San Diego Poetry Guild

notes on guild, poetry, and San Diego


Sin puertes visibles

Unable to top Gary Sullivan's audacious and deliciously funky review of K. Silem Mohammad, Deer Head Nation, I can at least place this brief, minimalist plug for Jen Hofer's new "Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by Mexican Women."

Featuring in particular our own (SD/TJ) Cristina Rivera-Garza as well as Angélica Tornero, Ana Belén López, Mónica Nepote, and Ofelia Pérez Sepúlveda, among others, Sin puertes visibles delivers a lot of smart and awfully important writing from a criminally under-represented (in Mexico perrenially, in the U.S. until now) generation of women writers. Fast on the heels of the Weiss/Polkinhorn Al Otro Lado: The Poetry of Baja California [review on deck], Jen's anthology fills in a lot that's missing in that otherwise excellent (and obviously more geographically restricted) new release from Mark's Junction Press.

This from the book's "Pre-Texts" is worth copy-pasting at length:
There is no part of me [Jen H] that believes the cultural production of any region, country, current, time, generation, or any other (false) (potentially useful) (provisional) distinction can be adequately represented by any one single book, nor would I hope to create a work that delimits rather than diffracts, that frames to contain rather than frames to provide a view, a way to look out (a window or series of). Certainly, any book or collection has its limitations--rightfully so--as any editor has her criteria and any translator her stylistic preferences, syntactic and tactile and tactical impulses, and politico-linguistic beliefs, whether articulated or intuited or somewhere in-between. This book does not provide a panorama of contemporary Mexican poetry. It does not imply an investment in a new generation, group, or school within the vast Mexican literary terrain. It is not a who's who of what's new in recent writing from Mexico. The view it suggests is not panoramic, not definitive, not generalizing, but rather periscopic and pivoting and particular: it describes, variously, and I hope voraciously, what I have seen in doing this work. It is a bridge suspended teeteringly between my beginner's eye, some emergent writings from mexico, and any reader who wishes to engage either of those two fields in any of their many possible manifestations.
This "beginner's eye" seems pretty darn good at calling the pitches, and editorial and translator "impulses" make for some often stunning choices. No time to show the poetry--buy the book and check it out--but what I think Jen has done is demonstrate/document some new methods for working out of Spanish into English (and back again). Latin cognates, for example, are often left alone (transcribed verbatim) where I think more traditional translators might go for a guttier Anglo-Germanic swap-out. Other stuff is simply hair-raising in English (my Spanish is only quasi-so-so, I admit), passing that rule-of-thumb test of "working as poems." I heard some of it read in Spanish when Jen was down in TJ last month -- breathtaking -- and a confirming "wow" from Octavia who's fluent.

Al Otro Lado, I'll say, does seem to go for that "panoramic" view, and Jen is right I think to limit Sin puertes visibles to the "periscopic."

Anyway, a snapshot. Whatever you call it, the view is terrific.

U of Pittsburgh P / $22.50


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