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Review: Peatlands, by Pedro Serrano

To turn to Pedro Serrano's Peatland is to experience an uplift; it's a joyful book, simple in mode, complex in imagery and its poems' pleasures. By mode I mean the poems' free-flowing forms at ease with their purpose. It is one of those books I feel talks to me, this log of Pedro Serrano's experience, his being alive with language.

It is also and no less a book of the translator's pleasure. Anna Crowe's Preface starts from when she hears the poet read in Scotland, having provided translations for the reading, and finds herself hooked. She relates the task then of finding English equivalents for the very different flow of the Spanish, and it is surely her pleasure in working the detail while staying with the emotional flow that makes this such an enjoyable collection.

The poet gave the translator a book of his selected poems, this book now of five sections translated. And while I have spoken here of pleasure, of the job well done, the book is not easy entertainment. Here is a section from a sequence, 'de Turba'/'from Peat',

Everything coagulates like curdled milk,
like sour vomit that throws up
bits of intestine, seeds, bile,
what could be swallowed and what could not.
On the sheet of glass lie the remains,
on the aluminium tray the detailed account,
on the skin, ash and dead static.
The entire past now moves like cloudy water,
like a dead donkey rotting upstream
and which others drink further down, unaware.
The whole of the past remains here, regurgitating.

The book goes with the physical, the being-a-body,

Shitting is a pleasure, to bawl
along the feverish pipe and then abate
without the haste that might lead us to hatred.

and so on for eight more stanzas ('The limiting art'). A a poem sometimes takes off into a longer flow (The wind's trust'),

I heard her afar off, like a blue sword of midnight,
like an edge that grew from the frozen point of her lips,
like a knife made of water that in its stridency could not be heard.

leading by walk and sense to many lovely lines,

like a dress striped with black and pearl that could fall off her back,
for they were touching every edge and the sea was green now,

as if such an experience and such a poem should never end. Yes, this book I recommend for a joyful or an uneasy day.