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Guest Post: Rodrigo Toscano’s Deck of Deeds

The eloquence of writers is a rather impressive thing, and anyone blessed with the ability to properly convey their thoughts and emotions in writing can inspire countless others. But there’s something about poets – wordsmiths whose limited ammunition empower rather than hamper them – that truly sets them apart.

One of the most important aspects of writing is being able to evoke empathy in your readers – to use your words to make them feel emotions they otherwise wouldn’t. The challenge comes from being able to carefully select your words and construct them in such a way that words that would otherwise seem meaningless would become phrases and verses that are, in themselves, unique and powerful.

Rodrigo Toscano accomplishes this beautifully in his book, Deck of Deeds, which was published in 2012 under Counterpath Pass. In the book, Toscano uses seventy images, selected from the Latin American bingo game, Loteria, and sets them up with prose poetry that is thick with cultural essence and deeply engaging.

The choice of using images from the Latin American bingo game couldn’t be more apt, as the book was released at a time when bingo was seeing an incredible, unprecedented resurgence. The BBC reported that 2012 saw the number of online bingo sites operating in the U.K. climb from a mere 20 in 2004, to upwards of 350. The popularity of bingo caused it to become a $557-million market, prompting even British supermarket chain Iceland Foods to launch their own bingo portal with Bingoiceland.com in the same year. But rather than choosing the normal bingo game and bingo cards, Toscano opted for a more culturally significant version of the game, allowing him to draw from his experiences and write poetry from the jarring images found on the Loteria cards.

With this being said, the success of Deck of Deeds comes not just from the poetry that Toscano has crafted, but from the way that the haunting images of Loteria go perfectly with his words. Deck of Deeds has been described as “an American-values flipbook, or a realism themepark that keeps bubble-nucleating (“Lipids are known to spontaneously form bilayered vesicles in water”) itself in the tax loophole” – something that many readers are likely to agree with. The way Toscano has written his poetry leaves readers with the overwhelming feeling of abandonment, yet the words resonate with something deep in the heart of every human being.

J/J Hastain of Big Other notes that Toscano’s use of grounding locations such as Stanford University, Dubai, and the Cherry Creek Reservoir “accomplish a lot in the book. They are there as contrast to the wild and more ephemeral notions and scenes.” It is through these wonderful juxtapositions that Toscano is able to accomplish such an amazing feat, breathing life to the cultural dystopia that many readers will often find themselves in.

  • Anna

    This does sound interesting. I’m curious as to who wrote the guest post, though.

  • Loteria images fascinate me. I saw a painting that depicted them last summer and I was mesmerized studying it. I think it would be very interesting to read poems associated with the images, to get a better understanding of them.

    • It does seem like a great idea, doesn’t it? I read a book that used Loteria cards to tell a young girl’s story…it was so interesting