Recognized as one of the most influential Latin American writers of the twentieth century, José Lezama Lima, born in Cuba in 1910, is associated with the Latin American neo-baroque and has influenced several generations of writers in and out of Cuba, including such prominent poets as Severo Sarduy and Néstor Perlongher. Lezama Lima's vision of America in a continental sense stands at the fertile confluence of indigenous, African, and European influences. A crucial experimental writer, he has been known in English chiefly for his novel Paradiso, while little of his poetry has been translated. This anthology is a comprehensive introduction to Lezama Lima's poetry. It presents for the first time in English a generous selection of his poems, as well as an interview, essays, and critical work on his poetics. Ernesto Livon-Grosman has selected elegant and precise translations by James Irby, G.J. Racz, Nathaniel Tarn, and Roberto Tejada. His insightful introduction places the poet in the wider context of Cuban and Latin American cultural history.
Introduction: Transcending National Poetics—Ernesto Livon-Grosman
Key to Translators
From Enemigo Rumor (1941)
From Dador (1960)
From The Fragments Drawn by Charm (1977)
Confluences (1968)—José Lezama Lima
Interview with José Lezama Lima (1964)—Armando Alvarez Bravo
To Reach Lezama Lima (1967)—Julio Cortázar
Letter from Lezama (1969)—Severo Sarduy
Ernesto Livon-Grosman is Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Boston College. He is the translator of Charles Olson: Poemas (1997) and the editor of The XUL Reader: An Anthology of Argentine Poetry (1997). His most recent book is Geografías imaginarias: El relato de viaje y la construcción del paisaje patagónico (2003).
"A delightful and informative anthology, an indispensable entry into the brilliant neo-baroque universe of the great Cuban poet."—Suzanne Jill Levine, author of Manuel Puig and the Spider Woman: His Life and Fictions
"José Lezama Lima is a rare writer, both a great novelist and a great poet. He is highly regarded as a true father to the current Renaissance in Latin American poetry. Good translations of Lezama Lima’s work are of the highest importance and any post-Joycean reader should welcome them with gratitude."—José Kozer, author of Ánima and Una Huella Destartalada
"Lezama Lima is legendary. Among 20th century imaginations his is the most enthusiastically centrifugal. He adored the complexity of poetry, its baroque, overwhelming inclusiveness. His work is the wild, silent whoop of intuition leaping the synaptic canyon that separates the rational and familiar from the improbable and exquisite. His poetry was influential but widely considered untranslatable, and for half a century English versions of his poems were scarce as snake fat. Now, at last, he comes racing across the borders of English, testing and expanding its limits."—Forrest Gander, author of Torn Awake