May 24th, 2013 / 10:27 am
Web Hype

“…I am from here / and in these very same places / I now leave my balance.”

Over at Typo, Guillermo Parra has put together (with the help of many scholarly friends/friendly scholars) a collection of Venezuelan poetry (1921-2001) nuzzled-into-English. It really makes your hair feel softer, these poems. There are trails that crawl both uphill and downhill. There are fugitive instants that barely contain your breathing. There is the spooky insistence of overwhelming presence when you think you want to be alone. Like José Antonio Ramos Sucre explains: “I would like to stay between the empty dark, cruelty on earth hurts my senses, life an affliction.” But “They followed me on horseback with their black dogs.” Almond trees and leopards. Owls putting shirts on their fathers. Pistol vapors vs. peaceful sleep. Cañabrava wood and mangrove beams. Boats with chimneys, ham wrapped in aluminum foil. Selfhood as a long dark hike both inside and out. Or on its stomach to watch TV, or facing the ceiling to be loved. Patricia Guzmán, for example, has always wanted to learn how to sing, and she says so to her sisters:

I’ve told them to listen to me
I’ve told them to let me know I sing
I’ve told them not to kiss me on the mouth while I sing
Not to invite anyone to hear me

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  1. bartleby_taco

      This is great. As much as I’ve been digging through Latin American literature for the last several years, I’ve never found much by the way of Venezuela, which I’ve always lamented, being that I am myself Venezuelan. It also doesn’t help that my Spanish has gotten pretty rusty. So thank you for sharing this, Mike!

  2. bartleby_taco

      AGAINST THE POLICE by Miguel James

      My entire Oeuvre is against the police
      If I write a Love poem it’s against the police
      And if I sing the nakedness of bodies I sing against the police
      And if I make this Earth a metaphor I make a metaphor against the police
      If I speak wildly in my poems I speak against the police
      And if I manage to create a poem it’s against the police
      I haven’t written a single word, a verse, a stanza that isn’t against the police
      All my prose is against the police
      My entire Oeuvre
      Including this poem
      My whole Oeuvre
      Is against the police.

  3. Mike Young

      yes! i love that poem. i remember anne boyer talking about it in third factory is how i first found it, i think.

  4. Mike Young

      my pleasure!! it’s a great issue. kudos to all the typo folks and to parra and his translating team.

  5. Robert Michael O'Brien

      Anglophone ears love Hispanophone poems in English — but, like, can you think of an Anglophone poet who captures that effect natively? “They followed me on horseback with their black dogs.” Latin American poems are lousy w/ black dogs and white moons and happy bodies and thirsty waists — and what’s our problem?