ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Book Review of Diva by Rafael Campo

Updated on March 11, 2013

Divided into five sections, or chapters, Diva represents Rafael Campo’s experiences, as a practicing physician, poet, and gay man, as well as the stories of his patients. Campo’s patients are mostly Latinos, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered people, and people infected with HIV and these are the issues he writes about.

The book’s title, Diva, is also the title of one of his poems. There are many definitions of the word diva: a goddess, a famous opera singer, a modern day pop-singer (like Madonna), or even a flamboyantly gay man. On the surface, this title appears to reflect how Campo writes about homosexuality, particularly about gay men. But, his poetry also gives voice to the stories of others who aren’t generally heard: reminiscent of a diva’s storytelling.

Rafael Campo
Rafael Campo

Books by Rafael Campo

The Five Chapters of Diva

The first section, entitled “In the Cuban Way,” deals with Campo’s feelings for his father’s homeland.

The second section, “Baby Pictures,” begins with “Madonna and Child” where he writes about a mother who cannot accept her son’s homosexuality. “By menopause, it’s not just estrogen/ my mother lacks. She’s lost her eldest son—/that’s me, the one who’s queer—the doctor who/ once made her very proud . . .” This section of poems deals with relationships with women, gender issues, and birth.

“The Gift of Aids” is the third, and most powerful, section. Not only do these poems describe Campo’s feelings as a gay man, but also how he treats patients with AIDS. Campo also describes how AIDS is spread and treated (or not treated) in “The Changing Face of AIDS." “Aisha got it from her husband Dex. Who’d shoot up with his friends when she was gone./ For Gloria, the unprotected sex/ she traded for some crack was how. The guilt/ of being negative brought Timothy.”

Wrapping up his poems is “The X Files”—a section full of love, pain, and being different. “. . . All of us are aliens/ no other understands. The world is full/ of stars like me, each one no universe/ can hid. Once I was abducted. My sin/ were all erased, but they were clinical/ in their precision when they stole my voice.”

The last, and fifth, section is entitled “Lorca”—these are poems by Federico García Lorca that Campo has translated from Spanish. Campo chose to translate these poems because they are about Lorca’s experiences with living as a homosexual man.

Touching on Campo's Form & Style

Campo consistently writes his poetry in iambic pentameter unless he is writing prose poetry. He generally incorporates some kind of rhyme scheme into his poems. Campo has a down-to-earth, straightforward writing style, but he also uses natural images to illustrate his ideas. In a poem about marrying his partner are the lines “. . . Pathogens, my needs,/ the sunset’s wounds—your love is why I’m saved.” This is an excellent example of how Campo subtly incorporates metaphors and similes of nature into his poetry. Occasionally, he uses swear words, but so rarely that when he does, it makes his point more powerful. The following lines, about how a man got AIDS, incorporates symbolism of nature and the powerful use of a swear word. “to that same place where on his knees he first/ sucked Larry’s cock—the blowing reeds like stilts. The high clouds teetered on above the Fens—/ as if the nameless men who fucked his mouth/ might help him speak to Larry once again.” Campo’s honesty is what makes these poems so moving.

To Buy, or Not to Buy?

I recommend Campo’s book because I feel the poetry in Diva humanizes the experiences of people often considered “other” in society. What works the most, for me, is Campo’s honesty, like how he writes about AIDS in “V. Elegy for the AIDS Virus”: “How difficult it is to claim one’s right/ to living honestly. The honesty/ you taught was nothing quite as true/ as death, but neither was it final. . . .” The only thing that doesn’t fit are the translations at the end. While they are beautiful poems, it is disappointing to end the voyage through Campo’s poetry with someone else’s voice. No matter how much Campo’s voice came through in his translations, these poems still contrast too much with the rest of the book

What are you waiting for? Grab a copy. Read.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)