cover image A Certain Roughness in Their Syntax

A Certain Roughness in Their Syntax

Jorge Aulicino, trans. from the Spanish by Judith Filc. Tupelo, $16.95 trade paper (106p) ISBN 978-1-946482-02-0

“I am the scribe of the Party and of declassified files,” writes Argentine poet, translator, and journalist Aulicino in this 50-part poem, his first to be translated into English—an account of Old and New World battles against the totalitarian spirit. Aulicino composes with a journalist’s sense of scene and a poet’s eye for imagery, leading readers through cities that do “not stop making noises” and the “repetitive world” of “barbarians and jungles.” The poem, presented in en face translation, traverses ports and eras like a container ship full of the industrial world’s “overproduction,” moving between “foreign coves./ Hong Kong or whatever. Sumatra.” An ever-present undertow of violence marks the work, evidenced in the mutating refrain “and yet, armies.” Aulicino also references an array of artists, writers, and historical figures. With an almost sardonic deadpan, he jumps seven centuries in two lines, weaving the prescient words of a 12th-century sultan into the fate of Nazi general Friedrich Paulus: “You cannot,/ said Saladin, start a siege with forces at your rear./ The circle closed on Von Paulus.” He later collapses time again, describing Attila behind the wheel of a Porsche. “The state of eternal destruction is his certainty,” Aulicino writes of his Attila—a sentiment that the poet undoubtedly shares. (Dec.)