Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos

Julia De Burgos, Author, Julia De Burgos, Author, Jack Agueros, Translator Curbstone Press $23.95 (524p) ISBN 978-1-880684-24-5
Julia de Burgos (1914-1953) looms larger than life in the literary psyche of Puerto Rico, yet, before the publication of this generous volume, only a handful of her works have appeared in the English language. Writing in the 1930s through the '50s, de Burgos was ahead of her time in grasping connections between history, the body, politics, love, self-negation and feminism that would later prove to be the foundations for writers like Rich and Plath. ""Today, day of the dead, parade of shadows.../ Today, shadow among shadows, I delight in the desire/ to be Don Quijote, or Don Juan, or a bandit/ or an anarchist worker, or a great soldier."" An activist, biographer and heralder of Puerto Rico's ideological landscape, de Burgos writes in an often Whitmanesque style: ""Rio Grande de Loiza!...Elongate yourself in my spirit/ and let my soul lose itself in your rivulets...."" Her voice is frequently harsh with pain or rebellion, especially in her love poems: ""I will give you the truest note of my life./ You will give me the nothing of your lost hour."" Because of the gender system of the Spanish language, the original texts reveal subtleties, such as whether a narrator is male or female, that are elusive in the translations, yet the translated poems stand as tall as de Burgos herself. The poet died alone and unidentified on a Harlem street, as she had foretold in ""Poem for My Death"": ""To die with myself abandoned and alone,/ on the densest rock of a deserted island."" This anthology, with an introduction by Agueros outlining the scant facts of de Burgos's life, has been long overdue. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 10/30/1995
Release date: 11/01/1995
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