In our twenty-seventh issue, poetry takes center stage with a cover feature on groundbreaking Peruvian poet Carlos Germán Belli and a dossier in homage to beloved Maya K’iche’ poet Humberto Ak’abal.
We highlight the work of 2016 Neustadt Prize winner Dubravka Ugrešić in our section on world literature from World Literature Today, and in our Indigenous Literature section we feature a special selection of multilingual writing from the new anthology Daughters of Latin America.
This issue also includes previews of new books in translation by Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica and Mexican writer Luis Felipe Fabre, as well as a reflection on translation from Robin Myers and excerpts from exciting books seeking publisher by Leonardo Valente and John Templanza Better.
Perhaps what best define the texts gathered in this dossier are appreciation and awe. Also enthusiasm. A desire to express appreciation for the many references (songs, films, books) that the writer Rodrigo Fresán (Buenos Aires, 1963) has put in our path (preaching from his columns in Radar Página/12, or Letras Libres, or ABC…) and for his extraordinary novels and story collections (twelve books to date); and awe with respect to his always challenging, mutating, and expanding body of work. A body of work that keeps reading as it is written and that, when you read it, makes you want to write.
The writer nonetheless persists with these activities because, supposedly, they grant her the
freedom to do what she likes with her time and thereby write her stuff, what she needs to write:
stories that draw her in, ideas that intrigue her, feelings that she can’t hold in any longer. With
this goal in mind, she stays stuck in this cycle with no certain future: grueling labor with
less-than-feasible deadlines, delayed payment (one, two, three…
Between 1964 and 1966, in the first years of Brazil’s military dictatorship, Oiticica wrote a series of lyrical poems, entitled Secret Poetics, and reflected in a private notebook on their significance for his artistic practice. Despite his global fame as a founder of the interdisciplinary movement known as neoconcretismo, his collaborations with major Brazilian artists and writers (Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, Ferreira Gullar, etc.), and his influence across a range of disciplines (including painting, film, installation, and participatory art), Oiticica’s “secret” poems are almost unknown and have never been published as a collection. This edition, featuring the original texts in facsimile reproductions along with English translations and accompanying essays by translator Rebecca Kosick and critic Pedro Erber, uncovers the significance of poetry to Oiticica’s thinking on participation, sensation, and memory.
In August 1592, a bailiff and his two assistants arrive at the monastery of Úbeda, with the secret task of transferring the body of Saint John of the Cross, the great Carmelite poet and mystic who had died the previous year, to his final abode. When they exhume him, they find a body uncorrupted and as fresh as when he died. Recital of the Dark Verses follows the three hapless thieves as they sneak the corpse of Saint John of the Cross from Úbeda to Segovia, trying not to lose too many pieces of the body to his frenzied disciples along the way. It is the (true) story of a heist, a road novel, a coming-of-age tale, and a raunchy slapstick comedy told in careening, charismatic prose. It is also a witty and wise commentary on the verse of one of Spain’s most important poets woven from the lines for which he is best known—a revival of words written more than four centuries ago, and a centering and celebration of their intrinsic queerness.