cover image Letters So That Happiness

Letters So That Happiness

Arnaldo Calveyra, trans. from the Spanish by Elizabeth Zuba. Ugly Duckling, $14 trade paper (64p) ISBN 978-1-946433-05-3

Calveyra (1929–2015) makes a posthumous English debut in a work as mysterious and enticing as it must have been in 1959, when it first appeared in his native Argentina. The nimble balance between the familiar and the strange is the chief attraction here, one that operates both at the level of image (mixing narrative with an almost surrealist vision) as well as of a grammar that unravels traditional structures into more idiosyncratic constructions. A poem about the moon ends, “I left it tied to the pine tree, my silver kite and my company, and I went upmoon so that all the children.” Another describes the tide as “the change from wave to wind when it just can’t much more those few meters of beach.” A speaker caught crying muses about the observer, “She had a talent for lifting wild daisies to her cheek without ever picking them, you wouldn’t remember her name?” Calveyra’s unique language makes the inclusion of the Spanish originals especially enjoyable for readers who know even a modicum of Spanish grammar. These prose poems surprise with both their arcs and their linguistic constructions, but Calveyra’s tricks do not come at the expense of emotional directness; rather, his combinations of the two ensure a rewarding experience for attentive readers. (May)