cover image Poet in Andalucía

Poet in Andalucía

Nathalie Handal. Univ. of Pittsburgh, $16.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-0-822961-83-3

Handal’s newest collection is an ambitious work that looks back at Spanish poet Federico García Lorca’s 1940 classic, Poet in New York. Handal says she recreates “Lorca’s journey in reverse,” by narrating her journey through Spain. Accompanied by comprehensive clarifying notes and a travelogue, Handal’s collection resonates with a scholarly understanding of Spain’s religious and linguistic influences. Sometimes the poems are dialogues with Lorca and other past Spanish literary luminaries; other times, Handal is haunted by their influence. “Everything we hear/ is the echo of a voice we can’t hear,/ everything we see/ the reflection of something we can’t see.” Ruins, landscapes, and Spanish architecture fascinate Handal. “When we leave home/ we never stop looking for/ images of the land on our faces/ (These words were written on a wall by the Mexquita del Cristo de la Luz),” she writes. Arabic, Spanish, Ladino Catalan, and fragments of other languages are woven together as the poems muse over borders between where one voice or language ends and another begins: “Tell me, what are borders?” Handal asks in her segmented poem, “Qit’as,” which translates to “fragments.” She continues in another section of the same poem, “we gave birth/ in languages not our own,/ we wanted to hang/ their photos/ but/ there were/ no walls.” (Jan.)