Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Reading that Mattered: Raul Zurita in Chicago

Friday night at the Instituto Cervantes the Guild Complex presented a reading by Chilean poet Raul Zurita. This important poet's work has been masterfully translated by Chicago's own Daniel Borzutzky and the books are eagerly awaited.

Raul Zurita comes out of a poetic tradition of protest that includes among others, Nicanor Parra, Regis Bonvicino, Affonso Avila, Pablo Neruda, & Ernesto Cardenal.

His masterpiece 'Anteparaiso” ranks with Neruda's Canto General and Eduardo Galleano's work as the definitive postmodern epics of the Americas. If Walt Whitman has an heir it is Zurita and his work fills the room.

The fact that Daniel Borzutsky, a prominent member of our poetry community here is Chicago chose to translate Zurita's work bodes well for more of his work reaching a thoughtful audience in English in the US. Daniel is to be commended for his good work.

The reading on Friday was a tour de force. Zurita's words flowed out like honey on metal tiles. He brought before us the sheer depth and altitude of the Andes. I imagine this is what listening to Vallejo must have been like. I could not help but give Maestro Zurita a standing ovation. I was a bit dismayed that the entire room did not stand and cheer. I imagine that is because they do not understand Spanish (even though the translations were masterpieces in their own right). I for one was moved to my core.

Having spent allot of time translating Brazilian poets in my career I find that working in the Andean-Castillian idiom (rather than the Spanish Language) as it is expressed in Chile to be a challenge. Chile is kind of the New York Yankees of poetry scenes. With less than 14 million people Chile has produced Mistral (Nobel winner) Neruda (Nobel Winner) Parra and Zurita. Chile is a place where poetry has mattered for a long time and for Zurita to be so important in that sea of excellence expresses how important he is as a poet.

I am not sure if the attendees at the reading realized how important this reading was. I for one will not easily forget Raul Zurita's evening in Chicago.


Guillermo Parra said...

Hi Ray,

Sounds excellent. I need to read Zurita, haven't done so yet. You're right about Chile being a poetry powerhouse. There's also the phenomenon of poets from other Latin American countries who studied in Chile and were deeply influenced by their time there, such as Roque Dalton and Juan Sánchez Peláez. Then, of course, there's Bolaño, though I know he had very mixed feelings about Chile and its poets.

ZombieDante said...

We did realize the importance, thank you.