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Review: The Flights of Zarza, by Fernando Kofman

(From 'Hidden in the Lining')

...The doubling and compression of time is also the theme of the Argentinian poet Fernando Kofman's The Flights of Zarza. This is no.22 in the innovative Arc Visible Poets series where translation - this time by Ian Taylor - and the original Zarza remeuve (1992) sit side by side on the page to let us glimpse something of the process of creative translation and publication. So, too, Kofman's collection inhabits both the repressive violence of Argentina's years of dictatorship and the materialistic hedonism of its post-liberation years. The direct, first-person 'poet' voice speaks of and to the strange figure of Zarza to recount the narrative of Zarza's furious locomotion from Buenos Aires to the north, the south and back again. In the opening poem, Entering a Bad Dream, the narrator would like to declare // that history has stopped but, of course, it has not and never can.

Out of this time Zarza springs, at once man and woman, Everyman and everything, a rock, a phantom, a Mapuche Indian washer-girl singing in the rain, a shadow in the cathedral. Zarza dreams of being the world's most elegant dandy (His Clothes) but is the king of scattered bones (To Be Done With The Couple), symbolic of, guardian of and witness to past atrocities and present cultural devastation. Zarza is the demonic architecture thrown up when moments collide (The Cybernetic Maize Fields) and, not least, integral to how language is deranged by histories and political landscapes. In this Kofman excels. He writes of silences, echoes, anecdotes, music, tangles of words, of internal monologues, Zarza's struggle to become a worthy word (Television Multiplying Into Infinity), of remembered objects speaking out to fill the space // between the dead and the living (All At Once We Receive Another's Consciousness).

The poet's own voice is direct and prose-like with flashes of lyricism to give a collection that turns on darkness into light // and vice versa (Posadas As Johannesburg). Did I like him? Not as much as I admire the simplicity of Mole, but I enjoyed the collection's energy.