ISBN: 978-1-62557-084-0
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Categories Nomadic, Poetry

Atlas of an Ancient World

Publication Date: April 2024


In June of 2023, Black Lawrence Press welcomed numerous existing and forthcoming Nomadic Press titles to our catalogue. Atlas of an Ancient World was originally selected by Nomadic.

Atlas of an Ancient World traces the futurist cartographies of an ancestral world. A poetry collection that embodies the threshold between Mesoamerican and Chicanx mythologies, the book rewrites the sacred relationship brown and black folks have fostered with nature and land in the Americas.This is a world haunted by diaspora, the violence and beauty of cities and borderlands.


Violeta Orozco’s Atlas of an Ancient World has a foot planted within the many ecosystems of the Earth, allowing the reader to travel up to towering volcanoes and back down to spongy marshes to connect with the most vulnerable crustaceans. It has its other foot in the netherworld, a world of tías who appear, disappear, and reappear again, where ancestors “trade tales like beads” and offer wisdom we may have forgotten. Key sites in Mexico and throughout the Americas inform the reader of the valuable lessons rooted in environment and mythology. Dismembered goddesses are reminders of the strength of women who resurface from the dirt and remind us of our legends. Despite syntax that reads like an environmental study, you’ll find the author admits to a love of the urban scent of oil, complicating our notion of the natural, even devoting a contrapuntal to the Jersey Shore. Prepare to travel with a magnifying glass that amplifies the forgotten, the disappeared, the microscopic, the ephemeral, all with a language that is lush and complex, using English, Spanish, and Nahuatl seamlessly. Orozco’s work is a triumph which resonates and will beckon you to return, and return, and return.

-Dr. Grisel Y. Acosta

Violeta Orozco’s Atlas of an Ancient World echoes with “the grace of the very first leap / of the child into the planet.” These poems are dreamscapes mineralized into a counter-memory, rooted in yet untethered to everyday language. Orozco writes of remembrance, displacement, and impossible return in lines that are by turns gorgeously compressed (“El Zapatero,” the luminous couplets of “Desert Sentinels/Sabino Canyon”) and expansive fields or galaxies of meaning. From oceanic and volcanic ecopoetics of the spirit depths to the “urban borderland” of Mexico City’s industrial periphery, Orozco claims and complicates a visionary poetics, in conversation with Nahua cosmologies and with poets of world-making such as Gloria Anzaldúa and W.S. Merwin. Orozco’s poems “tell time in tides,” striving for a music of dispersal that cannot be contained by a lyric I or the lettered city. At a time when we need it most, Atlas of an Ancient World insists on poetry as deep knowledge of our bodyminds as they relate to each other and the world around us. Against the noise of civilizations, Orozco urges us “to hold only the grace of this silence.”

-Urayoán Noel

In Atlas of An Ancient World Violeta Orozco’s lines are channels of memory flickering in the underground. With fierce care and attention, Violeta’s is a poetics of intervention (“All along I was reading the wrong signs…”) and recuperation. She writes: “we will dream clearer sources” and “so when they slaughter this hill / some may remain /folded in the flowers.” Ancestral and clear, she pulls the world through her eye and breathes it out from her mouth into a language both charged and veiled. A language made in a burning world. A language like smoke.
-aracelis girmay

Atlas of an Ancient World is a pilgrimage through time and landscapes, history and herstory, from the ancient world of pre-colonial Americas to the discarded stories found in a Texas library. Within these travels, Orozco is both guide and seer, dreaming of alternate roots and routes that privilege women’s knowledge and creativity while also acknowledging an inheritance of silence. Her poetics full of quiet attention to details both of the everyday and the extraordinary are reminiscent of Ada Limón’s mastery of subtle poems based on seemingly small moments. Fueled by a vivid imagery of flora, fauna, mineralia; seascape, landscape, cityscape and skyscapes; Orozco invites us into the many worlds that have made up her homes, and invites us to listen to their wisdoms. I strongly recommend you accept.

-Dr. Melissa Castillo Planas

Young poets emerge timelessly and continually, if we nurture their ground with care and attention. Violeta Orozco’s Atlas of an Ancient World reminds her readers of this necessity and truth. Her brave revealing of her heritage and homeland forces us in a gentle way, to “think about the soil, about your home,” that history matters. She opens our eyes to the landscape of her people and her ability to continue on with her own journey. “I seek permission to enter this land.” Welcome the heartache this provocative collection delivers. Walk with her, she is teaching us all.

-Louise Waakaa’igan

About the Author

© Angie Lipscomb

Violeta Orozco

An internationally renowned Latina author from Mexico City, Violeta Orozco is a bilingual poet, performer and fiction writer who has earned numerous accolades for her two poetry collections in English: The Broken Woman Diaries, published in Washington State by Andante Books 2022, winner of the Rising Stars Award at the International Latino Book Award; and Stillness in the Land of Speed, published by Jacar Press in 2023, winner of the New Voices Poetry Award and a Pushcart nomination. She has received an honorific mention by the Academy of American Poets, the Juan Felipe Herrera Gold Medal for the best book of poetry in English among other international literary prizes. Her fiction has received support from the Macondo Writers Workshop in Texas and the writing residency of the Community of Writers of the High Sierra in California. She is a member of the board of Circulo de Poetas and Writers in California and has published individual poems in magazines such as A Gathering of the Tribes online magazine, Chicana/Latina Journal, The Journal of Latina Critical Feminism, Harvard's Palabritas, Label me Latina, Cloud Women's Quarterly Journal, Xinachtli Journal, Snarl Journal, IceFloe Press, among many others. She is currently completing her Ph.D. researching and translating Chicano and Latin American Literature, with a concentration in Creative writing at University of Cincinnati. In Mexico, the national university of Mexico recently published her first non-fiction collection of travel essays in Spanish Cómo recorrer una ciudad sin despertarla (UNAM 2023) She is also the translator of Sonia Gutiérrez' novel Dreaming with Mariposas into Spanish.    

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