cover image Altazor, Or, a Voyage in a Parachute (1919): A Poem in VII Cantos

Altazor, Or, a Voyage in a Parachute (1919): A Poem in VII Cantos

Vicente Huidobro. Graywolf Press, $8.5 (167pp) ISBN 978-1-55597-106-9

In this book-length poem, appearing here in Spanish and English, bursts of pure musical sound alternate with concrete, incisive observations to describe the existential dread and mystery of the human condition. Weinberger's translation from the Spanish of the esteemed Chilean poet Huidobro's (1893-1948) seven-canto epic establishes its own rhythm and velocity; words and ideas whirl and dance, masterfully choreographed.The anti-poet Altazor (which means high hawk) is the volatile hero whose rage is calmed by melody. During his flight through life he philosophizes, fantasizes, grunts, singswildly and exquisitely. The cantos are discrete in focus and pulse and length and shape yet all rise to a crescendo and reverberate similarly, and are essential to the whole. The interior monologue-fantasy-stream of consciousness form is, at times, exhaustivethis is a soaring to all destinations and no destination. ``Earth and its sky/ Sky and its earth/ Forest night/ And river day through the universe/ The bird tralalee sings in the branches of my brain/ For I've found the key to the infiniternity/ Round as the unimos and the cosverse/ Oooheeoo ooheeoohee.'' Altazor's adventure, like life, is unpredictable, dangerous, uncensored and urgent, and Weinberger is faithful to Huidobro's untamable spirit. This poem marks the inauguration of Graywolf's Palabra Sur series. (July)