cover image Save Twilight: Selected Poems

Save Twilight: Selected Poems

Julio Cortázar, trans. from the Spanish by Stephen Kessler. City Lights (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (276p) ISBN 978-0-87286-709-3

Argentine writer and translator Cortázar (1914–1984), best known for his inventive fiction, beguiles in this expanded bilingual second edition of his poems. Cortázar, espousing the notion that “poetry and prose reciprocally empower each other,” constructs hybrid “prosems” or “peoms” that contend with love and loss, nationalistic ambivalence, literary theory, and memory. Something of a lovable crank, he declares listening to headphones “stupid and alienating” and a “psychological prison” in a lyrical essay ostensibly in favor of them, and heaps inexplicable scorn on knitters and Notre Dame Cathedral. Cortázar pithily laments his own squareness—“I accept this destiny of ironed shirts”—and the aging process, during which time is “a truckload of rocks/ dumped on your back, puking/ its insufferable weight.” A political expatriate to Paris, Cortázar footnotes one poem praising Argentina with an ominous implication of state-sanctioned murder, while elsewhere he fondly recalls “wisps of smoke/ gracefully streaming from the peanut vendors’ carts” in the Plaza de Mayo. Cortázar’s verse is more traditional than his fiction, but his style and themes are in harmony across genres: eccentric, mystical, full of animals but deeply human. Cortázar is a people’s poet, accessible from every angle, and his position as a titan of the Latin American boom is indisputable. (Aug.)