while they sleep (under the bed is another country)


while they sleep (under the bed is another country) (Birds, LLC, 2019) refuses to sweep up the shards of Hurricane María’s aftermath. Written in dialogic fragments and intersped with prose poems reflecting on the lasting impact of colonial trauma, it is arranged around the two different discourses. The bed on which America sleeps, and which America has made, is built on the fear that the nations it has oppressed will rise up against it, a monstrous shadow in a child’s nightmare. Written in English, while they sleep points to a imperialist American identity: the dormant body of the text. Answering in Spanish, under the bed is another country is the footnote, the monster under the bed, the colony: Puerto Rico.

50% of all pre-orders of Raquel’s book will be donated directly to The Hurricane Maria Community Relief & Recovery Fund (The Maria Fund), an organization dedicated to supporting emergency relief efforts as well as long-term organizing to build an equitable Puerto Rico.

Samuel R. Delany, author of Dhalgren and Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders

“These poems are the best words in the best order. They are about news that stays news. They are at once so honest and skillful that it is an impertinence to introduce or endorse them. On September 20, 2017, a category 5 catastrophic event swept Puerto Rico, resulting in the deaths of between three and seven thousand people.That December, after three months of relief work on this end, Raquel Salas Rivera returned to the island, where family and friends still lived. Flatly, this is among the most moving books of crisis I have read in more than two decades by a frighteningly talented poet. Philadelphia is lucky to have Salas Rivera as its Poet Laureate.”     

Anne Boyer, author of Garments Against Women and The Undying

“‘no one explains how we can become part of the impossible/ new world that is tomorrow, or how we are supposed to avoid falling into the perfect and/ permanent under eye circle we call facing the day.’ This is a book with its form as the heart that is its motor and both its center and its shield.”

Frank Báez, autor de Postales

“Se ha repetido hasta el hartazgo aquella frase de Adorno que plantea que después de Auschwitz no se pueden escribir poemas. Para Raquel Salas Rivera sí es posible y la muestra es este libro sobre la devastación que el huracán María dejó en Puerto Rico. Las muertes, la impotencia, el dolor, el abandono y el caos de la tragedia se extrapolan en una estética de la devastación: las páginas casi vacías hacen pensar en desapariciones; los tejados de los poemas parecen haber volado; la interrupción de los versos recuerda a los apagones; las notas al pie de página hacen referencia a las cifras de fallecidos. Porque el huracán no solo impactó la isla sino también su lenguaje, y es con esas palabras rotas que Raquel Salas Rivera ha escrito este libro conmovedor y tan urgente.”  

Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, author of Beast Meridian

“A record, a relation, a ruin: these are just some of the ways in which Raquel Salas Rivera uses the footnote, both as form and as metaphor in this shattering new collection. A critique of the failures of empathy and language (I have no words, writes the performative white liberal on Facebook while witnessing in real-time the colonial atrocity of the moment), Salas Rivera, with stunning clarity, juxtaposes the hollow language of witness with the language of survival, drowned out by the colonial grammars of institutional violence, bureaucracy, and performative politics. Put together, the primary text of Good White Liberal rhetoric is illuminated by the survivors of Hurricane Maria in the footnotes, illustrating plainly the brutality of US/Puerto Rico relations—the economies of catastrophe that ultimately feed the American settler state. Language erodes, its emptiness echoes, and the footnotes, like the monster under the bed, in fact, become our clearest mirror. Most of this clarity will be lost on the typical American monolingual reader, a shame given the monstrous revelation of liberal narcissism, the nightmare we need most from which to wake up.”

Fred Moten, author of B Jenkins and The Feel Trio

“Of an impossible dialogue, bilingual, bilinear, biomythic, the entirely human strain of the inhumane. Impossible because who is this emptiness to which they addresses themself, from which terror flows like blood, but bloodlessly and cold? Comatose empire, sleep stomping all and everywhere while woke to its own danger, which is when we talk to us. Out of the impossible, writing the endless lines of the disaster, Raquel Salas Rivera has been talking to us all along.”

del Epílogo de Gaddiel Francisco Ruiz Rivera, autor de Via crucis de la otredadlógica escata

“Mientras ellxs duermen, ellxs, los militares, las abyectas, los corruptos, las catequistas, lxs poetas, mientras mueren lxs activistas, mientras el insomnio nos visita, poesía habrá que le encienda el camino más seguro a la parte de debajo de nuestra cama flotante a los fantasmas. Hay una nación fundándose sin descanso, justo donde el cuco se esconde de los mitos de su maldad, donde se acurruca, junto a mis gatos hambrientos, la cabeza de un dragón nebuloso que busca refugiarse también de los números y del asesino. La parte de abajo, donde nos ocultamos cuando la pesadilla de que nos visitan desde arriba vuelve, pero nos toca ser la peor pesadilla en la vigilia de los colonizadores. No deja de intrigarme que tantas personas les teman a las medidas de autopreservación. Un dragón bajo la cama es una forma de traducir cuchillos bajo la almohada.”

Interviews, Reviews, and Lists

31 Poets Recommend 31 Poetry Books to Read Every Day in August.

Puerto Rico Governor Disrespected Our Dead, Latino Rebels.

#ColorlinesReads: 6 Books That Complicate the Idea of ‘Independence’.

Choice of the Past, The Choice of the Present: Kaja Rae Lucas on Raquel Salas Rivera’s while they sleep (under the bed is another country), Anomaly.

26 New LGBTQIA+ Books To Read This Pride Month, Bustle.

15 Books You Should Read This June, Literary Hub.

Latinx Summer Reads 2019.

8 excellent Latino Poetry Books for National Poetry Month, NBC News.

Philadelphia Magazine


Verse Playlist

The Offing

Reading Live at the Kelly Writer’s House

PEN Poetry Series

The Poetry Project Newsletter

Slice Magazine

UNDER THE BED IS ANOTHER COUNTRY. Hostile Books, online selection, 2017.