Poetry always has the feel of mysticism and mystery, or maybe this feeling is a stereotype left over from high school literature class. It is generally the result of confusion, lack of time committed to consuming the poetry, and the general difficulty poetry imposes on the reader.

In Víctor Rodríguez Núñez’s collection, Every Good Heart is a Telescope, he elevates the mysticism and mystery of poetry through people, events, and experiences that we can be begin to understand tangibly through the use of metaphors relating to science, mathematics, inventorship, and space phenomena. Such imagery is equally as mystical and mysterious as poetry itself, but almost everyone has been consumed by science, mathematics, inventorship, or space at some point in their lives, most often during childhood. The reader will immediately become refamiliarized with their dreams of the yesteryear through Núñez’s love affair with the heavens, metaphysics, alchemy, and our unbounded universe.

As an example, my favorite in the collection is a poem entitled Hypothesis, describing admiration through great mathematicians and scientists, including the likes of Ptolemy, Copernicus, Bruno, Galileo, Kant, and Hegel:

Ptolemy thought
the world was like certain women’s eyes
A sphere of wet crystal
where each star traces a perfect orbit
with no passion
          tide or catastrophe

Copernicus came along
wise man who traded breasts for doves
cosines for fright
and the sun’s pupil became the center of the universe
while Giordano Bruno crackled
to the delight of husbands and priests

Then Galileo
probing deeply into young girls’ hearts
shipwrecked on good wine
—light gathered up by sun—
he raped stars that weren’t from the movies
and before dying on a comet’s tail
he declared love to be infinite

Kant in turn knew nothing of women
prisoner in a butterfly of calculations
in metaphysical pollen
and for Hegel
          so abstract
the problem was excessively absolute

As for me
          I propose to the twentieth century
a simple hypothesis
critics will call romantic
Oh young girl who reads this poem
the world revolves around you

Each of Núñez’s poems has similar patterns to that reflected above; they are each fleeting at first glance, but upon a second, third, fourth read, they are universal and infinite in reach. This is partly due to his reliance on images pulled from science, mathematics, philosophy, and metaphysics, each of which have the same unbounded aura. This is also a result of Núñez’s continual practice of directly addressing the reader in his poems. This technique causes each poem to become intimate in a way that I have rarely encountered in poetry.

In Vincent Francone’s Three Percent review of Of Flies and Monkeys, Francone states “a poet needs to involve me in the process of reading the poem, in short: craft is not enough.” Núñez meets and surpasses Fracone’s requirement—he does not use his craft as a crutch, and instead supplements his skill by requiring the reader to be alert, to become engrossed, and most importantly, not to forget the collection after only reading it once. My sole criticism of the volume is that I wish the original Spanish text were included alongside the English translation. Despite this, I will never look at the stars again without thinking of Núñez’s poetry.


Comments are disabled for this article.

....

Every Good Heart is a Telescope
By Victor Rodríguez Núñez
Translated by Katherine M. Hedeen
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols
29 pages, paperback
ISBN: n/a
$5.00
This Life
This Life by Karel Schoeman
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .

Read More >

A Dilemma
A Dilemma by Joris-Karl Hyusmans
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .

Read More >

Walker on Water
Walker on Water by Kristiina Ehin
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .

Read More >

The Nightwatches of Bonaventura
The Nightwatches of Bonaventura by Bonaventura
Reviewed by J. T. Mahany

Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .

Read More >

Pavane for a Dead Princess
Pavane for a Dead Princess by Park Min-Gyu
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .

Read More >

Tram 83
Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila
Reviewed by Caitlin Thomas

Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .

Read More >

Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic by Octave Mirbeau
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .

Read More >