The FSG Book of 20th-Century Latin American Poetry: A Bilingual Reading

04/22/2011 7:00 pm

A major bilingual anthology of twentieth-century Latin American poetry

During a century of extraordinary change, poets became the chroniclers of deep polarizations. From Rubén Darío’s quest to renew the Spanish language to César Vallejo’s linking of religion and politics, from Jorge Luis Borges’s cosmopolitanism to Pablo Neruda’s placement of poetry as uncompromising speaker for the downtrodden, and from Alejandra Pizarnik’s agonies of the self to Humberto Ak’Abal's examination of all things indigenous, it is through verse that the hemisphere’s cantankerous collective soul in an age of overhaul might best be understood.

A brilliant, moving, and thought-provoking summation of these forking paths, The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry invites us to look at an illustrious literary tradition with fresh eyes. Ilan Stavans, one of the foremost scholars of Hispanic culture and a distinguished translator, goes beyond easy geographical and linguistic categorizations in gathering these works. This bilingual anthology features eighty-four authors from sixteen different countries writing in Spanish, Portuguese, Mapuche, Nahuatl, Quechua, Mazatec, Zapotec, Ladino, and Spanglish. The poems are rendered into English in inspired fashion by first-rate translators such as Elizabeth Bishop, Galway Kinnell, W. S. Merwin, Alastair Reid, Mark Strand, and Richard Wilbur.

Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. His books include Spanglish, On Borrowed Words, The Poetry of Pablo Neruda, and Becoming Americans. His work has been translated into a dozen languages.

María Negroni was born in Argentina. She holds a PhD in Latin American Literature (Columbia University, New York). Her work as a poet includes six collections of poems: De tanto desolar (Libros de Tierra Firme, Buenos Aires 1985), Per/canta (Libros de Tierra Firme, Buenos Aires 1989), La jaula bajo el trapo (Libros de Tierra Firme, Buenos Aires 1991; second edition Editorial Cuarto Propio, Santiago de Chile 1999); Islandia (Monte Avila Editores, Caracas 1994); El viaje de la noche (Editorial Lumen, Barcelona 1994; Argentine National Book Award 1997), Diario Extranjero (La Pequeña Venecia, Caracas 2001), Camera delle Meraviglie (Quaderni della Valle, Italy 2002) and La ineptitud (Editorial Alción, Córdoba 2002). Both Islandia and El viaje de la noche have appeared in the US in a bilingual edition (in Anne Twitty's translation) at Station Hill Press (2001) and Princeton University Press (2002), respectively. Diario Extranjero has also appeared in French (Françoise Garnier's translation, Editions Maison des Ecrivains Etrangers, St. Nazaire, France, 2001). She has also written two books of essays (Ciudad Gótica, Ediciones Bajo la Luna Nueva, Buenos Aires 1994; Argentine National Book Award 1996) and Museo Negro, Grupo Editorial Norma, Buenos Aires 1999) and a novel, El sueño de Ursula (Seix-Barral Biblioteca Breve, Buenos Aires 1998; first runner-up Planeta Prize 1997).

Odi Gonzáles was born in 1962 in Cusco, Peru, where he grew up speaking both Quechua and Spanish. He has published five books of poetry in Spanish: Child’s Play (1988), Sacred Valley (1993), Souls in Pain (1998), Tunupa: The Book of the Sirens (2002), and The Cusco School (2005). His numerous awards include the César Vallejo Poetry Prize and the Premio Nacional in Poetry. He lives in Cajamarca, Peru, where he is completing a doctoral dissertation on the Quechua Oral Tradition.

Elicura Chihuailaf Nahuelpán (1952 in Quechurehue, Cautín Province) is a Mapuche Chilean poet and author whose works are written both in Mapudungun and in Spanish, and have been translated into many other languages as well. He has also translated the works of other poets, such as Pablo Neruda, into Mapudungun. In his book Recado Confidencial a los Chilenos, he talks about a childhood around the bonfire, in which he learnt the art of conversation ("nvtram") and the advice of the elderly ("gulam"). Similarly, nature with its diversity taught him the cosmic vitality hid from those unwary. This need to express his cultural richness, diverse in itself, made him become an Oralitor, that is, carrier of the oral expression of the Mapuche elderly, this destiny being told by means of "Blue Dreams" (Kallfv Pewma): This will be a singer, you said / giving me the Blue Horse of the Word. In Recado Confidencial a los Chilenos, the poet presents a deeply felt defense of Mother Nature, whom the Mapuche consider threatened by the dominant culture: post-modern capitalism. Considering the current environmental crisis, his message should be listened not only by Chileans but by everybody. The English translation of Recado Confidencial a los Chilenos (Message to Chileans; translated by Celso Cambiazo) is now in print published by Trafford Publishing in 2009.

 

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