Bilingual

LYRIC POETRY IS DEAD

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LYRIC POETRY IS DEAD BY EZEQUIEL ZAIDENWERG, TRANSLATED BY ROBIN MYERS

So the rumor goes, Lady Lyric is dead. Ezequiel Zaidenwerg reports every way how in his sensation, Lyric Poetry Is Dead, with space for conspiracy theories to report of her sighting and escape. Each poem broadcasts anew; gossips and stirs the pot; one ups and redacts, chronicling narratives interspersed with Argentine history, celebrity and lore. The bilingual edition from Cardboard House Press, translated by Robin Myers, transmits to English the experience of reading Zaidenwerg in Spanish (a worthy feat) and includes drawings by Carmen Amengual and notes from poet and translator alike. The poems all begin in similar ways: “Lyric poetry is dead. Or so they say” but diverge in tone and cadence, and not only in story, so one never tires of reading or grows to expect the next line. There are moments of hilarity, like this one from the poem that opens the book which ends with lyric poetry’s liquidated estate and her properties include an “incredible variety of mirrors.” In other moments, the poem becomes accusatory and gives pause as the reader is charged with murder, and still other poems circumvent death entirely and boast of lyric poetry’s resilience: “but she is alive and she / is always coming back.” Lyric poetry becomes both the vehicle for Zaidenwerg to reimagine many histories and allude to other literary greats, and the poetic subject and star of her own legends. Just so, Lyric Poetry Is Dead is waiting to rise up like Lazarus and delight you over and over again.

Cardboard House Press.

—Review by Madeline Vardell

PURO AMOR

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PURO AMOR BY SANDRA CISNEROS, TRANSLATED BY LILIANA VALENZUELA

Sandra Cisneros’ bilingual chapbook, Puro Amor, features original artwork and story by Cisneros and translation by Liliana Valenzuela. The narrative centers on a quirky married couple—Mister and Missus de la Rivera—who live in a distinct house, dubbed by the townspeople, “la casa azul.” Mister works as an artist and Missus remains consumed by domestic duties. Cisneros shows that though Missus cares deeply for her husband, she feels most gratified when tending to her eclectic array of adopted animals. For crowding the empty spaces in “la casa azul” are “six hairless dogs,” “a little fawn who tap-tapped her way throughout the house like a blind woman,” “nervous tarantulas,” “lethargic iguanas,” and “a passionate, possessive macaw,” all seeping their way into every aspect of Missus’ life.

Puro Amor explores perspective dually, giving readers both an intimate view of the protagonist’s daily life and the perspective of the townspeople looking in. The townspeople have distinct opinions and a strong perspective. They chime in with dubious comments, “what a lot of trouble and work,” in reference to the extremes that Missus undertakes in order to care for her animals and partner. The fluctuating perspective grants readers the simultaneous participation in the familiarity of the Missus’ chores, and the outside criticism of the townspeople—a juxtaposition that gives room for Cisneros to be both silly and reverent in her exploration of the inherent arduousness of partnership, and ultimately to show that animals do give the purest love.

Sarabande Books.

—Review by Karstin Hale

TESTIMONY OF CIRCUMSTANCES

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TESTIMONY OF CIRCUMSTANCES BY RODRIGO LIRA, TRANSLATED BY THOMAS ROTHE AND RODRIGO OLAVARRÍA

During his lifetime, Chilean-poet Rodrigo Lira never saw the cult-following that his poetry would achieve, and still, in much of North America and for most English readers, he remains an unknown. Translators Thomas Rothe and Rodrigo Olavarría, and Cardboard House Press, have righted this with the release of Lira’s Testimony of Circumstances. In this bilingual edition, which closely follows Lira’s posthumous Proyecto de obras completas, but with notable additions­­—one from which it takes its title—Rothe and Olavarría have reformed his poems in English with attention and care that captures the frenetic energy of Lira’s work. Their opening translator’s note offers key historical and biographical contexts and illuminates their perspicacious attention to, and labor over Lira’s poetry.

There’s nothing simple about Rodrigo Lira’s multilayered and intertextual lyric-poetry. His long stretching poems slip in various other languages; obscure references; and use playful, inventive word-play—not to mention a catalogue of footnotes and meta-poetic turns. Apart from the richness of his stylistic verse, his poetry communicates both a personal and a social pain, paralleled by loneliness. The first poem, “Grecia 907, 1975,” even begins with his speaker’s long hypothetical scream, in response to bureaucracy, etc. “Any moment now / my patience will snap and I’ll scream” and it is a scream so powerful that it both destroys and amasses with other voices: “the effects of my scream will multiply once all / the kooks start screaming and I’ll have accomplices . . .” Lira manifests a cold frustration for formal society and the government, and then a pride for the people of Chile too, particularly for the youth: “let us lift / up / our / hearts, because / —although this era isn’t giving birth to even half of one, / school girls keep drawing them / on their knapsacks / and now that practically no one tags / bathroom walls, / in Santiago de Chile, at least, / Young people / write.”

Lira may have written in the 70s, in response to the oppressive climate of his own government, but hold his poetry up and it is an unnerving lens for the present day, America and elsewhere. We should all take up the pen, like Lira, write against the suffocation of the factory, but first, turn to Testimony of Circumstances, enter into conversations with Lira and beat back our solitary sub-lives, choose to hear, more than survive.

Cardboard House Press.

—Review by Madeline Vardell