This first appearance in English of Gabriel Zaid's poetry comprises forty-two poems presented in both English and the original Spanish , translated by a variety of poets. In his love poems, poetry functions once again as a force with the power to transfigure reality. This transfiguration is not change or transformation but rather an unveiling, a stripping: reality is presented as it is. Nothing is stranger than seeing things as they truly are. The reality of the presence of the beloved is a reality tainted by time; the bodies we love, while not losing their reality, suddenly show us a new side.
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The gates of the Garden of Information have been thrown wide open and there is no keeping up. This might be an ongoing consequence of our original eating of the Tree of Knowledge—along with mortality. I have been among books for most of my life, but I did not know about Gabriel Zaid until I was asked if I would review a book of his translated poems.
I said yes, believing that such invitations are often providential. I enjoy responding to writers about whom I have no preconceptions whatsoever. And so when the small blue book arrived in the mail, I deliberately gave it a most cursory once-over, checking out the cover and copyright page, looking past the introduction by Octavio Paz, and then, when a moment right for poetry came, I settled in to read. I went cover to cover in one sitting. The book is short, as are the poems.
And I found I was able to read in that almost completely de-contextualized way that is so rare. Just these poems on the page, filtered down from Spanish into English by various translators. Zaid, on the page, is an ecstatic. A metaphysician. The making of such images is an alienation looking to repair itself. An example:. Part of the charm—and power—of this little poem lies in the fact that we cannot lock it up completely.
The suggestions stir us, pull us toward contemplation, but they do not issue in anything we can reliably summarize. The poem reaches us first through its verbs, its depictions of movement. The motion of the falling leaf, which we naturally picture not as a vertical drop so much as a sketchy sashaying.
The first—leaf—is downward, the seasonal emblem of dying, whereas the communion, and the words binding to the world, are renewing and redeeming.
Does Zaid intend any religious implication? Or are we to take it as the self joining the world, entering its otherness by way of language? Can the two senses co-exist? Why not? The poem—like so many of the others—leaves us tipped off our center of balance, wobbling on our axis.
This is different. Eight lines, each a sentence in the Spanish as well. The mode is imperative. A set of commands relating, on the face of it, to taking off from earth in an air balloon. Is this addressed to the world at large, to another person, or is it self-address?
What matters is the directional velocity, the feeling of a translation across boundaries, into a new state, whether this is conceived physically, emotionally, or metaphysically. Again, as with An Abandoned Nocturne, the meanings are driven by the juxtapositions of the various verbs and their actions. But the action is not completely one-directional. The initial sense of fast upward momentum is countered, stalled for a moment, by the shift in line four.
Where it had been the world falling away in the previous line, now it is the image of the depths of a pair of eyes—eyes looked into —which causes a sensation of vertigo, commonly understood as dizzy and downward sensation. All of this is compressed into eight short and relatively simple lines. The subject matters of the 42 poems in this collection vary—some are more lyric, others more spiritual, and still others satiric—but their procedure is recognizably that of a single sensibility.
Here is a poet who favors both simple imagistic compression, using for his images mainly the materials of the natural order though here and there an automobile or an elevator will appear , and the dynamic expansions and shifts of perspective made possible by inventive juxtapositions. The final effect, of the individual poems as well as of the book, is of an outward movement, at times that of slow natural growth and at other times of explosion. It is a momentum of possibility, opening out.
When I had finished reading and pondering, I turned to see what Octavio Paz had written in Cambridge, Massachusetts in —just down the road from where I am now, but nearly 40 years ago. Zaid is a religious and metaphysical poet, but also—or rather therefore—a poet of love. In his love poems, poetry functions once again as a force with the power to transfigure reality.
As I wrote, I had not known Zaid—but as his poetry has confirmed for me, we live by moving forward, enlarging our compass. He will publish his tenth book next year with Graywolf Press. El libro es corto, como los poemas. Un ejemplo:. Y su frase viene a cuento si se habla de la obra de Zaid. El poema nos deja como en vilo, vacilantes sobre nuestro eje. Esto es diferente. El modo es imperativo. No lo sabemos. Y no estoy seguro de que ello importe.
Tal es, si puedo generalizar, el estilo de Zaid o, para abreviar, su modus operandi. Se trata de un momentum de posibilidades, de apertura. Como podria proponer para publicacion en Literal la poesia mas reciente del poeta cubano Jorge Enrique Gonzalez Pacheco, poeta reconocido internacionalmente. Your email address will not be published. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Subir globos llenos de besos. Cogerse desesperadamente. Ser arrastrados por el viento.
Soltar arena, perder peso. El vendedor de silencio. Un descenso a los infiernos. La vida endeble. Gente parida, gente escrita: El libro de Ana, de Carmen Boullosa. Aids Hospice. There are 2 comments for this article.
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THE SELECTED POETRY OF GABRIEL ZAID. A Bilingual Collection
The Selected Poetry of Gabriel Zaid