The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry

Ilan Stavans, Editor
Edited by Ilan Stavans. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $50 (768p) ISBN 978-0-374-10024-7
Reviewed on: 03/21/2011
Release date: 03/01/2011
Paperback - 768 pages - 978-0-374-53318-2
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This ambitious anthology from critic and translator Stavans (Dictionary Days) attempts to introduce North American readers to the great strengths and the variety of Latin American modernity in verse. Beginning with the Cuban poet and patriot Jose Martí (1853–1895), Stavans's selection runs from the lushly formal nationalisms of a century ago (the Peruvian José Santos Chocano: "I sing American, in its wild and autochthonous state... When I feel Incan, I honor that king,/ the Sun"), through the world-renowned intellect of Jorge Luis Borges, the expansive passions of Pablo Neruda, and the tender bleakness of the great Brazilian Carlos Drummond de Andrade, to a wealth of less famous, more recent poets. The volcanic odes of the Mexican Gloria Gevirtz ("The cages enclosing the perfumes, the limitless delights/ the voluptuousness of being born again and again") continue Neruda's visionary tradition, while the compressed bite of the Guatemalan Mayaquiche Humberto Ak'abal brings in another. While Stavans translates many poems himself, many more are reprinted from extant versions by famous names: Mark Strand, Elizabeth Bishop, Eliot Weinberger, Ursula K. Le Guin. Presented in facing-page format, Stavans's anthology inclines to the accessible; specialists may be frustrated by a few points, but Stavans aims, instead, to bring a whole tree of poems and traditions to U.S. readers who do not know it well. (Apr.)
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