, Miami Writers Institute, the Adroit Journal, and Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts at Bucknell University. She is the managing editor of the New England Review.
Have You Been Long Enough at Table is both a question and an invitation in Leslie Sainz’s marvelous debut. Sainz probes spirituality with the verve and vitality of Emily Dickinson if Dickinson had been born Cuban American at the end of the last century. Sainz probes the overlap of imagination and experience like Sylvia Plath if Plath was born to a Cuban American landscape between “field crickets, memory, lesser parasites” and “the stain of guava on a plastic cutting board.” Have You Been Long Enough at Table articulates the bonds and tensions of independence and tradition, spirit and form, home and exile. The narratives ring with the integrity of memoir and the inventiveness of allegory. Nature, politics, and humor overlap in an image where “The Black Wasps wear green berets.” Story is transformed into spell, chant, beat: “Mothers, wives, sisters, daughters radiating as verbs under a mahogany roof.” These lyrics of “the land—much in us still” are classic and altogether new. Leslie Sainz is a poet who has been long at the table reading and writing poems and long at the table listening to the poetry of culture and family. She makes questions invitations and memory visible. Come bear witness to a remarkable poet bearing witness.
— Terrance Hayes, author of American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin
Sainz’s debut poetry collection is a triumph, deftly capturing vivid images of displacement, and transcending borders and language. Cuba is the pounding heart of these poems. — Richard Blanco, author of How to Love a Country
The music in this book is able to combine not just melody but also emotion. The emotion here isn't just heart but also a thoughtful exploration. The thought here isn't just ideas but a deepening journey. There is much to love in Have You Been Long Enough at Table—but most of all I love its variousness, that's music itself.
— Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic
From sonnets for deities to poems for mothers, women, and family, this collection exists beautifully at the intersection of mythology and history, both personal and political. Just like its title, this book asks questions that resist simple answers, all the while giving us moments of tenderness, like this one: 'The orchids are lovely / this time of year / and the women, writing. — Zeina Hashem Beck, author of O