three years of ballet tutus and taffeta and still i lost my posture.

Six poems by Angélica Freitas, translated from the Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan. 

foto (2)KI first discovered Rilke Shake while browsing the poetry section at Livraria Cultura, a large bookstore in Porto Alegre. I grabbed it because of the title; the pun on “milkshake,” which in Brazil’s vernacular means just what it does in English, made me laugh. The voice in the poems stood out to me because it was funny and female, portrayed queerness, used speech from the south of Brazil, and combined local and global perspectives to deal with questions of personal and poetic identity. I was intrigued by this voice, which grappled with the poets of the past but had a style unlike most other poetry on Brazilian bookshelves. I walked into the street with a new book to devour.

The shake is Freitas’s symbol of poetic invention; it is the delicious mess of combination that makes poetry. In Freitas’s vision, poetic formation is life formation. Life in these poems occurs in concrete scenes—a family library, a young person’s room, a city street—but the setting and its artifacts always point to the human interior. By shaking together literary classics, pop culture, pastoral fantasy, and more, the poems reflect upon and attempt to understand the self, and the poet’s art.

–Hilary Kaplan

cosmic coswig mississippi

by Angélica Freitas

abriremos a janela mais tranquilas para ver

não esse tanto de edifícios mas


vacas aparando a grama

galinhas arregaladas

galos em estacatos


abriremos a janela toda


não só uma fresta para a ver a vida besta

que se desenrosca amanhecida nos metros


porque lá só haverá tatus



só haverá o blues




cosmic coswig mississippi

by Angélica Freitas

tranquil we will open the window to

see not this endless mass of buildings but


cows clipping the grass

wide-eyed hens

roosters in staccato


we will open the window wide


not just a sliver to see brute life

untwist asleep from the metros


because there will only be armadillos there



there will only be country




translated from Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan
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Once resuscitated, I will be a book.

A poem by Sarah Kernya translated and with an introduction by Virginia Konchan. 

Sarah Kernya author photoVK Author 2“Nothing is clear when you are perpetually ‘in search’ of something,” as Julia Kristeva says. “Elles Cherchent” (“They Are Searching”), an excerpt from a French poetry collection by Marseilles-based poet Sarah Kernya (pictured left), entitled Rappel (Bleu du ciel, 2007), creates a poetic volta—and theatrical denouement—to Kristeva’s observation. A collection of cartographic poetics set in a post-9/11 international landscape of fear, Rappel forges historic lineages and paths forward into signification out of the miasmas of global capitalism: “Elles Cherchent” interpolates the daily habitus of an individual life with the exigencies of relationship, with the ghosts and living ecrivains of French literature (Simone de Beauvoir, Pascale Roze, Elsa Triolet), as constellated in the moving epistolary fragments between the speaker and her female mentor and muse, Huguette. Restoring to contemporary poetics the Sapphic powers of granting names and social legitimacy to women outside of patrilineal structures (“Seven percent of the Goncourt prizewinners are women”), the speaker claims to “pretend to be an animal of significance,” while, through the very act of remembrance and marking (of ancestral and literary relations) in fact enacts her own, and others, right to be present, and occupy space, however futile the socio-political endeavor may seem at times (“Thirty years since Allende shot / a bullet into his head, / rather than surrendering”) in a new republic of her own making: that of poesis (specifically la langue of French letters, from the Song of Roland to Christine Pizan to Baudelaire) restored.

–Virginia Konchan

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A wild tiger’s excesses.
Or an ocelot.

Three poems by Macario Matus translated from Zapotec into Spanish by the author, with English translations and an introduction by Wendy Call.

MatusPhotoJuchitanIn Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca, twenty miles north of the Pacific Ocean, the city of Juchitán has produced an enormous constellation of musicians, poets, storytellers, and painters. Juchitán’s traditional language, Isthmus Zapotec, was the first New World language to be written down, more than two thousand years ago. Over the last century, many bright lights of indigenous literature have come from Juchitán. Macario Matus was one of the most prominent; he influenced an entire generation of Zapotec storytellers and poets. One of those poets, Irma Pineda, said of Matus, one year before his death in 2009, “Macario Matus is in my life like water, like daylight. He exists, has always existed. I can’t pinpoint the date that we met; no one introduced us for the first time. And yet, every day I discover him, I recognize him, because every day he invents something new, something surges forth from that imagination—abundant, terrible, tireless, ferocious.”

Born January 2, 1943 in Juchitán, Macario Matus moved to Mexico City as a young adult to study; he continued to migrate between the two cities throughout his life. Matus published his first book at age 26, eventually producing more than twenty volumes of poetry, short stories, journalism, criticism, history, and translations. He founded Juchitán’s Casa de la Cultura, the cultural center where multiple generations of juchiteco musicians, painters, and writers—like Irma Pineda—took their first art classes. 

Matus passed away on August 6, 2009, at the age of 66. Three months after his death, a center for Isthmus Zapotec culture opened in Mexico City—a project of Matus’s for the last six years of his life. “Centro Cultural Yo’o Za’a Macario Matus” offers workshops taught by writers and artists who were students in Juchitán’s Casa de la Cultura under Matus’s leadership.

Unlike Irma Pineda, I never met Macario Matus in person. But like her, his work seems to have been around me, in the air and water, since my first visit to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in 1998. I discovered the bilingual poem “Bidóo Bacáanda / Dios del Sueño” (“God of Dreams”) in the Mexico City newspaper La Jornada, in June 2001. I don’t remember where I first encountered “Bidóo Gubéedxe / Dios de la Lujuria” (“God of Lust”) or “Cáa Bidóo Stíi Dúu / Dioses Nuestros” (“Our Gods”). All three poems appear in Matus’s 1998 collection Binni Záa (Los Zapotecas), but I’m sure that’s not the first place I read those poems. Books are still relatively rare and precious in Juchitán. By the time I borrowed a copy of Binni Záa, long since out of print, from Juchitán’s Casa de la Cultura, those poems were already familiar to me. In Juchitán, individual poems are passed around hand to hand, ear to ear. They flow through life like water, like daylight.  

–Wendy Call

Bidóo Gubéedxe

by Macario Matus

Guennda rigúu béedxe páa cáa guennda ranna xhíi

guláaqui cáa bée láa rigúu béedxe béedxe guíixhi.

Béedxe guíixhi, láani.

Guennda ráaca díiti máani stíi binni síica máni dúuxhu.

Xhiñée quíi gáaca núu síica béedxe guíixhi

páa láa núu gúule núu ndáani dúuxhu mée yáa.

Guennda ranna xhíi rudíi láa síica béedxe zée xpiáani.

Guennda ranna xhíi ngáa láaya béedxe náazi yanni.

Guennda béedxe ngáa ranna xhíi guiráa xhíixhe láaya binni,

guíidi láadi, bixhúuga náa máani, bixhúuga náa binni, guíicha

ruáa binni, guiée lúu béedxe ndáani yóo.

Guennda ranna xhíi née cúu béedxe ngáa ráaca binni máani née

binni guíidxi layúu.

¿Xhíi guiráa guíidxi layúu née cáa xpidóo lá?

guennda ranna xhíi née guennda rigúu béedxe zuzuhuáa cáa

huaxhíini, ridxíi.

God of Lust

by Macario Matus

Love or lust

they called a wild tiger’s excesses.

Or an ocelot.

Men shiver instinctively,

like ferocious animals.

How could we not be like ocelots

if born of their spirited viscera.

Love is mad cats in heat.

Love is eyeteeth threaded into your neck

Lust is loving with all your teeth,

skin, claws, fingernails, whiskers, cat’s eyes.

To love and be lustful is to be animal, or man.

To lust and to kiss is to be woman with sugared bile.

When the earth and its gods meet their end,

love and lust will preside over night, over day.

translated from Zapotec by Wendy Call

Dios de la Lujuria

by Macario Matus

La lujuria o el amor

lo llamaron excesos del tigre silvestre.

Ocelote, pues.

Estremecimientos instintivos

de los hombres como animales fieros.

Cómo no íbamos a ser como ocelotes

si nacimos de sus entrañas briosas.

El amor es entrega de felinos a lo loco.

El amor es colmillos ensartados al cuello.

Lujuria es amar con todos los dientes,

pieles, garras, uñas, bigotes, ojos de gato.

Amar y ser lujurioso es ser animal u hombre.

Lujuriar y besar es ser mujer con hiel azucarada.

Cuando se acabe la tierra y sus dioses,

el amor y la lujuria presidirán la noche, el día.

translated from Zapotec by Macario Matus into Spanish

Cáa Bidóo Stíi Dúu

by Macario Matus

Ndáani cáa guiée nabáani tíi bidóo stíi dúu,

ndáani tíi yáaga nabáani tíi bidóo stíi dúu,

xháa xcúu nabáani xpidóo dúu,

ndáani níisa dóo née níisa guíigu

nabáani cáa bidóo bizibáani láa dúu.

Níiza guiée xhúuba, béedxe, béeñe

náaca cáa xpidóo dúu, bixhóoze née bíichi cáa dúu.

Guidúubi guíidxi layúu ngáa jñáa dúu.

Our Gods

by Macario Matus

In every stone lives one of our gods,

in every tree dwells one of our gods,

our god lives under the roots,

within the water of river and sea,

dwell the gods who gave us life.

Rain, corn, jaguar, and lizard

are gods, fathers, brothers and sisters. 

All of nature is our mother.

translated from Zapotec by Wendy Call

Dioses Nuestros

by Macario Matus

En cada piedra vive un dios nuestro,

en cada árbol mora un dios nuestro,

bajo las raíces vive nuestro dios,

entre las aguas del mar y del río,

moran los dioses que nos dieron vida.

La lluvia, el maíz, el tigre, el lagarto

son dioses, padres y hermanos.

La naturaleza toda es nuestra madre.


translated from Zapotec by Macario Matus into Spanish

Bidóo Bacáanda

by Macario Matus

 Guúzi Góope síica Moctezuma guníi xcáanda

cáadxi binni quíichi née ruáa ráaxhi

zéeda yéete cáa lúu níisa dóo tíi quíiñe ntáa láa.

Née huandi, lúu cáa baláaga quée, déeche cáa máani quée veda

ndáa cáa binni guníi xcáanda xaíique quée.

Núu ndáani layúu stíi xaíique quée záa quée bíini núu xipiáani

riníi xcáanda cáa.

Rúuya cáa síica ráaca ridxíi níi chíi guizáaca lúu.

Cáa bacáanda quée, guníi zéeda quée, náaca cáa níi huandíi

néexhe náa.

Nguée rúuni quíi nucáa lúu cáa bée, bidíi cáa bée guíiba gúuchi,

layúu, née lúuna rizáaca.

Cáa bacáanda ngáa díidxa huandíi. Tíi gúuca huandíi guennda

ruziguíi stíi cáa binni quíichi.

Yanna láaga xhuxháale lúu núu riníi xcáanda núu huandíi ngáa


God of Dreams

by Macario Matus

Gúuzi Góope, like Moctezuma, dreamed

that some bearded white men

would come from the sea to dethrone him.

And yes, they arrived on huge ships, riding horses,

those men who the king had dreamed.

In the Zapotec kingdom there were wise men who dreamed.

They saw, clear as day, what soon would happen.

The dreams, they foretold, are waking realities.

And so they surrendered, handing over gold, land, and kingdom.

Dreams are real. The white men’s lie was real.

Now that we have awakened, we dream that truth is real. 

translated from Zapotec by Wendy Call

Dios del Sueño

by Macario Matus

Gúuzi Góope, como Moctezuma, soñó

que unos hombres blancos y barbados

bajarían de los mares para destronarlo.

Y sí, sobre unas barcazas, sobre unos caballos,

llegaron aquellos hombres que había soñado el rey.

Había en el reino zapoteca los sabios que soñaban.

Veían como si fuera de día lo que pronto sucedería.

Los sueños, predijeron, son realidades despiertas.

Por eso se entregaron, dieron el oro, su tierra, reino.

Los sueños son verdad. Fue verdad la mentira de los blancos.

Ahora que estamos despiertos, soñamos que la verdad es verdad. 

translated from Zapotec by Macario Matus into Spanish


Photo of the author courtesy of Irma Pineda.

the hurtling tornado
bears down on poplars

A poem by Pierre Chappuis translated from French by Tim Keane and Myriam Moraz.

Hommage ˆ la PoŽsie, Pierre Chappuis

Photo of Pierre Chappuis, 2010, Geneva, Switzerland, by G. Perret.

Tel un cri

by Pierre Chappuis

Tel un cri (d’où ? de qui ?), le tourbillon de la foudre s’allume. Nuit secouée, jetée à terre, reformée pour être ressaisie (étranger, hôte de passage tâtonnant entre les meubles), sauvagement prise et reprise. Dehors, champs, villages s’illuminent. Saillies, bondissements, nuit déhiscente (quel autre bruit plus lointain, plainte ou aboi ?), lueurs sur le pays déchiqueté, fractions englouties avant d’être aboutées, franchissement de l’abîme, dévalement de la tornade sur les peupliers, les jardins piétinés. Tel l’oiseau fabuleux (dormeur que le songe enveloppe de nouveau), la pluie, dans l’amorce grise du matin, ne viendra qu’une fois le calme rétabli.

Like A Cry

by Pierre Chappuis


Like a cry (from where? from who?), whirlwind from the lightning flash. Night is shaken, knocked to the ground, recovers to be steadied again (stranger, passing guest,  groping among the furniture), savagely seized and seized again. Outside, fields, villages, light up. Jutting, leaping, dehiscent night (which noise is further, the barking or the moaning?), glimmers over decimated earth, portions swallowed before coming to a head, clearing the chasm, the hurtling tornado bears down on poplars, trampled gardens. Like the mythical bird (sleeper wrapped in dream once more), the rain, in morning’s gray light, will only come once the calm’s restored.

translated from French by Tim Keane & Myriam Moraz

And from the sea
the Policeman can be seen

Four poems by Dmitri Prigov translated from Russian by Matvei Yankelevich. 

[Глядь — уж новая лежит]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

Только вымоешь посуду

Глядь — уж новая лежит

Уж какая тут свобода

Тут до старости б дожить

Правда, можно и не мыть

Да вот тут приходят разные

Говорят: посуда грязная —

Где уж тут свободе быть

[Soon as you're done with doing dishes]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

Soon as you’re done with doing dishes

Look — new dishes stacking up.

May I ask, what sort of liberty is this,

If one can barely just keep up?

Sure, you could leave the dishes dirty,

But here, from God knows where, they come

Complaining the dishes haven’t been done.

So where, then, is there room for liberty?

translated from Russian by Matvei Yankelevich

Банальное рассуждение на тему разумности идеалов

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

Погода в Москве к идеалу приблизилась

А раньше была ведь весьма далека

Была непонятлива и жестока

Поэтому часто мы с ней препиралися


А тут идеалы мои поменялися

И сразу погода приблизилась к ним

Вот так вот природу безжалостно мучим мы

И мучимся сами ужасно притом


A Banal Discourse On the Topic of Reasonable Ideals

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

The Moscow weather has become very near ideal

While earlier it was quite far from it

A bit slow on the uptake, and rather cruel

Which is why we wrangled, finding no agreement


And then, all of a sudden, my ideals were different

And straight away the weather rose to meet them

And thus we mercilessly torment nature

While we torment ourselves terribly by the same

translated from Russian by Matvei Yankelevich

[Когда здесь на посту стоит милицанер]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

Когда здесь на посту стоит милицанер

Ему до Внуково простор весь открывается

На Запад и Восток глядит Милицанер

И пустота за ними открывается

И центр, где стоит Милицанер —

Взгляд на него отвсюду открывается

Отвсюду виден Милиционер

С Востока виден Милиционер

И с моря виден Милиционер

И с неба виден Милиционер

И с-под земли…

Да он и не скрывается

[When the p'liceman stands here at his post]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

When the p’liceman stands here at his post

Expanses all the way to Vnukovo unfurl before him

The P’liceman gazes to the West and to the East

And emptiness unfurls behind them

And the center, which the P’liceman holds:

A view of him unfurls from ev’rywhere

From ev’rywhere the Policeman can be seen

From the East is seen the Policeman

And from the sea the Policeman can be seen

And from the sky is seen the Policeman

And from beneath the very earth…

Anyway, he isn’t hiding

translated from Russian by Matvei Yankelevich

[Я устал уже на первой строчке]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

Я устал уже на первой строчке

Первого четверостишья.

Вот дотащился до третьей строчки,

А вот до четвертой дотащился.


Вот дотащился до первой строчки,

Но уже второго четверостишья.

Вот дотащился до третьей строчки,

А вот и до конца, Господи, дотащился.

[I'm only on the first line]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

I’m only on the first line

Of the first quatrain and I’m exhausted.

Now I’ve made it to the third line,

And now to the fourth, just barely.


And now I’ve made it to the first line

But this time of the second quatrain.

And now to the third line, barely,

And to the end, oh God, I’ve made it.

translated from Russian by Matvei Yankelevich

None of you know what it’s like to live with Matt Sweeney.

Two poems by Melcion Mateu translated from the Catalan by Rowan Ricardo Phillips and a musical composition by Alexis Cuadrado. 

Photo by Patricia Tagliari

Photo by Sue Kwon

The composer and bassist Alexis Cuadrado wrote music for “The Ballad of Matt Sweeney” that was performed and recorded as a part of POETICA, a collection of original compositions by Cuadrado based on my poems and the poems of Melcion Mateu [pictured on the left]. The collaborators were Alexis Cuadrado on bass, Andy Milne on keyboards, Miles Okazaki on guitar, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums; with Melcion and myself [pictured on the right] providing voice. The band performed during a four-night residency at SEEDS::Brooklyn and a two-night, two-set per night stay at The Jazz Gallery in Manhattan. The following is from a studio session (recorded at The Bunker in Brooklyn) for the forthcoming album. Listen and enjoy.

–Rowan Ricardo Phillips 

Balada De Matt Sweeney

by Melcion Mateu


Matt Sweeney, el meu company de pis,

és alt i és gras; podria,

si volgués, actuar en un musical.

I és que té un do (de pit) realment insòlit,

gairebé com el seu do

de donant –el seu do d’amant, volia dir.

El seu do i el seu re

i el seu mi. Matt Sweeney

ronca al quarto del costat.


L’hauríeu de veure quan es lleva,

amb la calba, amb el cap ple d’antenes retorçades.

Li hauríeu de veure els ulls verds de Heineken,

les ulleres i el nas d’intel·lectual

i la gota del nas, li hauríeu de veure

la boca i les dents i

la llengua i la papada i els pits i el cor

(tatuat damunt del cor), li hauríeu de veure

la panxa i l’esquena i el cul

guaitant-li per damunt dels calçotets.


Matt Sweeney només s’assembla a Matt Sweeney,

sobretot als matins

(sis llaunes de cervesa es beu totes les nits

davant la tele, mirant una soap-opera):

té un cert posat d’entertainer triomfador,

amb el cap embotit de marihuana i un somriure feliç de bon vivant;

Matt Sweeney s’enlaira com un globus,

em mira, obre la boca i diu:

«Good morning, dude!», talment com si acabés de tornar de Califòrnia.

«Mornin’», li responc.



Matt Sweeney, el meu company

de pis, és un poc especial.

Va tenir un amant filipí

que estava boig pels óssos.

L’abraçava i li deia teddy bear

i en Matt li responia I wanna be your teddy bear

movent el cul com n’Elvis.


Vosaltres no sabeu el que és viure al costat de Matt Sweeney.

(És un ofici tan difícil!)

Sweeney! Sweeney! Sweeney! Sweeney!

«Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd»,

alguns dies em canta.

Jo per ara us explico la vida de Matt Sweeney

i un poc de la meva. Permeteu-me per tant que desafini.



Realment és un porc:

deixa la pica del lavabo plena de pèls,

la tapa del vàter esquitxada

i sovint es descuida d’estirar la cadena.

No renta els plats fins que no són plens de verdet.

Deixa els calçotets bruts al damunt del sofà,

una sabata a sota,

restes de porro a terra.

Acumula diaris i revistes.

Va perdre un dia el seu raspall de dents

i em va demanar de fer servir el meu. Ni en broma!


Cada nit el sentia masturbant-se al seu quarto

i en acabat roncava fins l’endemà.

Per sota de la porta s’escapaven les xinxes.

Li vaig demanar sisplau

que abaixés el volum de tant en tant.

I em va dir, ben afaitat i fent-se el nus de la corbata:

«I got my hair I got my head I got my brains I got my ears

I got my nose I got my mouth I got my teeth


I encara sense treure’s

els auriculars va afegir:

«Benvingut, fill meu,

a l’imperi de Matt Sweeney,

observa al teu voltant i sàpigues que algun dia, estimat»

–i aquí es va dur una mà al pit i l’altra a l’entrecuix–,

«tot això que veus, tot això que t’envolta (i el que no veus i ni tan sols

imagines) serà teu,

serà teu tot l’imperi –el meu imperi–,

l’imperi de Matt Sweeney!»

The Ballad of Matt Sweeney

by Melcion Mateu


My roommate, Matt Sweeney,

is tall and fat; if he wanted

he could be in a musical.

It’s that his High C is really extraordinary,

almost like his gift

Of giving––his gift as a lover, I meant.

His do and his re

And his mi. Matt Sweeney

snores in the room next door.


You should see him when he wakes up,

his bald-spot, his head full of twisted antennae.

You should see his Heineken-green eyes,

his glasses and his intellectual

nose and his runny nose, you should see

his mouth and his teeth and

his tongue and his chest and his heart

(tattooed over his heart), you should see

his belly and his back and his ass

jutting out from just above his underwear.


Only Matt Sweeney looks like Matt Sweeney,

especially in the mornings

(he drinks a six pack of beer in front of the TV

every night, watching a soap opera):

he has the assured air of a triumphant entertainer,

with his head stuffed with marihuana and a happy bon vivant smile;

Matt Sweeney rises like a balloon,

looks at himself, opens his mouth and says,

“Good morning, dude!,” as though he’s just gotten back from California.

“Mornin’,” I say back.



My roommate Matt Sweeney

is a little weird.

He had a Filipino lover

who was crazy for bears.

He’d hug him and call him teddy bear

and Matt would respond with I wanna be your teddy bear

shaking his ass like Elvis.


None of you know what it’s like to live with Matt Sweeney.

(What a pain in the ass it can be!).

Sweeney, Sweeney! Sweeney! Sweeney! Sweeney!

“Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd,”

he sings sometimes to me.

For the moment, I’m telling you about the life of Matt Sweeney

and a little bit about me. So don’t mind if I sing out of key.



He’s a real pig:

he leaves the sink full of hairs,

the lid of the toilet splattered,

he often forgets to flush;

he’s doesn’t wash the dishes until they’re covered in grime,

he leaves his dirty underwear on the sofa,

a shoe under it,

spliff ash on the floor;

he lets his newspapers and magazines pile up.

One day he lost his toothbrush

and asked to use mine and I said there was just no way.


Every night I’d hear him jerking off in his room

and when he finished he’d snore until the next day.

Bedbugs fled from under his door.

Once, I asked him nicely

if he could lower the volume once in a while

and, clean shaven and fixing the knot of his tie, he told me:

“I got my hair I got my head I got my brains I got my ears

I got my nose I got my mouth I got my teeth


And then without taking off

his headphones he added:

“Welcome, my child,

to the kingdom of Matt Sweeney,

observe all around you and know that some day, my beloved”

––and here he placed one hand on his chest and the other on his crotch––,

“all that you see, all that surrounds you (and all that you neither see nor

imagine) will be yours,

all of this kingdom will be yours––my kingdom––

the kingdom of Matt Sweeney!”

translated from Catalan by Rowan Ricardo Phillips


by Melcion Mateu

Puc fondre el gel amb la Mirada,

puc esborrar una multitud amb un sol parpelleig.

Si m’ho proposés,

podria fer créxer la palmera més alta

al mig d’aquesta plaça.

Puc agafar un grapat d’aigua, palpar-lo i prémer-lo

fins que en surti una pedra.

Els guàdies m’aturen quan vaig pel carrer

i em demanen per mi:

sempre els indico la direcció oposada.

Al matí, en despertar-me,

és normal que el llençol m’arribi al sostre.

Puc veure alguns planets que han deixat d’existir,

i també les estrelles que no han sortit encara.

El meu horòoscop sempre s’acompleix,

el meu destí és el destí dels éssers immortals.

Puc decidir entre la vida i la mort,

entre el somni i allò que no gosem pensar.

Puc fer-te patir

o fer que et sentis l’ésser més feliç de la Terra.


El meu nom és antic,

sóc el rei de la llum.

Quan plou o quan fa fred, em torno una crisàlide.

Al meu costat les papallones sempre tremolen,

no puc fer res per evitar-ho:

el que els alters poetes escriuen,

el que els alters poetes diuen en els seus versos és només una part

––una part molt petita––del que dir i puc fer.



by Melcion Mateu

With just a glance I can melt ice.

I can wipe out multitudes with a single blink.

If I were to suggest it

I could make the tallest of palms rise

right here in the middle of this plaza.

I can grab a fistful of water, palm its surfaces and squeeze

until a stone ekes out.

The cops stop me when I’m out on the street

and ask me if I’ve seen me . . .

I always send them in the opposite direction.

In the morning it’s normal for me to wake up and discover

my tented bed sheet touching the ceiling.

I can see some of the planets that have ceased to exist

as well as the stars that still have yet to be.

My horoscope always comes true.

My destiny is the destiny of immortals.

I get to choose between life and death,

between the dream and the thing that we don’t like to think.

I can make you suffer

or make you feel you’re the happiest being on Earth.


My name is ancient:

I am the king of all light.

I become chrysalis when it rains or when it’s cold.

There are always butterflies trembling at my flanks.

I can’t do anything to avoid it:

what other poets write,

what other poets say in their lines,

it’s all only a part –– a very small part –– of what I can say and what I can do.

translated from Catalan by Rowan Ricardo Phillips

Photos of Melcion Marteu and Rowan Ricardo Phillips by Patricia Tagliari and Sue Kwon, respectively.

with no more authority or force
than pale, stripped branches

Two poems by the 16th century French poet Pierre de Ronsard, translated by Diane Furtney.

A La Royne Catherine de Medicis  

by Pierre de Ronsard

. . . L’autre jour que j’etois au temple à Sainct Denis,

Regardant tant de Rois en leurs cachottes mis,

Que n’agueres faisaient trembler toute la France,

Qui tous enflex d’orgueil, de pompe et d’esperance

Menoient un camp armé, tuoient et commandoient,

Et de leur peuple avoient les biens qu’ils demandoient,

Et les voyant couchez, n’ayans plus que l’escorce,

Comme buches de bois sans puissance ny force,

            Je disois à par moy:  Ce n’est rien que des Rois:

D’un nombre que voicy, à peine ou deux ou trois

Vivent apres leur mort, pour n’avoir este chiches

Vers les bons escrivains et les avoir fait riches. . .

To Queen Catherine de Medici  

by Pierre de Ronsard

. . . The other day, when I’d stepped inside

the church of Saint Denis and saw them, side by side


in their shallow niches, so many great

rulers lying in state


in stone, each inside a jail of death,

though everyone in France took a startled breath,


sometime, at the sight of his flying

colors—each leading out his armed camp, trying


for glory, and always receiving more

goods and help from his people than he’d asked for—


seeing them lying there, my lady,

on their backs, finally


unescorted, unhorsed,

with no more authority or force


than pale, stripped branches,

just rows and rows of impotence,


I said to myself, “There’s nothing

in here but Kings,


and quite a few of them.  No more than three

or two live on in anyone’s memory,


and only because it did not occur

—not to these monarchs—not to be meager


toward their writers, but rather make much

of them—even make them rich.”

translated from French by Diane Furtney


by Pierre de Ronsard


Les villes et les bourgs me sont si odieux

Que je meurs, si je voy quelque tracette humaine:

Seulet dedans les bois pensif je me promeine,

Et rein ne m’est plaisant que les sauvages lieux.


Il n’y a dans ces bois sangliers si furieux,

Ni roc si endurci, ny ruisseau, ni fontaine,

Ny arbre tant soit sourd, que ne sache ma peine,

Et qui ne soit marri de mon mal ennuyeux.


Un penser, que renaist d’un autre, m’accompaigne

Avec un pleur amer qui tout le sein me baigne,

Travaillé de soupirs qui compaignons me sont:


Si bien, que si quelcun me trouvoit au bocage,

Voyant mon poil rebours, et l’horreur de mon front,

Ne me diroit, pas homme, ains un monstre sauvage.

A Thought

by Pierre de Ronsard

The villages and cities

are so odious to me,


I feel myself dying

if I see even a sign


of a human being.  I stay

in the deep woods, away,


and nothing pleases me except extreme,

savage places.  And yet, no scream


of a boar is furious enough,

no boulder dense enough,


no stream or waterfall or tree

deaf enough to stop the grief in me


and this evil weariness.  A thought

brings up another thought,


and with them tears that wet

my chest, pushed out by sighs that


stay my only companions.

If any person


crossed my tracks and noticed,

through the twigs, this


tangled hair

and the horror


on my face, he’d say, “That’s not a man,

it’s a monster!  Monsters have come again!”



translated from French by Diane Furtney


the color of time on a ruined wall

 Five poems by Alejandra Pizarnik, translated by Yvette Siegert.

Pizarnik           Siegert photo

Mendiga voz

by Alejandra Pizarnik

Y aún me atrevo a amar

el sonido de la luz en una hora muerta,

el color del tiempo en un muro abandonado.


En mi mirada lo he perdido todo.

Es tan lejos pedir. Tan cerca saber que no hay.

A Beggar Voice

by Alejandra Pizarnik

And still I dare to love

the sound of the light in the hours of deadness

the color of time on a ruined wall.


In my eyes I’ve lost everything.

Asking is so far away. And so close, this knowledge of want.

translated from Spanish by Yvette Siegert

Los ojos abiertos

by Alejandra Pizarnik

Alguien mide sollozando

la extensión del alba.

Alguien apuñala la almohada

en busca de su imposible

lugar de reposo.

Eyes Wide Open    

by Alejandra Pizarnik

Someone sobs and measures

the lengths before dawn.

Someone punches her pillow

in search of an impossible

place of rest.

translated from Spanish by Yvette Siegert

Cuarto solo

by Alejandra Pizarnik

Si te atreves a sorprender

la verdad de esta vieja pared;

y sus fisuras, desgarraduras,

formando rostros, esfinges,

manos, clepsidras,

seguramente vendrá

una presencia para tu sed,

probablemente partirá

esta ausencia que te bebe.

Single Room    

by Alejandra Pizarnik

If you dare to frighten

the truth out of this old wall—

and its fissures, its gashes

that form shapes and sphinxes

and hands and clepsydras—

surely a presence

for your thirst will emerge,

and no doubt this absence

that drinks you dry will leave you.

translated from Spanish by Yvette Siegert

El corazón de lo que existe 

by Alejandra Pizarnik

no me entregues,

                tristísima medianoche,

al impuro mediodía blanco

The Heart of What Does Exist  

by Alejandra Pizarnik

do not hand me over,

            oh saddest of midnights,

to the impure whiteness of noon.

translated from Spanish by Yvette Siegert

Sombra de los días a venir

by Alejandra Pizarnik

A Ivonne A. Bordelois



me vestirán con cenizas al alba,

me llenarán la boca de flores.

Aprenderé a dormir

en la memoria de un muro,

en la respiración

de un animal que sueña.





Shadow from Days to Come

by Alejandra Pizarnik

For Ivonne A. Bordelois*



they’ll dress me in ash for the sunrise,

they’ll fill my mouth with flowers.

I’ll learn to sleep

inside the memory of a wall,

on the breath

of a dreaming animal.






* Bordelois is an Argentine linguist (PhD, MIT), writer, and scholar, and one of Pizarnik’s closest friends and literary interlocutors. 

translated from Spanish by Yvette Siegert

Out of the halls of books
Appear the butchers.

A new translation of Bertolt Brecht’s “1940,” by J.D. Knight.


by Bertolt Brecht


Das Frühjahr kommt. Due linden Winde

Befreien die Schären vom Wintereis.

Die Völker des Nordens erwarten zitternd

Die Schlachtflotten des Anstreichers.



Aus den Bücherhallen

Treten die Schlächter.


Die Kinder an sich drückend

Stehen die Mütter und durchforschen entgeistert

Den Himmel nach den Erfindungen der Gelehrten.



Die Konstrukteure hocken

Gekrümmt in den Zeichensälen:

Eine falsche Ziffer, und die Städte des Feindes

Bleiben unzerstört.



Nebel verhüllt

Die Straße

Die Pappeln

Die Gehöfte und

Die Artillerie.



Ich befinde mich auf dem Inselchen Lidingö.

Aber neulich nachts

Träumte ich schwer und träumte, ich war in einer Stadt

Und entdeckte, die Beschriftungen der Straßen

Waren deutsch. In Schweiß gebadet

Erwachte ich, und mit Erleichterung

Sah ich die nachtschwarze Föhre vor dem Fenster und wußte:

Ich war in der Fremde.             




by Bertolt Brecht


Spring is coming. The mild winds

Free the ridges from the winter’s ice.

Shivering, the people of the north await

The naval fleets of the house-painter.



Out of the halls of books

Appear the butchers.


Pressing her children close

The mother scans the sky, dumbfounded,

For the inventions of the scholars.



The engineers sit

Hunched over in the design rooms:

One wrong figure, and the enemy’s cities

Remain intact.



Fog envelops

The street

The poplars

The farms and

The artillery.



I’m living on the island of Lidingö.

But the other night,

I had troubled dreams and I dreamed I was in a city

And discovered the street signs

Were in German. I woke up

Bathed in sweat, and with relief

I saw the pine, black as night, outside my window and knew:

I was in a foreign land.



translated from German by J.D. Knight

Nicanor Parra:
Brand-new After 100 years

by: Iris Cushing


nicanor parraPhysicist, mathematician, artist, folk dancer, and (anti)poet Nicanor Parra turns 100 years old today. That he’s living to celebrate his own centennial could be a detail from one of his magnificently wry, aphoristic, self-mythologizing antipoems, which he has long characterized as a type of literary material analogous to antimatter. In her translator’s introduction to Antipoems: How to Look Better and Feel Great (New Directions, 2004) Liz Werner writes that “…antipoetry mirrors poetry, not as its adversary but as its perfect complement…it is as opposite, complete, and interdependent as the shape left behind in the fabric where the garment has been cut out.”

Parra has been cutting vivid shapes from the fabric of Latin American poetry and poetics since 1937, when his first book, Cancionero sin Nombre, appeared (Pablo Neruda’s book responding to the Spanish Civil War, España en el Corazón, appeared a year later). He went on to study physics and cosmology at Brown and Oxford, and teach those subjects at universities in Chile. Parra’s deceptively plain, deadpan voice has long confronted the various status quos of pop culture, literary canons, academia and politics. Having lived and written through the 17-year U.S.-backed Pinochet dictatorship, Parra has penned postcard-sized lyrics and drawings responding to situations as diverse in time and space as the U.S.’s embargo on Cuba and the war in Iraq. Throughout all his work runs a compassionate entreaty to consider poetry as a means for rethinking the world. “A poet is not true to his word/If he doesn’t change the names of things,” he writes in “Changes of Name” (trans. W.S. Merwin, in Poems and Antipoems, New Directions, 1967).

To celebrate Parra’s birthday, Chilean press Ediciones Universidad Diego Portales is releasing a long-lost long poem by Parra, titled Temporal. Written in 1987, the poem was lost by Parra in the chaos of the end of the Pinochet regime. However, Parra’s secretary, Adán Mendez, recently discovered cassette tapes of Parra in conversation with critic Rene de la Costa in which he reads the entire piece aloud. Mendez transcribed the poem from audio. The unlikely survival of a great poem in the body of a now-obsolete technology seems perfectly appropriate to Parra’s style.

Saludos a todos– “hi to everyone”–is the ninth and final “note” of Parra’s “Notes on the Lessons of Antipoetry,” translated by Liz Werner. Issued from the position of a theoretical physicist, rigorous social thinker, and poet, this greeting reads as something that could be inscribed on the Higgs boson particle: a beautifully purposeless joke at the center of the world’s great mystery. At 100, Parra is still laughing.