cover image Pieces of Shadow

Pieces of Shadow

Jamie Sabines, Jaime Sabines. Marsilio Publishers, $24 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-56886-023-7

There is an abundance of simple delight in Sabines' first Spanish-English collection. Like the blooms on a rose bush, his poems- often only a few lines long-contain little variety but are exquisite. Sabines has been publishing poetry in his native Mexico for almost 50 years and has influenced major American poets such as Mark Strand and Merwin, his translator. Sampling poetry from 10 of Sabines' volumes, Merwin's straightforward translations capture much of the quiet presence of the Spanish. Composed by Sabines in his 20s, poems in the first three sections tend to suffer from abstraction and focus on the most perennial of themes: hope, death, love, the ""heart of man."" Still, these lines reveal a poet for whom emotion is crucial, and who wants to tell his stories without pretense. With ""Tarumba,"" Sabines breaks into a more forthright mode, perhaps having followed his own creative advice: ""You have to act everything./ You have to break your head every day/ on a stone, for the water to flow."" Though the imagery grows more sophisticated in later poems, Sabines' vigorous clearheadedness gives his more mature poems the economy of his earliest work. Finally, poems about watching television and buying a luxury car show Sabines in his stride, examining the things of this world with open eyes. This is a vital addition to the body of 20th-century Mexican poetry in English. (Apr.)