Rodrigo Lira: Testimony of Circumstances (Cardboard House Press, 2018)
“One of the great poets of the
20th Century” —Roberto Bolaño
TESTIMONY OF CIRCUMSTANCES
by Rodrigo Lira
Translated from the Spanish by Thomas Rothe and Rodrigo Olavarría
September 18, 2018
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“The true heir of Nicanor Parra and Enrique Lihn’s protégé, Rodrigo Lira is still considered a cult author in Chile. Halfway between the figure of the madman and the genius, halfway between the myth and the legend, Lira wrote poems that were authentic, weird and precious gems. Owner of a unique style, combining irony, intertextuality, and a sharp sense of humor, Lira was an absolute underground poet, whose work was circulated by hand in thousands of Xerox copies that flooded the most notorious university campuses in Santiago de Chile during Pinochet’s dictatorship. Now, for the very first time, his poems are available in English thanks to the bold, delicate and meticulous translation of Rodrigo Olavarría (the only authorized voice of Allen Ginsberg in Spanish) and Thomas Rothe (translator of Jaime Huenún’s Fanon City Meu). I don’t think there is a way to fully understand contemporary Chilean poetry without having read Rodrigo Lira’s exquisite and extravagant poems.”—Carlos Soto-Román
"Rodrigo Lira’s elegance, his disdain, make him off limits for any publisher. The cowardly don’t publish the brave."—Roberto Bolaño
“Rodrigo Lira’s ‘Testimony of Circumstances‘ is vicious. In it, Lira mocks the literary establishment, depicts life under Pinochet’s regime, and narrates his experiences with mental illness. This tour de force poem is densely allusive, parodic, and endlessly playful.” —Aditi Machado, Asymptote
Rodrigo Lira was born in Santiago in 1949. He gained notoriety during the seventies for his dramatic public readings and eccentric parodies of many established Chilean poets. Tormented by a diagnosis of schizophrenia as well as social marginalization, he committed suicide in 1981, on his thirty-second birthday. After his death and the posthumous publication of his first collection of poems, Proyecto de obras completas, interest in Lira’s poetry and life grew exponentially into a cult following that has influenced many younger generations of Chilean poets and writers. Combining erudite literary knowledge, intense language, and dark burlesque humor, Lira’s work is often compared to contemporaries Nicanor Parra and Enrique Lihn. Roberto Bolaño described him as “one of the last poets of Latin America.”
Thomas Rothe was born in Berkeley, California. He has translated the poetry and prose of various Latin American authors, including Rodrigo Lira, Jaime Huenún, Emma Villazón, and Margarita García Robayo. His translations have been published in The Arkansas International, MAKE Magazine, Asymptote, InTranslation, Jacket2, OOMPH!, and Lunch Ticket, among other journals. His translation of Jaime Huenún’s Fanon City Meu was recently published by Diálogos Books./ Thomas Rothe nació en Berkeley, California. Ha traducido la poesía y la prosa de distintes autores latinomaerican@s, como Rodrigo Lira, Jaime Huenún, Emma Villazón y Margarita García Robayo. Sus traducciones han aparecido en The Arkansas International, MAKE Magazine, Asymptote, InTranslation, Jacket2, OOMPH! y Lunch Ticket, entre otras revistas.
Rodrigo Olavarría was born in Puerto Montt, Chile. He has published two novels, Cuaderno esclavo (2017) and Alameda tras las rejas (2010), and one volume of poetry, La noche migratoria (2006). His short stories and poetry have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. He has translated books by Edgar Lee Masters, Herman Melville, Eileen Myles, and Sylvia Plath, among others. His Spanish translations of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems and Kaddish and Other Poems were published by Anagrama in 2006 and 2014, respectively. Rodrigo Olavarría nació en Puerto Montt, Chile. Ha publicado dos novelas, Cuaderno esclavo (2017) y Alameda tras las rejas (2010), además de un volumen de poesía, La noche migratoria (2006). Sus textos han aparecido en distintas revitas y antologías. Ha traducido libros de Edgar Lee Masters, Herman Melville, Eileen Myles y Sylvia Plath, entre otros. Sus traducciones de Aullido (2006) y Kaddish (2014), de Allen Ginsberg, fueron publicadas por Anagrama.
Charlotte Whittle’s translations and writing have appeared in The Literary Review, Los Angeles Times, Guernica, Electric Literature, BOMB, Northwest Review of Books,and elsewhere. Her translation of Norah Lange's People in the Room is published by And Other Stories, and her translation of Jorge Comensal's The Mutations is forthcoming from FSG. She lives in New York and is an editor at Cardboard House Press.
Cristián Gómez O. was born in Santiago de Chile. He has published, among other titles, the poetry volumes Butterfly (2017), Renga (2016) y La nieve es nuestra (2015, 2012). His translations of Donna Stonecipher (Cosmopolita, 2014; Ciudad modelo, 2018) have been published by Ediciones Liliputienses. He also translated Feliz Año Nuevo, a selection of Monica de La Torre's poetry (2017). In 2018, he published La poesía al poder: de Casa de Las Américas a McNally Jackson, essays on Latin American Poetry and Transatlantic Studies.