Open Pit
Jose Antonio Villarán

Honora Spicer review in Jacket2

Finalist for Northern California Book Award!

“Atahualpa, the last Incan emperor, filled his prison cell with gold, offering Pizarro a king’s ransom in exchange for freedom.  Yet, Atahualpa was executed. So the tale is told. And five centuries later, the terms of ransom and betrayal continue.  Morococha, once a village home, today is emptied of life — families and their social fabric, the living ecology of plants and animals — now deeply gutted, scorched, sucked clean for the greed of every trace of copper. Into this poem to his son Miqel and to the people of Morococha, Jose Antonio Villarán writes heartbreak and doubt, responsibility and resilience, knowing the poem cannot fix or fill the irreparable wound of the open pit. Yet it may inscribe, document, witness, speak.” —Karen Tei Yamashita

 “As our Oligarch Overlords power their way towards absconding with the moon and mars, democratic peoples the world over are beginning to grasp that resource extractivism and its ideology is blinding us with diversions of every conceivable design. But will the hellscapes in store for us be kept from examination? Not for long. Will poetic practices keep up? Maybe. Some will no doubt pick away at extractivism, others might ride it for a spell, yet others will get an outright jump on it. Jose Antonio Villarán’s Open Pit is one such brinco. Whether testing the potential of communal orality, or parsing the babble of corporate speak, or sparking up new argots for the alienated, yet unbroken, Open Pit stands as a monument to what an ardently committed materialist poetics can do, and brilliantly.”
—Rodrigo Toscano 

“Jose Antonio Villarán’s open pit affectively pits global addictions against personal extractions, calculating the enormous human and environmental weight of techno-privilege. Hurtling down a superhighway of forms—the ocean on one side, the desert on the other—the poems in this book accumulate into a desperate investigation of complicity, commodity, and heredity, as they swerve from Sacramento to San Diego to Lima to China to dust. The open pit of the title—of the exploited town of Morococha, of the raided earth itself—echoes and plumbs as it is stripped bare, as it is offered to the poet’s young son Miqel, the future. This text is a necessary addition to the canon of disembordered political poetry which, here, honestly acknowledging its own limits, dilates the aperture.” 
—Sandra and Ben Doller

The open pit: a story about morococha and extractivism in the américas explores the role of extraction under the current capitalist accumulation model, through the specific story of the town of Morococha, located in the central Peruvian Andes, and the ways in which extraction permeates most aspects of human activity. An assemblage of collective enunciations woven through a letter to the author’s seven-year-old son, the book connects the world of mining and extraction to everyday life, personal histories of growing up in Lima, Perú, and living in California.

Jose Antonio Villarán is the author of two books of poetry: la distancia es siempre la misma (2006) & el cerrajero (2012); one book of translation, Album of Fences (2018); and creator of the AMLT project (, an exploration of hypertext literature and collective authorship. A Spanish edition of open pit is also forthcoming from Album del Universo Bakterial in Peru. Villarán holds an MFA in Writing from UCSD and is a PhD candidate in Literature at UCSC. He lives in Davis, California, with his son. 

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Open Pit
April 2022
Jose Antonio Villarán
$25.00; 8″ x 8″
148 pgs.
ISBN 978-1-93-399677-6