21 January 14 | Kaija Straumanis

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a piece by Grant Barber on Alfonso D’Aquino’s fungus skull eye wing, translated by Forrest Gander and out from Copper Canyon Press.

One cool factoid and product from the process of this bilingual volume of poetry coming to be, as Grant points out, is that D’Aquino and Gander spent loads of time together translating each others’ poems. That’s an intense form of tandem work that not everyone has the opportunity to experience, and I can only imagine the value such an experience could give to both authors-translators.

Here’s a bit of Grant’s review:

When I pick up a book of poems labelled “nature poetry” I expect images of autumn leaves, sunrises and sunsets, flowers in various stages from spring through the end of summer, tracking a first person reflection on life’s challenges. Roethke, Ammons, and contemporary poets such as Patti Anne Rogers craft authentic metaphorical images from nature, but for the most part nature poems can seem tired or forced. D’Aquino’s poems are deeply informed by the natural world, but his images are fresh, the reach of his poetry is into a fusion of the natural world with human experience that does not privilege one over the other.

Gander is one of the English-speaking world’s foremost translators of contemporary, living poets from Latin America. In his introduction Gander explains that D’Aquino lives a life apart from the central poetic world found in Mexico City, which Gander terms as combative. Instead D’Aquino has lived on the outskirts of Cuernavaca, in jungle-like vegetation where the poet has learned the names and uses of plants, and is an expert on the fauna. Gander and D’Aquino had significant face-to-face time, together translating each other’s works into their respective native languages—so fitting for a poet who translates between the human and natural, as if this is the node in which D’Aquino dwells. The poems are presented with the original Spanish facing the English translation.

For the rest of it, go here.

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