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Maps of Desire

by Manuel Forcano

Bilingual English / Catalan edition

Translated and introduced by Anna Crowe

Manuel Forcano, the outstanding Catalan poet, is a great traveller, and the poems in this, his first full-length book in English translation, embrace the cities, the landscapes and the people of the Middle East. Drawn from his four most recent collections, these poems use geographical and historical references to deepen and inform the narrative, and also to lay before the reader the idea of the continuity, over many centuries, of human love and desire. The beauty, joy, grief and tenderness in these poems are universal and belong to every kind of human affection — indeed Forcano has been described by the Catalan journalist and academic Pere Ballart as 'our foremost love poet'.

Anna Crowe's beautiful translations demonstrate a remarkable understanding of, and sensitivity to, Forcano's poetry, so much so that one might say that Maps of Desire represents the perfect union of poet and translator.

In Maps of Desire, Manuel Forcano deals with gay desire with a whirlwind-like freshness and a passionate imagination that does at times remind me a little of Cavafy with a gale behind him, some of the poems being written in Cavafy's own city, Alexandria. Forcano is a many-sided scholar but he is primarily an outstanding lyric poet, beautifully rendered into English by Anna Crowe. The book begins with two sections of 'The Bagdad Train', a sweeping journey in pursuit of desire. This is a fragment of a shorter poem, 'Checkmate':

..I got drunk just seeing you,
and playing chess was an excuse
for watching your fingers
moving the pieces of your army
towards me. How sweet
it can sometimes turn out to be,
being defeated: on the board
your castle knocking over
my king.
Many nights
you lined up your pawns
to face me.

George Szirtes

Pbk: 9781911469797
Hbk: 9781911469803
Published November 2019

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