Amerindios/Amerindians By Pedro Granados
Artepoética, Colección Rambla de Mar, editors, Carlos Vasquez Torres and Jhon Aquasaco (cover and images), Nueva York, 2021
English Translations: Leslie Bary, Sasha Reiter, Isaac Goldemberg
Amerindios/Amerindians, a bilingual volume featuring three different collections of poems, each with a different translator in English, offers readers a welcome introduction to the work of Peruvian poet Pedro Granados in both the Spanish original texts and English translations. Translator Leslie Bary’s Roxosol/Sunredsun leads the book.
My reading raises a number of questions in the context of the current scene of literary translation, an efflorescence of poetic texts across linguistic, cultural and national boundaries perhaps not seen since the 19th century and the pre-Romantic-Romantic era in Europe. I am thinking of Gérard de Nerval’s historic, signal French translation of Goethe’s Faust; Baudelaire’s translations of Edgar Allen Poe which introduced the American poet to the acclaim of an avid French readership; and then there were the literary fakes and scandals, preeminently James MacPherson’s The Poems of Ossian, published and promoted as a rediscovered Gaelic epic translated into English by Macpherson, but which turned out to be of Macpherson’s own invention. Nevertheless, The Wanderings, even after it was exposed as a fake, enjoyed an enthusiastic readership and long life as an influential poetic and cultural text.
Bary’s introduction provides valuable guideposts to the Peruvian, long-distance cultural context incorporated in Granados’s poetry: the rising back to the surface of consciousness and accessible expression of the elemental forces of the earth; of animal life as it is understood across species; and of the spirit as it bridges time and the physical body. These features of Granados’s poetry are especially engaging at a time when the evolution of styles of North American poetry is tending more and more to the prosaic and the over-exposed, daylight world of reportage, a form of journalism, much like developments in fiction, and “literature” in general.
The poems of Granados I enjoy most are the short, lyrical, intimate ones, often addressed to a a lover, a mother, or a beloved friend, in length a tight 16-20 lines, what I like to call a “sort of a sonnet.” Examples are the poems, in the English translations, “One Hand Touches your Longed-For Hair,’ with its echoes of Baudelaire’s “La Chevelure,”; “To See Someone Age,” a moving, elegiac poem on the gradual loss of a mother; and “I Look at the Wound,” all intimate poems where Granados speaks of the heart, his “dark Andean root.”
I like less well some of the longer, self-referential poems that allude to the “poet” and to “poetry.” Show, don’t tell. Same comment for recourse to the naming of poetic models and antecedents, in this case Vallejo and Rilke. I prefer poetry that incorporates and enacts previous models in an organic way; and poets who have swallowed their antecedents whole, have won them, so to speak, rather than claiming them. There have always been poems of imitation and homage, largely belonging to an academic tradition which assumes an insider knowledge of the genre. I like poetry that is inclusive and does not make that assumption, as I also think it is one of the aspects of the art of poetry that has for eons kept it, for so many readers, in a rarefied, elite zone to which they feel they do not have access.
Some of the best poems of Granados, and thanks to Bary’s accomplished translations, remind us, too, that, generically, the role of poetry, and of the bard, is singer of tales, singer of sorrow, singer of complaint, and singer of desire as well, with its long-distance rootedness in its relation to music; and to the borderlands between waking event and the dreaming space of the collective unconscious, specific, precious functions that poetry performs best. Even when, or perhaps especially when, the matter of poetry is contestatory or documentary , the principle aim of poetry remains that of transformation through powerful language. One might think of the rhetorical power of a Hugo or a Whitman, a Langston Hughes, a Ginsberg or a Judy Grahn, to persuade. If there is no perceived difference between poetic texts and the onslaught of mediatized verbiage drowning the reader on an hourly basis, it would seem poetry loses that transformative edge.
For the presentation and editing of the volume, a prose piece, “The Magician’s Apprentice,” was selected to head the collection. While quite intriguing, it is not clear how the piece sets up the poems that follow it; and presents a number of confusions, not the least of which is the role of the “insect” in the story. The reading did bring to mind my own residence in a New York loft inhabited by bugs worthy of Kafka and Gregor for a decade.
The sequencing and titling of the poems are also somewhat confusing, as it would seem customary that whole texts of originals are followed by whole texts of translations. Some of the poems have titles, the translations in brackets, and some do not. That said, appreciation is owed to all editors, authors and translators who are laboring to bring such work to a larger, international readership through translation and distribution in these times.
Elizabeth Brunazzi Elizabeth Brunazzi was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and grew up in East Texas. She graduated with honors from All Saints Episcopal College, Vicksburg, Mississippi. She received her AB in French from Stanford University; MS in French and Applied Linguistics, and MA in English Literature from Georgetown University. She was awarded the PhD in Comparative Literature from Princeton University, with highest honors from the Princeton Alumni Association for Excellence in Graduate Teaching; and the Council for the Humanities for the Whiting Foundation Dissertation Award. Her teaching appointments include Princeton University, Pomona College, Wesleyan University, New York University, Rutgers University, and George Washington University. Her fellowships and residencies include the Camargo Foundation, La Fondation des Treilles, Callaloo invitational writers' workshops; and a French government, three-year residential award under the Compétences et Talents program for research and writing in France. Her published essays and reviews have appeared in the journals Les Lettres modernes James Joyce Quarterly, European Joyce Studies and French Cultural Studies ; and in the collection of essays Culture and Daily Life in Occupied France, eds. Elizabeth Brunazzi and Jeanine Plottel Her poetry and prose poetry in English and French are published in the journals Le Nouveau Recueil, La Traductière, and most recently, the online review and publisher, Recoursaupoeme.fr, Recoursaupoemeediteurs.com which published her bilingual ebooks The Beginning Ends Here/Le Commencement prend fin ici, EngIish and French texts, Elizabeth Brunazzi, illustrations Bernadette Genoud-Prachet;republished, Lambert Academic Publishers, 2019; Baby Pictures of Famous Dictators/Photos bébés de dictateurs célèbres, original English text by Charles Simic, French translation, Elizabeth Brunazzi; and Out of the Wasteland/De la Terre de désolation, original English text by Maja Herman-Sekulič, French translation, Elizabeth Brunazzi; and Point de fuite, livre d’artiste, Bernadatte Genoud-Prachet, texte d’Elizabeth Brunazzi, Gravé sur bois + Liège, Sur papier viel Hollande (Koperdrukruk) 250gr, sept exemplaires, Éditions BGP, 2015. Her short fiction was published by Washington Review, her story “The Baby Has Wings” nominated by editor Pati Griffith for a Pushcart Prize; and, her story “Mostly They Have None,” in the collection One in Three Women with Cancer Confront an Epidemic, Cleis Press. Her most recent article on “Tourmente sur l'Afghanistan, Grand Reporter Andrée Viollis and Civil War in Afghanistan, 1929” was published in the February, 2019, issue #1, of French Cultural Studies, UK. She accepted an appointment to teach French at the University of New Mexico, 2019.-2020 She is currently working as the organizer and co-editor of a new multilingual anthology of contemporary Haitian poetry.
PEDRO GRANADOS (Peru, 1955). He has published poetry since 1978 (Sin motivo aparente); and there are already fifteen collections of poems: Vía expresa, Soledad impura, Roxosol or, the recents ones, La mirada (Buenos Aires: BAP, 2020) and Amerindios / Amerindians (NYC: Arte Poética Press, 2020); which has been partially translated into Portuguese, English and German. He has also published several short novels (Prepucio carmesí, Un chin de amor, Una ola rompe, Boston Angels, !Fozi lady!, among others). He also has some critical books; for example, Poéticas y utopías en la poesía de César Vallejo [PhD thesis for Boston University, 2003] (Lima: PUCP, 2004); Trilce: húmeros para bailar (2014); or Trilce / Teatro: guión, personajes y público, an essay that won the Mario González Prize from the Associação Brasileira de Hispanistas (2016). Since 2014 he has presided over the “Vallejo sin Fronteras Institute” (VASINFIN). He currently lives in Lima, Peru.