EYES TO SEE OTHERWISE/OJOS DE OTRO MIRAR

Betty Ferber, Editor, George McWhirter, Editor, Homero Aridjis, Author , edited by Betty Ferber and George McWhirter. New Directions $19.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1509-1

New Directions continues its public service to literature with this lively introduction to contemporary Mexican poet-diplomat Homero Aridjis. Born in 1940 of Mexican-Greek ancestry, Aridjis begins this book as a somewhat sentimental surrealist, in poems that caught the attention of American poets from Philip Lamantia to W.S. Merwin and Kenneth Rexroth. His poetry eventually moves from lyrical declarations, such as "Knotted up, your cry of silence/ tells me nothing/ —moss is also growing on my lips—" to a more coherent if no less mystical succession of images: "he lifted up the fugitive water,/ held out the transparent stream,/ and saw the world on the other side." In between these two phases, translated here by various hands including the above poets and editor McWhirter, Aridjis has an unfortunate brush with the same translatorese that has made it difficult for readers of English to understand the verse of Octavio Paz (as rendered by Eliot Weinberger): the self-conscious word choices of "must I end up dozing to Bach/ like the gent who snoozes at the concert/ his day weary with schedules and bills/ his night exhausted at a show?" from "Questions" are typical. Aridjis's poems have, since the '90s, shown an almost American tendency to deliver a satisfying punch line or irony, a tendency he mediates with a curiously elegant sense of magic: "Waking today I found my shoes at the foot of the bed./ Dogs tied by their laces/ so they won't get separated one from the other./ What if, forgetting me, they make off/ in dreams for my childhood town/ and never come back?" Readers will get hold of the dreams, here with facing-page Spanish, but return repeatedly. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/18/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
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