FSG Book of 20th Century Latin American Poetry Reviewed

The work of an anthologist is violent, like that of a translator, dismembering a whole cultural context and transporting limbs of it to a new environment. And like translation, the result can always be termed as loss—a loss of wholeness (i. e. context), a loss of embodiment in time and place (i. e. culture). The pieces become relics, deadened in a museum of pages instead of alive in their usefulness. The act of collecting them, framing them and presenting them, invariably changes the way we read them. But anthologies like this one are desperately necessary. And, as Stavans points out at the end of his introduction, “poetry refurbishes itself through translation because translation is power.” Poetry survives translation and collection precisely because it contains its own power, and that power is transformable and transmutable. It is not universal in the romantic sense, but becomes powerful by being located “neither here nor there.” Or, perhaps, both here and there. The poetry translated and collected here, pinned up for us to examine like preserved butterflies, gives us a glimpse of a world richer and more complex than can be presented in a single volume, even one that runs to more than 700 pages.

Read the rest at The Quarterly Conversation

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