Poetry, Mosaic Ceiling (Washington, DC)

(Blackwell’s Presents) The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America

Modern Latin American poetry is a relatively unknown genre of literature that Blackwell’s sought to celebrate and raise awareness for last Wednesday, with the poetry launch of The Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America.

The intimate and informal gathering was treated not only by the presence of translator and editor Richard Gwyn, a poet and novelist in his own right, but also four of the Hispanic poets that contributed to this amazing collaboration of contemporary Latin American poetry: Jorge Fondebrider and Marina Serrano, alongside Carlos López Beltrán and Alicia García Bergua from Mexico.

These poets, together with Gwyn, provided a varied and unique perspective on Latin American culture and history, as well as showing an appreciation and respect for each other’s work and the power of poetry itself.Gwyn’s passion for translation was evident throughout the evening, which consisted of a short talk punctuated by poetry readings – each poet had to pick a poem of their own and of a colleague – followed by questions from the audience. Each poem was read first in Spanish by one of the poets, and then in English by Gwyn. This was particularly effective as it balanced the sounds and mood of the poems with the meaning behind the words, which was powerful as it highlighted the multi-faceted nature of poetry.

The discussion focussed mainly on Gwyn’s purpose for his anthology: to create a window overlooking the Latin American poetry scene, and through it provide a “restricted yet open” perspective on modern poets who have less representation within the literary sphere. Gwyn explained his drive as a need to fill the gaps left by previous Latin American anthologies; this resolve was supported and appreciated by the poets, all of who were present to support Gwyn.

The process and pitfalls of translation were also explored, with a member of the audience mocking those that read translations as true copies of the original text; for the reality is that intrinsic elements of poetry are often lost in translation. Gwyn presented a more optimistic view of translation – he believes that the act of translation essentially produces a new poem, and in this way nothing is gained or lost; it is simply a different manifestation of similar ideas.

Each Latin American poet has their own story to tell, and Gwyn proved himself both passionate and willing enough to make these stories accessible to as many people as possible; a preoccupation that is both laudable and inspiring.

Photo credit: takomabibelot

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