The Planet of the Dead by René Vaz

170916 The Planet of the Dead Front Cover_Rene Vaz.jpg
170916 The Planet of the Dead Front Cover_Rene Vaz.jpg

The Planet of the Dead by René Vaz


Forced to flee a violent, inhospitable America, the poems in The Planet of the Dead hold an unforgiving mirror, forcing us to take an unwavering look at our current police state, proving there is no safety in the classroom or in the streets.

Praise for The Planet of the Dead

"Planet of the Dead is teeth being cut in an intimate frame. Despite an empire’s bullet and paper enthusiasm, the writer announces a cosmic domain. Writing against empire, René Vaz is one of our warriors returned."

– Tongo Eisen-Martin, author of Heaven is All Goodbyes (2017)


"From its intriguing title The Planet of the Dead to its kaleidoscopic vision of life in 21st century USA, Vaz delivers urgent poems for urgent times. This is a tense chronicle—a memoir in poetic form. A key poet of the emerging Latino generation that needs to be read now."

– Alejandro Murguía, author of Stray Poems (2014)


"Imagine a social reality in which one can say, 'Your hands were up the moment you were born.' This is the case of the speaker in René Vaz' compelling first book [, Planet of the Dead]. His mother calls him an 'american sun.'  But this sun’s body is 'born to serve, to knead, to plow, to pick, to push, to care, to crawl, to work, to die.' The alienation is so complete that the planet of the dead, Pluto, becomes a metaphor for home. In the post-Ferguson world, nothing is quite itself. It’s more than double-consciousness; a policeman’s eyes can burn straight through you. That cruel game is played at the level of one’s skin, and the wound is everywhere: 'My skin / is chosen / My skin like a tattoo / like stigmata, like sin.' This book is a fable for our time."

– Paul Hoover, author of En el idioma y en la tierra (In Idiom and Earth) (2012)


"René Vaz opens his powerful new collection Planet of the Dead by stating this truth: 'We are required to harm others.' Startlingly, he sets this dictum of damage not in today’s war zones, but in art’s supposed sanctuary, the MFA classroom—'if a classmate called the police, I would be the first one shot and still // all around me people are dying // one typo // one typo is all it takes and you wear that typo (like your skin).' Vaz maps the 'everyday walk' of art and violence joined together for an artist of color—'Cut, censor, edit, censor, revise, censor, color, censor, write and censor'—in language haunted by longing and burdened with experience. An accounting is made—'With a forced silver knife, I cut away at pieces of me in order to construct a body.' The speaker of these poems has hands raised in self preservation, yes, but also in pointing to a small cold planet: 'I will fill the wilderness of ice, minerals, crystal and bone with the wildflowers that grew in soil that was mine but not mine.' Here is a song of stunning possibility."

– Barbara Tomash, author of ARBOREAL (2014)


Publication Details

All of our books are printed locally in Oakland, CA. We strongly believe in supporting local publishers and local printers. 

September 2017 • 5 x 7 • 50 pp. • Trade Paper

ISBN: 978-0-9981348-8-8

Cover art by Arthur Johnstone

Interior and cover design by J. K. Fowler

Author Details

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