LATIN AMERICA is a vast region of many cultures, peoples, histories and languages that defy all categorisations and resists simplifications.
Temporary Archives: Poems by Women of Latin America (bilingual), edited by Juana Adcock and Jessica Pujol Duran (Arc Publications, £15.99) brings together a generation of interesting 24 contemporary women poets from the region.
It includes poems originally written in Spanish, Portuguese, Zoque, Quechua and other indigenous languages, making this project an outstanding translation enterprise.
Many poets will be unknown to English readers despite having a wide readership in their own countries.
The title is taken from a line in Venezuelan Gladys Mendia poem: “the mosaic voice the fragmented voice the voice many voices layers of voices shuddering the quotation the exotic the ordinary the exquisite the uneasy voice the strong voice the complaining voice our impure voice branded into so many voices by biological necessity by adaptation by logic by trial by proposal by enthusiasm without theories with temporary archives.”
The poem encapsulates many of the themes and preoccupations of poets included in the anthology. From the female body, gender violence and the diversity of women’s voices and experiences to the linguistic innovations in Latin American poetry.
It is an impressive and ambitious project that deserves a wide readership.
Among my favourites is Guatemalan Rosa Chavez, who questions Hispanic America and colonialism in Abya Yala; Elvira Espejo from Bolivia, writes haiku-type poems in Quechua which are full of music, mythology and rhythm; Chilean Elvira Hernandez, offers her opus magnum The Chilean Flag on Chilean history, violence and nationalism.
Josely Vianna Baptista from Brazil, draws from the Concrete poetry movement born in her country in the ’50s and ’60s to create highly experimental and visually arresting poems. Maximiliano Sojo, a trans man from Venezuela writes about language, the patriarchal society and trans bodies.
The book is a must-read.