Hispanic Poets (N-Z)

Pablo Neruda (1904–1973): Obras Completas (ed. Hernán Loyola, Galaxia Gutenberg, Barcelona. 5 vols. I. De "Crepusculario" a "Las uvas y el viento", 1923–1954; II. De "Odas elementales" a "Memorial de Isla Negra", 1954–1964; III. De "Arte de pájaros" a "El mar y las campanas" 1966–1973; IV. (in two books) Nerudiana dispersa); Selected Poems (ed. Nathaniel Tarn, Penguin); The Heights of Macchu Picchu (trans. Nathaniel Tarn, Cape, London; Farrar, New York); The Poetry of Pablo Neruda (ed. Ilan Stevens, Farrar, New York, 2005; pb, 996pp, $20).

The collected edition of the poetry in Spanish (listed above) is exquisite. Each volume runs to over 1,000 pages, printed on bible paper & slipcased, and costs around €45. Vol. IV appeared in 2002, but I've seen only the first of the two books that constitutes the volume. Octavio Paz called him 'the greatest bad poet of the century', a juicy soundbite that has more than a little truth to it, but the old charlatan produced some fine poetry in amongst those 3,000-odd pages that the first three volumes contain. In English you need go no further than superlative Nathaniel Tarn editions listed above, which date from the early 70s. If you want more in English, and want to dip a toe into the complete individual books, Jack Schmitt's English-only version of Canto General (University of California Press, 1991. 407pp, pb) is a solid version of a long book that badly needed editing, but which also includes the The Heights of Macchu Picchu, a great long poem in its own right. If you want to stick just to Macchu Picchu, go for Nathaniel Tarn's brilliant translation (pictured above). There are countless versions of the Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair), a slim book which dates from 1923–4, and the W S Merwin version from the 1960s is as good as any I've seen. There is a Penguin paperback edition in the UK. In any event, do ensure you get a bilingual version. Neruda's highly readable memoir Confieso que hé vivido (I confess that I have lived, published as Memoirs by Souvenir Press and by Farrar) is good background material. The recent centenary celebrations have seen reprints of some key volumes in translation: Residence on Earth, Isla Negra and Fully Empowered, with fine translations by Donald Walsh and Alastair Reid. All are available from Souvenir Press in London. In addition, the huge Farrar selection, fuilly bilingual and almost 1000 pages, is great value if you don't mind the weight of it on your bookshelf. It chooses from all the best translations. My copy cost under £10 in Britain and, given that a single slim volume from one of the other presses costs more than this, you'd be mad to ignore it.

 

Octavio Paz (1914–1998): Collected Poems 1957-1987 (ed. Eliot Weinberger, New Directions, New York, 1987. 669pp, pb, $23.95. Carcanet, Manchester, pb, £14.95). Early Poems 1935–1955 (ed. Muriel Rukeyser, New Directions. 145pp, pb, out of print).

Indispensable volumes and, by and large, terrific translations of great poetry. Paz was one of the great masters of the 20th century, in any language. If you only want the Spanish texts, go for the Obra poética (1935–1988) (Editorial Seix Barral, Barcelona. 863pp, slipcased h/c, €22) and, for a briefer paperback selection, Lo mejor de Octavio Paz (ed. by the author, Seix Barral, €11). As befits one of the great masters, he was lucky with his translators: Weinberger, Rukeyser, Tomlinson and others. Weinberger's versions of the luminous late poetry, in particular, are wonderful. I continue to be fascinated by early Paz, as well, and the Rukeyser volume has aged very well.

Alejandra Pizarnik (1936–1972): Poesía completa (ed. Anna Becciu, Ed. Lumen, Barcelona & Buenos Aires, 2000. 472pp, pb, out of print). Cenizas / Asche, Asche (ed./trans. into German by Anna & Tobias Burghardt, Ammann Verlag, Zürich, 2002. 405pp, h/c, €34.90); Selected Poems (trans. Cecilia Rossi, Waterloo Press, 2012, paperback, 296pp, £15).

The longer I live with this poet's work, the more I think she was one of the great poets of the post-war period. I mean, this is seriously wonderful work. Pizarnik was Argentinian, Jewish, and a suicide at the age of 36. She left behind a body of work that will stand the test of time; no doubt about it. Seriously beautiful poetry, and modern in a way that much Hispanic work is not, which is to say that she doesn't fit easily into schools and lines of influence. She translated Bonnefoy, Artaud and Michaux, which might help place her. The Lumen edition seems to be out of print, but can be had from the second-hand trade for around €50. Lumen also had a Prosa completa in paperback, and the complete Diaries, which are essential. The German selection—a bilingual volume—is very fine, and is exquisitely produced. The excellent Ammann Verlag has also published selections from the author's diaries as In einem Anfang war die Liebe Gewalt. I've yet to see this and assume it's German-only. Those of you who have German and no Spanish (but then why are you reading this page?…) should obviously get hold of it. The Selected edition from Waterloo Press published in 2010 filled a huge gap. It's still available, as of mid-2015.

Josué RamirezLos párpados narcóticos (Fondo de Cultura Económica, Mexico City,1999. 123pp, pb, MXP66).

The core of this book is the poem/book Tepozan, here relaunched in revised form with its successor poems that run under the title given to the entire volume. This is poetry of memory, myth and history, a kaleidoscope of imagery, an exotic rush, almost bardic in its presence. Ramirez is a poet I hope to be reading more of.

José Luis Rivas: Relámpago la Muerte. La Balada del Capitán (Conaculta, Mexico City, 1995. 95pp, pb, MXP23); Río (Fondo de Cultura Económica, Mexico City,1998. 106pp, pb, MXP10); Raz de marea: Obra poética 1975-1992 (Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1993, h/c, 339pp, MXP22); Un navío un amor (Ediciojnes ERA / Conaculta, Mexico City, 2004); Ante un cálido norte (Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2006, 260pp, h/c MXP160, pb MXP120)

As a translator, Rivas has done versions of Eliot, Walcott, Perse and Rimbaud, and it's tempting to see some parallels with those figures. If there are any, I would suggest that Perse has had the most impact and, since I adore Perse's poetry, I'm a sucker for this. Having said that, most of his work seems to be in the post-Paz Mexican tradition, very literary and aware of the baroque and surrealist past, while still being resolutely modern. Río is a particularly beautiful meditative book-length poem. Raz de marea & Ante un cálido norte seem to cover most of Rivas' work up to 2005, so those are the places to go for a thorough grounding in his work.

Pablo de Rokha (1894–1968): Antología (ed. Rita Gnutzmann, Visor Libros, Madrid. 315pp, pb, €12.71); Nueva Antología (ed Nain Nomez, Editorial Sinfronteras, Santiago, 1987. 189pp, pb 26.5cms x 18.5cms, availability unknown).

Explanations are probably in order here. de Rokha (pseudonym of Carlos Díaz Loyola) is just about unknown even in his native Chile (despite the existence of a Plaza Pablo de Rokha named after him in Santiago), and is ignored everywhere else, although he crops up occasionally in the better anthologies. He was his own worst enemy, quarrelling with everyone, especially his contemporaries Huidobro and Neruda, and his unrecalcitrant Stalinism did little for his public image in the 60s. It also ensured the invisibility of his work after the 1973 coup. His overwrought apocalyptic outpourings are hardly fashionable today, but they are worth serious attention in the context of the mid-century Latin-American avant-garde. His own interim edition of the collected works, a huge hardcover edition published by Multitud, Santiago (de Rokha's own press) in 1954, was also called Antología, and I was lucky enough to find a second-hand copy in Santiago back in 1993. I'm not aware of any available editions of his work other than the two headlined here, and I imagine that the second of the two will be impossible to find by now. Both also contain some useful background information. Part of one of his long poems Acero de invierno (1961) can be found here, and there are eight texts available at the online Latin American anthology here. Shearsman Books will issue a Selected Poems in late 2015 / early 2016.

Winétt de Rokha (1892–1951): Suma y destino (ed. Pablo de Rokha, Multitud, Santiago. ca. 500pp, pb, out of print); El valle pierde su atmósfera — edición crítica de la obra poética (ed Javier Bello, Editorial Cuarto Proprio, Santiago, 2008. 626pp, pb CLP29,900); Fotografía en oscuro — Selección poética (Colección Torremozas, Madrid, 2008; out of print.)

Pablo de Rokha's wife Winétt de Rokha (1894–1951, pseudonym of Luisa Anabalón Sánderson) was also a fine poet, writing in avant-garde and surrealist-influenced styles and deserves to be rescued from the oblivion that has been her lot these past sixty years or so. She was an important figure in her own right and is an ideal cause for a lady academic, I would have thought. Her last publication was the posthumous Collected Poems, Suma y Destino. I found a copy in Spain, at the wonderful Lib. Rinacimiento in Seville, but I doubt there are many more copies out there. In an online Latin American anthology (apparently no longer available), the biographical note correctly stated, "Quizás por ser la esposa de Pablo de Rokha se le marginó injustamente como poetisa". The lack of publications was remedied in 2008 by the superb collected edition mentioned above, which is well-presented and -printed and comes with a large number of plates. I mnaaged to get it from the Chilean Lib. Antartica at a cost of around £61 / $93, including courier shipping. This might be thought a tad expensive, and the shipping charges ran to about 53% of the total, but I'd still recommend it. The Spanish Selected seems to have disappeared but can be had from the second-hand trade.

Jaime Saenz (1921–1986): Immanent Visitor. Selected Poems. (Translated by Kent Johnson & Forrest Gander, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles & London, 2002. 145pp, pb, ISBN 0-520-23048-5. $19.95, £13.95. H/c edition ISBN 0-520-23047-7 $49.95, £35); The Night (translated by Johnson & Gander, UCP, 2007)

Superb production of a fine set of translations of a very singular figure from Bolivia. I find the book a significant publication that advances our knowledge and appreciation of a rather hidden corner of the Latin American 20th century avant-garde. There is no edition of Saenz available in Spain, and I'm not aware of any method of acquiring books online from Bolivia. I have however seen second-hand copies of some of the Bolivian volumes at abebooks.com. A second Saenz volume, The Night — an extraordinary long poem — appeared from Princeton in 2009. It is essential reading. No doubt about it.

Pedro Salinas (1891–1951): La voz a ti debida / Razón de amor / Largo lamento (Cátedra, Madrid); Certain Chance (trans. David Lee Garrison, Bucknell UP, Lewisburg, Associated University Presses, London, 2000. 167pp, h/c, $32.50).

Salinas is another of the Generation of '27, and another to die in exile, too young. The Cátedra volume includes three collections from the 1930s. The translated book is of the seminal volume that precedes those three, his second collection Seguro azar (1928), and it's very well done. It includes a valuable introductory text by Salinas himself and a memoir by one of the doyens of Spanish poetry translation, Willis Barnstone, who knew the poet during his American years. There is a Poesía completa available, which is over 1,000 pages long, but I think these are the books to start with.

César Vallejo (1892–1938): Trilce (ed/tr. Michael Smith & Valentino Gianuzzi; Shearsman Books, 2005. 256pp, pb, £12.95/$21); Complete Later Poems 1923–1938 (ed/tr. Valentino Gianuzzi & Michael Smith; Shearsman Books, 2005. 420pp, pb, £16.95/$28); Selected Poems (Shearsman Books, 2006. 132pp, pb, £9.95/$16); The Black Heralds & Other Early Poems (Shearsman Books, 2007. 250pp, pb, £12.95/$21); The Complete Poems (Shearsman Books, 2012. 700pp, £27.95/$39.95). Go here for all of the Shearsman editions.

Poesía Completa (ed. Ricardo Silva-Santisteban, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima, 1997; 4 vols: 314pp, 264pp, 469pp, & 255pp, pb, approx. US$75 for the set); The Black Heralds (tr. Barry Fogden; Allardyce Barnett, Publishers; Lewes, E. Sussex, 1995. Pb, 108pp, £15); The Black Heralds (tr. Rebecca Seiferle; Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA, 2003. Pb, 197pp, $16 — cover shown below right); The Complete Poetry (tr. Clayton Eshleman, University of California Press, Berkeley & London 2006. 732pp, h/c, £32.50/$49.95)

Vallejo is the most important poet of the Latin-American vanguardia, along with the Chilean Huidobro (see previous page). I make no excuses for recommending the Shearsman volumes shown in the top row, and leftmost in the second: the translations are absolutely impeccable, the Spanish texts are more up to date than any other current version, and the three main volumes contain more poems than their competitors. The Selected is currently the only such volume available, and is particularly useful for students finding their way with this incandescent, but difficult poet. All 4 volumes come with a full array of notes, introductions and explanations.

As far as original-text editions go, I had been using a UNESCO edition of Vallejo for some years, but I was alerted early in 2004 to the existence of the Peruvian edition shown here (above centre, part of a collected edition of the author's works) by Valentino Giannuzzi, and managed to acquire it from the perubookstore.com website in Lima, whose services I can recommend. The Peruvian edition is much easier to read than the Unesco version, and the editorial apparatus is useful. I should also say here that I have also heard criticism of the Unesco edition, and suggestions that its scholarship was not all that it could have been. I am unable to judge this, but it seems wise to exercise care if absolute textual integrity is important to you, and to run with the Peruvian edition if at all possible. The Cátedra paperbacks of the two books published during Vallejo's lifetime, as well as the posthumous poems (shown above centre, priced between €6 and €7.50) are well worth their low cover prices if a complete edition is not required and if the very latest word in editorial accuracy is not important to you. Sometimes it's best just to read the poems and forget the academic trimmings: the text you have is unlikely to be any worse than the ones that the author's first readers had. Choose your editions according to your status as reader or scholar.

Of the several other translations that have been published over the last 30 years or so, many strike me as deficient, although I have a soft spot for the Ed Dorn / Gordon Brotherston Selected Poems published by Penguin in the 1970s. This has been out of print for some time, and would be worth republishing,a lthog I belive the texts did turn up in a compilation of some kind since then. Rebecca Seiferle's bilingual edition of Trilce (Sheep Meadow Press, Riverdale, NY, $14.95; Carcanet Press, Manchester, £9.95) seems to me to be too wordy in English, and not strange enough. The original is VERY strange indeed. Clayton Eshleman's version, recently republished by Wesleyan, is in my view is superior to Seiferle's. It comes with an excellent introduction and copious explanatory notes, all of which serve to explain in great detail quite how the translator decided to make each difficult decision (& there are many of them). To the translator's credit, he is open about the fact of his disagreements with his collaborator, Júlio Ortega, who edited the poem for the Cátedra paperback shown above. The complexities presented by these texts will always lead to disagreements, but I think I would back Eshleman's approach here, which treads the fine line between fidelity and trying to make poetic (and not just lexical) sense of the work in English. However, in late 2005, the field changed again with the publication of the bilingual Shearsman edition mentioned above, which—and not just as its publisher—I find to be the best version now available. Eshleman's versions of Trilce and the later work have now been joined by his version of The Black Heralds, in UCP's The Complete Poetry. In terms of value, and design, this will be a volume to have, but you can get the more thorough Shearsman edition at the same list-price. I suspect larger online discounts will make the UCP edition more attractive to some. On the other hand, it isn't Complete, in so far as the four-volume Poesia Completa has further texts, uncollected in the author's lifetime. The Shearsman series, following that Peruvian edition, is far more "complete" than the UCP version, offering 10 variants in Trilce, some two dozen extra poems in the Black Heralds volume, and a number of significant variants in the Later Poems. The only poems left out of the Shearsman edition are the ones regarded as juvenilia.

Eshleman's Posthumous Poetry (still available from UCP as a stand-alone paperback, but since revised for The Complete Poetry) was a fine achievement, although I have to say that for me Vallejo's late poetry—not collected in book form during his lifetime, hence Eshleman's title—is not as interesting as Trilce, which must be one of the most imposing monuments of the great period of the international 20th century avant-garde. That Trilce should have emanated from remote Peru is all the more astounding. Eshleman's edition was a pioneering effort and well worthy of the praise that is has received over the years.

Eshleman has fairly lorded it over the Vallejista landscape until 2005 but, hitherto, his emphasis on the mature work meant that, for many years, we have been short of versions of the extraordinary first book Los heraldos negros (The Black Heralds, Lima, 1919). I understand why, given the fascination exerted on all of us by Trilce and, to a lesser extent, by the Poemas humanos and other posthumous texts, and also given the specific difficulties represented by the more traditional forms used in the early book. That first book is a little like listening to early Schoenberg, just before he ripped up the rule book. Having said that, there have been four translations of The Black Heralds since 1990, two in the UK and two in the USA. The first American version, by Schaaf and Ross (Latin American Literary Review Press, 1990) went into a second edition in 2003, after being out of print for some years, and is considerably inferior to the other two editions. The British book (English texts only) by Barry Fogden is happily still in print and can be obtained direct from the publisher, Allardyce Barnett, whose titles are distributed in the USA by SPD. I find the translations effective, though I do feel that Vallejo's work at this juncture almost defies translation. The book's wild rhetoric and overblown metaphors might prove too rich a mixture for some people, but it's a really interesting book in its own right, without doubt the work of a master in developmental phase. Rebecca Seiferle's very recent version is the best of the bunch, and its locutions will be more welcome to North American readers than the English variety produced by Barry Fogden. In common with most Copper Canyon publications, it is splendidly produced, comes with an excellent introduction and notes, and has a bilingual text. I need hardly say that its much lower price, combined with its superior translation and better editorial matter, make it the one to have. I am glad to have the Fogden version as well, however: books such as this need many versions. The latest version of Heralds is the Shearsman edition, available singly and also as part of the Complete Poems. Inevitably, I recommened the in-house versions ahead of the rest.

Cecilia Vicuña: La Wik'uña (Francisco Zegers Editor, Santiago, 1990); Unravelling Words & the Weaving of Water (tr. Eliot Weinberger & Suzanne Jill Levine, Graywolf Press. $12); The Precarious / Quipoem (translated by Esther Allen, Wesleyan UP, 1997. 250pp, h/c, $35); Instan (Kelsey St. Press, 2002. Unpaginated, pb, $15).

La Wik'uña (above left) is the poet's only Chilean publication, oddly enough the first book I ever bought by a Chilean poet when I lived in Santiago. A single fugitive copy, discovered in the Altamira bookstore. Unravelling Words is an extraordinary collection of work by this Chilean performance poet. There's a lot of shamanic material here, based on the poet's work with native peoples in the Andes: El poema / es el animal // Hundiendo la boca // En el manantial (The poem is the animal // Sinking its mouth / in the stream). A later book, QUIPOem—see above right—is half of a book also devoted to an essay on the poet's work (The Precarious, ed. by M. Catherine de Zegher). Instan is the latest book and is as unpredictable as you might expect, consisting of drawings, handwriting and typed poems that draw their inspiration from etymologies and landscapes. Unexpected and fascinating, as ever was the case with this writer.

Xavier Villaurrutia: Nostalgia for Death (Translated by Eliot Weinberger, with an introductory essay by Octavio Paz; Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA, 1992., pb, $12).

Villaurrutia is not well enough known these days, having—for most non-Mexican observers—fallen between the stools, temporally speaking. Weinberger's translation of the poet's magnum opus goes a long way towards correcting the situation. Highly recommended, especially in view of the low cover price.

Verónica Volkow: Litoral de tinta (1979, 2nd edn 2001, Verdehalgo & Conaculta, Mexico City, 44pp, pb, MXP30); Arcanos (Conaculta, Mexico City, 1996., pb, MXP35), Oro del viento (xxxxx), Arcana and other poems (Shearsman Books, 2009, paperback, £9.95 / £17).

Verónica Volkow is a fascinating and innovative poet, and I still do not have enough of her work. She is an art critic and translator as well as a poet, and, for those who are taken with biographical details, she is Trotsky's grand-daughter. Litoral de tinta was her first collection, recently reissued, but the book that really has me enthused is the relatively recent Arcanos (which means Arcana), a sequence of 22 poems. It's an oblique kind of post-surrealist verse, full of powerful imagery that carries you away. Fascinating work. Both books can be ordered online from Conaculta in Mexico. Shearsman issued a translation of Arcana and other poems in 2009.

Raúl ZuritaAnteparadise (tr. Jack Schmitt, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1986. 217pp, pb, $29.75).

When I lived Chile in the early 1990s Zurita was the only interesting poet living in the country (that I could find) who was writing in non-standard forms (which is not to denigrate the other more 'comfortable' figures, such as Lihn, Rojas, Teillier and the expatriate Hahn; Cecilia Vicuña was then, and is still, expatriate). Zurita's most famous text is Purgatorio (Editorial Universitária, Santiago). I have no idea what he's done since 1993. This edition of Anteparadise is bilingual, better printed than the Chilean original, and well worth reading. I'm not at all sure about the quality of his other books, even the ones that I own, which is why I've not listed them.

ANTHOLOGIES

I'm really more interested in Latin American, rather than Iberian poetry, hence the bias of the following volumes:

Mónica de la Torre & Michael Wiegers (eds): Reversible Monuments. Contemporary Mexican Poetry(Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA., 2002. 675pp, pb, $20.)

An essential book, this volume covers the generation born after 1950 (& also includes some work translated from the Zapotec, Tzeltal and Mazatec languages—just 3 of the 90-odd native languages of Mexico). There are some real finds here, but it takes some time to digest the contents of this very large volume. Right now I'm stunned by the work of Gloria Gervitz, Elsa Cross and Verónica Volkow, and the selections from Claudia Hernández, David Huerta and Alfonso d'Aquino added much to my sketchy knowledge of their work.This is, in any event, a major event. The Spanish and indigenous texts are also included.

Harry Polkinhorn & Mark Weiss (eds): Across the Line / Al otro lado. The Poetry of Baja California (Junction Press, San Diego, 2002. Pb, 382pp, $25. Isbn 1-881523-13-6).

A most surprising volume, and obviously a labour of love for these editor-translators. There are some startling poems here, and some real talents that need more attention. Baja California is a small state, population-wise, and a young one, mostly cut off from the rest of the country, and there is obviously a vibrant local literary culture, balanced between the USA and Mexico, though American literary influences are not too strong. Highly recommended to explorers of the unusual and anyone who cares for contemporary Hispanic poetry.

Jen Hofer (ed): Sin puertas visibles. An anthology of Contemporary Poetry by Mexican Women (Pittsburgh University Press, Pittsburgh, PA, 2003. Pb,166pp, $12.95 C$14.95. Isbn 1-895636-18-3). See also supporting website.

An interesting and rather different anthology, which tries to correct the usual gender imbalance in surveys of Latin-American verse. It also tries to be inclusive, avoiding urban cliques and capital-city decision-makers. Whether it also manages to hit the spot from a quality point of view is less certain, but there is still some excellent work to be found in this bilingual volume, none of which turns up anywhere else that I've seen. I particularly liked the work of Laura Salórzano, Dolores Dorantes and Ofelia Pérez Sepúlveda. No an indispensable volume, but a useful extra if you already have Reversible Monuments.

George McWhirter (ed): Where Words Like Monarchs Fly. A cross-generational anthology of Mexican poets in translation (Anvil Press, Vancouver, 1998. Pb, 166pp, $12.95 C$14.95. Isbn 1-895636-18-3). See also supporting website.

No Spanish texts here, but the English versions work as poems in their own right, if not at the same voltage levels as the originals (at least as far as I can judge from the ones that are familiar). The generations here are those born in the 1930s (Zaid & Pacheco), the 1940s (Aridjis, Macías and Cross), the 1950s (Boullosa, Mendiola, Hinojosa, Moscona & Volkow—the last-named being, intriguingly, Trotsky's great-granddaughter—see also Reversible Monuments above, which is preferable as a guide to the field).

Juan Domingo Argüelles (ed): Dos Siglos de Poesía Mexicana (Editorial Oceano de México, Mexico City, 2001. ISBN 970-651-488-0. 579pp, pb, $29.95 via amazon.com).

A very large, and interesting book, chiefly of use to non-Mexicans for the revealing of a number of figures that would normally otherwise escape one's notice. Selections tend to be brief, with the aim of squeezing in as many poets as possible, which perhaps militates against getting a good idea of each poet's work. Still it's good to see under-recognised figures such as Ali Chumacero (from the Paz generation) and Ulalume González de León. The youngest poet here is Sergio Cordero (b. 1961), and I would have liked to see a few more still younger figures represented, as well as a few more women (though Nelly Keoseyán, b. 1956, whom I encountered here the first time, looks as if she may be a find...). Comparing with Reversible Monuments (see above), only Elsa Cross, Coral Bracho & José Luis Rivas make it into this selection. It's a little hard to judge as yet, but my feeling is that Monuments and the even newer Sin puertas visibles (see above also), have redefined the field, whereas Argüelles' otherwise blameless anthology is stuck in the past, unable to free itself of received opinions as to the current period. The book is useful on the more historical periods, up to, say, 1950.

Eduardo Milán, Andrés Sánchez Robayna, José Angel Valente, Blanca Varela (eds): Las Ínsulas Extrañas. Antología de poesía en lengua española 1950–2000. (Galaxia Gutenberg, Barcelona, 2002. 989pp, h/c, €32).

A big, and well-presented anthology, which by rights ought to be filling a large gap in the marketplace, covering as it does the whole hispanophone world. However, while it offers a number of good selections of important figures, it manages to miss out large numbers of fine writers who became active in the latter part of the period surveyed. I also think there are too many poets from Spain here, compared to the rest. The headcount runs thus: Spain (35), Argentina (9), Mexico (9), Peru (9), Chile (8), Uruguay (6), Venezuela (6), Cuba (6), Nicaragua (5), Colombia (3), Bolivia (1) and France (1). The latter is due to the inclusion of Clarisse Nicoidski, the French Jewish novelist who also wrote verse in her ancestral language, Judeo-español. At first sight the book is inclusive, ranging across the more conservative figures as well as the vanguardia, but then you begin to realise that there are problems, and you have to ask yourself how much these well-established authors really knew about the whole Hispanic poetry universe.

The first problem I had was the absence of the Mexican poet Homero Aridjis; this prompted me to start hunting down the other Mexicans, which in turn led me to the conclusion that the editors have either got it wrong, or they haven't been reading enough. The astounding Reversible Monuments anthology (see above) proves conclusively that Mexico has a thriving generation of poets born in the 40s, 50s and 60s: none of them are here (no Claudia Hernández de Valle-Arizpe, no Alfonso d'Aquino, no Gloria Gervitz, no Verónica Volkow, for instance). The whole book is short on women also, notwithstanding the presence of the excellent Blanca Varela on the editorial committee. Then Nicaragua has no-one represented after Cardenal, who is nearly 80 years old. The Chilean selection looks obvious (Neruda, Parra, Rojas, Lihn, Uribe Arce, Teillier, Hahn, Zurita), which also worries me: if I had been asked to second-guess a Chilean selection, all but one of those names would have been on it, and I'm definitely not up to date with the scene in Chile these days.

So if the Chilean selection is obvious, and the Mexican selection is missing a good 8–10 significant writers, where does that leave us with regard to the rest of Latin America? The younger Argentines appear to have gone missing, as do the experimentalists from the 80s and 90s; the Bolivian Jaime Saenz (likewise see above) is missing; is there really no-one worth reading from the last half-century in Paraguay?, or Ecuador?, or the other central American states? I find it hard to believe.

And 35 Spanish poets? That overweighting in favour of the peninsula looks a bit colonialist from here. The selection is short of women again. It includes Miguel Hernández, who was a splendid poet, but who died in 1942, outside of the dates of this book, even if some of the work only appeared in print long after his death. (This could be said of many poets exiled during the Civil War too.) I will confess to not having sufficient knowledge of the past 50 years of poetry in Spain to make an informed judgment, but some of the work that I've read here does not seem to be any more significant than that of the younger Mexicans whose absence I complain of above. I think we need another book, quite frankly, perhaps edited from the Latin American side, though there may not be a press there with the wherewithal to manage it. Maybe someone in the USA could do it?

This volume contains a lot of good poetry, and is very informative, but anything that purports to be as inclusive as this book does, and which then fails so badly to include very significant work within its parameters, is not doing the job. Treat with very, very great care. On the positive side, it's relatively cheap and it's very well produced, and it does contain a lot of good poetry.

Juvenal Acosta (ed): Light from a Nearby Window. Contemporary Mexican Poetry (City Lights, San Francisco, 1993. 231pp, pb, out of print.)

This was a good anthology when it appeared, but it has been largely displaced by Reversible Monuments (see above), which is more thorough, more up to date, and has generally more reliable translations. It is however worth checking out for some of the figures excluded from the newer book, such as Elva Macías (b. 1944).

Marjorie Agosín (ed): Miriam's Daughters. Jewish Latin American Women Poets(Sherman Asher Publishing, Santa Fe, NM, 2001. 240pp, pb, $16.)

This may seem a rather specialised selection of little appeal to the wider market, but that would be unfair. Gloria Gervitz (see the previous page) is my favourite poet here, but it's particularly good to see the late Alejandra Pizarnik (from Argentina) represented—she has a full-scale selection in English from Waterloo Press these days, which is well worth seeking out. Don't buy this book before any other Latin American anthologies, unless you've a particular interest in Jewish writing, but it does make a good and instructive filler if you already have a number of other anthologies of contemporary work from the region.

Mihai G. Grünfeld (ed): Antología de la poesía latinoamericana de vanguardia (1916–1935) (Ediciones Hiperión, Madrid. 558pp, pb, €15.60).

An absolutely indispensable survey of some poetry that is otherwise very hard to find, such as the two de Rokhas (see above). The full list of authors (alphabetic by country of origin) is: Borges, Fijman, Girondo, Güiraldes, Lange, Marechal (Argentina), Almeida, all 3 Andrades, Bopp, Mendes (Brazil), Díaz-Casanueva, Huidobro, Marín, Neruda, both de Rokhas (Chile), de Greiff, Vidales (Colombia), Ballagas, Brull, Florit, Guillén, Navarro Luna (Cuba), Carrera Andrade, Mayo (Ecuador), Cardoza y Aragón (Guatemala), Gorostiza, Maples Arce, Novo, Pellicer, Tablada, Torres Bodet, Villaurrútia (Mexico), Coronel Urtecho, de la Selva (Nicaragua), Sinán (Panama), Abril, Delmar, Hidalgo, Moro, Oquendo de Amat, Peña Barranechea, Peralta, Portal, Vallejo, Varallanos, Westphalen (Peru), Palés Matos (Puerto Rico), Moreno Jimenes (Dominican Rep.), Ipuche, Parra del Riego, Silva Valdés, Ramos Sucre (Uruguay).

José Olivio Jiménez (ed): Antología crítica de la poesía modernista hispanoamericana (Ediciones Hiperión, Madrid. 462pp, pb, out of print).

No overlap with the Grünfeld volume, because Modernismo does not equate with the Anglo-American variety. It is instead roughly equivalent to French Symbolism, though the comparison should probably not be over-emphasised. Modernismo was a massive rupture with previous Spanish-language writing, and prepared the way for Machado, the Latin-American Avant-Garde and the Spanish "Generation of '27". These poets are important within their own tradition then, but they often seem to me not to get across national barriers as easily as their successors. The pick of the bunch for me are Martí, Darío and Herrera. Poets covered: José Martí (Cuba), Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera (Mexico), Julián del Casal (Cuba), José Asunción Silva (Colombia), Rubén Dário (Nicaragua), Ricardo Jaimes Freyre (Bolivia), Amado Nervo (Mexico), Enrique González Martínez (Mexico), Guillermo Valencia (Colombia), Leopoldo Lugones (Argentina), José María Eguren (Peru), Julio Herrrera y Reissig (Uruguay), José Santos Chocano (Peru), Delmira Agustini (Uruguay).

Stephen Tapscott (ed): Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry. A Bilingual Anthology. (University of Texas Press, Austin, 1996. 418pp, pb, $26.95).

A large-format book which is somewhat unwieldy, if well-produced. The selection is okay as far as it goes, even if it's too safe, and is a reasonable attempt to cover the whole field. Its major fault is that there are only two poets included who were born after 1950: Raúl Zurita (b. 1951) and Marjorie Agosín (b. 1955). This suggests that the academics were playing safe and/or not reading much in the way of new publications. Worse, the book leaves out the two de Rokhas (see above), both of whom, most emphatically, should have been in, regardless of contemporary taste. There are other gaps, too, but that's inevitable I'm afraid. Not indispensable, this book has since been superseded by the 500 Years of Latin American Poetry (eds. Cecilia Vicuña and Ernesto Livón Grosman (Oxford University Press, New York), on which more in due course.

Marjorie Agosín (ed): These Are Not Sweet Girls. Poetry by Latin American Women (White Pine Press, Fredonia, NY, 1994. 368pp, pb, $20).

I found this hard work. There are no original texts to compare with the translations, the layout is all over the place, and at least two 40-year-olds are described as 'young' in the introduction. Some of the poets look interesting, others may just be suffering under the yoke of a poor translation. Given the difficulty of finding out anything about contemporary Latin-American poetry beyond the obvious names however, the book should be given some attention, if with care. 

Echavarren / Kozer / Sefamí (eds): Medusario: Muestra de la poesía latinoamericana (Fondo del Cultura Económica, Mexico City, 1996).

I'm sure there are others but this is the one I happen to have and it's interesting, if not riveting. A useful counterbalance to the two US books listed above. It needs to be recognised that this volume is more or less an apology for the neobarocco movement in Latin writing. Some of this work is startling, but the book is not necessarily a good overall introduction to Latin American poetry for a non-native reader. (Nor was it intended as such, of course.)

Enrique Caracciolo-Trejo (ed): The Penguin Book of Latin American Verse (Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1971. 425pp, pb, out of print).

This anthology dates from the heroic period of Penguin's poetry publishing, when the Modern European Poets series was in full swing, when anthologies appeared regularly, and when—uniquely—they published anthologies of poetry from other languages with the original texts foregrounded. Opinions differ as to the usefulness of this approach, but it was an interesting solution to the eternal argument about poetry translation. In most anthologies you end up with a selection not of the best poetry but of the best poetry that the assembled translators have been able to get into acceptable English. In the Penguin series there was no pressure to produce functioning English poems, as they only provided a literal prose translation at the foot of each page; this is of obvious benefit to students of the language in question and of debatable use to those who had nothing of the source language. While somewhat dated in the early 21st century, the book is really rather good at summing up what had happened between 1890 and 1960 or so. The colonial period is not covered. Worth consulting, even over 40 years later. Brazilian poets are also included. And for students of modern British poetry, Tom Raworth is one of the translators…