Wednesday Oct 18

vizcano Santiago Vizcaíno has a degree in Communications and Literature from the Catholic Pontifical University of Ecuador. He has worked as an editor at the newspaper Hoy, at Superbrands Ecuador, and at the Office of Publications in Ecuador’s Benjamín Carrión Casa de la Cultura. At present, he is the editor of the magazine Nuestro Patrimonio (Our Patrimony), published by the Ministry for the Coordination of the Patrimony, and of various other publications, including those of the Organization of Historical Centers of Latin American and the Caribbean. His work has appeared in various magazines, including Letras del Ecuador, Rocinante, Retrovisor and Casa de las Américas. His first book of poetry, Devastacíon en la tarde(Destruction in the Afternoon) and a book-length study called Decir el silencio: Aproximación a la poesía de Alejandra Pizarnik (Telling Silence: An Approach to the Poetry of Alejandra Pizarnik), both received awards and were published in 2008 by the Ecuadorean Ministry of Culture under the aegis of their program of Proyectos Literarios Nacionales (National Literary Projects).
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Alexis Levitin’s 25th book of translations, Astrid Cabral’s Cage, was published by Host Publications last summer. Earlier books include Clarice Lispector’s Soulstorm and Eugenio de Andrade’s Forbidden Words (both from New Directions). His translations have appeared in over two hundred magazines, including Kenyon Review, New England Review, Partisan Review, New Letters, and American Poetry Review, and Dirty Goat. His co-translation of Ecuadorian poetry, Tapestry of the Sun, came out in July, 2009, from Coimbra Editions of the California Institute of Arts and Letters. His anthology of A Traveler’s Literary Companion to Brazil will be published by Whereabouts Press before Christmas.
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Interview with Santiago Vizcaíno, Ecuadorian poet, by Alexis Levitin
 
Your vision is clearly apocalyptic. Do you feel there is a political dimension to this cataclysmic end-time vision?
 
Frente a la sensación de desasosiego que enfrenta el ser humano en la era postmoderna; esa idea, sobre todo, de incertidumbre, no sólo frente al futuro, sino la conciencia de un presente abyecto, no creo que otra visión sea posible. ¿Hay algo esperanzador acaso que pueda extraerse de la realidad? No sé si mis poemas tengan una dimensión política en ese sentido, lo que sí sé es que ese cataclismo en el que vivimos no es reversible desde una visión positiva. Si la realidad misma no es objeto de reflexión por parte del ser humano, entonces, el arte, de cierta forma, debe cumplir esa función, es decir, la de provocar, de subvertir. La poesía es una respuesta frente a la inconformidad. Yo escribo porque me siento inconforme, porque me siento ajeno a esa realidad que se me presenta a diario. 
 
(Confronting the sense of unease that all humans are faced with in the post-modern era –above all, the idea of uncertainty, not just in terms of the future, but within our awareness of our despicable present, I don't think any other vision is possible.  Is there anything that might be extracted from the present reality to provide hope?  I don't know if my poems have a political dimension in this sense.  What I do know is that this cataclysm we are living in cannot be reversed through any positive perspective.  If reality itself is not reflected on by human beings, then art in some way has to serve that function, that is to say, it must provoke and subvert.  Poetry is a response springing from resistance and a sense of estrangement.  I write because I feel out of step, because I feel alien to the reality I am confronted with every day.)
 
Do you feel your vision is particularly Latin American, or could it apply anywhere in the world?
 
Yo sigo creyendo en esa idea de Tolstoi: describe tu aldea y describirás el mundo. No creo que el arte posea una dimensión particular, no creo siquiera que haya determinadas formas de arte que se puedan aplicar a contextos geográficos. No hay una visión particular desde determinado contexto geográfico. Las inquietudes humanas son universales, independientemente de su origen, e incluso de su concepción religiosa. Si es arte —en el caso de la poesía, si tiene la facultad de conmover—, entonces un texto escrito en la Patagonia puede llegar a tener una carga simbólica en Angola o en Oslo. Si el poeta tiene una visión particular de la realidad es simplemente la visión del poeta. El instante en el que escribe, en el que la tinta se vuelca sobre el papel, la obra ya no le pertenece, es un objeto de su creación que debe ser aprehensible en cualquier contexto.
 
(I’ve always believed in Tolstoy’s idea: describe your village and you describe the world. I don’t believe that art possesses a private dimension, nor do I think that there are forms of art specific to a geographical area. There is no special vision linked to a determined geographic context. Human concerns are universal, independent of their origin, and even of their religious context. If it is art—in the case of poetry, if it has the capacity to move the reader—, then a text written in Patagonia should be able to convey the same symbolic significance in Angola or Oslo. If the poet has an individual vision of reality, it is simply the vision of the poet. The moment he writes, the moment the ink spreads across the page, the work no longer belongs to him, it is an object of his creation that should be understandable in any context.)
 
Did you think of Hieronymus Bosch as you wrote these poems?
 
No he pensado en El Bosco al escribir estos textos, aunque el parangón resulte legítimo. Lo cierto es que si reflexionamos un poco, la época en que El Bosco pintó sus cuadros se parece en algo a la nuestra. Hacia el 1500, las ideas apocalípticas abundaban, y la visión de este pintor está francamente acorde con esta realidad. En el caso de Las manos en la tumba, no hay una intención deliberada de mostrar una realidad de condena desde una idea teológica. No había pensado siquiera en ello. Los seres que habitan esos textos están sumidos en una realidad que es reflejo de una condición íntima. Creo que el mundo en el que vive el hombre es siempre el doble siniestro de lo que siente interiormente. En El Bosco hay una idea medieval que no puede desvincularse de su aspecto religioso; en el caso de mis poemas, sucede que hay más bien una popuesta nihilista postmoderna, propia de nuestra era, donde ya solamente queda el ser humano, solo, enfrentado con un mundo que le es adverso, donde todos sus dioses lo han abandonado.
 
(I was not thinking of Bosch as I wrote these poems, although the parallel makes sense. If we think about it, it’s clear that the epoch in which Bosche painted his canvases was in some ways similar to our own. During the early 1500s, apocalyptic ideas abounded, and the vision of this painter is in accord with that reality. In the case of “Hands in the Grave,” I had no deliberate intention of showing a reality of condemnation springing from a theological idea. At least I didn’t think of that. The beings that inhabit my texts are immersed in a reality that reflects their most intimate selves. I think the world in which a man lives is always the sinister double of what he feels within. In Bosch there is a medieval concept that cannot be separated from its religious dimension; in the case of my poems, it’s more a question of a postmodern nihilistic vision, typical of our era, in which nothing remains but the human being, alone, confronting a hostile, inimical world, in which all his gods have abandoned him.)
 
Was the looming threat of global warming (climate change) in your mind as you worked on this book?
 
Luego de escribir este libro pensé que podría estar asociado con esa idea. No era mi intención primigenia. Creo que el artista no puede desestimar la realidad que se le presenta a diario y, por ello, es quizá objetivo decir que en este trabajo esa idea está presente. Sin embargo, la visión de estos seres apátridas, deformes, grotescos, desérticos, ya la venía trabajando desde hace algunos años y creo que se puede aplicar a otras realidades: los inmigrantes, los desterrados, los perseguidos, los rezagos de la guerra, del terrorismo de estado, en fin, no es sólo una idea apocalíptica de anuncio, de profesía, es una realidad tangible, terriblemente real, y que no queremos ver.
 
(As soon as I had written the book, it occured to me that it could be associated with that idea. But that wasn’t my original intention. I think the artist cannot underestimate the reality he is faced with on a daily basis, so, for that reason, it is perhaps objectively true to say that that idea is present. in this work Nonetheless, as for that vision of stateless, deformed, grotesque, abandoned beings, I was already working on it for a number of years and I think it can be applied to other realities: that of immigrants, the landless, the persecuted, those who are the detritus of war, of state-sponsored terrorism, in a word, it isn’t just an apocalyptic idea or pronouncement, it is a tangible reality, terribly real, and one which we would prefer not to see.)
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from, Hands in the Grave
 
 
Miserable unión
Muéstrame el hilo
que marca el cuerpo
como una vena,
que divide
que corta
que degüella.
 
Ese espacio del hilo
en el que el Padre se confunde con el Hijo,
ese escondrijo del miedo.
 
Devélamelo como un síntoma,
el hilo
el hilo
el hilo,
en el vestido de la muerte.
 
Y permíteme
mecerme en él
en una danza de orugas coloridas.
 
 
 
Miserable Union                         
 
 
Show me the thread
that marks the body
like a vein,
that divides
            that slices
                        that decapitates.
 
That space of the thread
in which the Father is mistaken for the Son,
that hiding place of fear.
 
Reveal it to me like a symptom,
the thread
            the thread
                        the thread,
                                    in the robes of death.
 
And allow me
to rock myself in it
                        in a dance of brightly colored caterpillars.
 
 
 
IDEOLOGÍA
 
Bebo de esta luminosa baba
que derrama el mundo.
 
Escribo para no tener que vomitar
y aspirar al pétalo de una vieja misericordia
que se me ofrece como limosna.
 
Me asusta esta obligación
de comer la lengua de esta mujer que habita en mi casa
y me acaricia ya débilmente
agusanada.
 
Pienso que habría que dosificar el odio y gritar
hasta ensuciar la luna con mi soplo.
 
Soy el habitual fantasma,
el inicio,
el fin,
el entresijo.
 
 
 
Ideology                                      
                     
 
I drink from this luminous drivel
flooding the world.
 
I write so I won’t have to vomit
and aspire to the petal of an ancient mercy
offered me like alms.
 
I am frightened by my obligation
to eat the tongue of this woman living in my house
and it caresses me, weak now,
                                                            worm infested.
 
I think that I will have to measure out my hatred and scream
until I stain the moon with my breath.
 
I am the habitual ghost,
the beginning,
the end,
the hidden in between.
 
 
 
Hands in the Grave
                               
 
II
 
Cada uno de nosotros ha aprendido a vivir
con un lento cordaje de insomnio,
a respirar la exhalación final de los caídos,
a retozar sobre la piel degollada del muro.

Cada uno de nosotros
tiene el olor de las amapolas cuando se abren,
la respiración de un ojo desorbitado,
el sentido del odio y del hambre.

Cada uno de nosotros
tiene su risa como un tallo,
y sabe del rancio soplo y de la espera.
 
«Escúchenme», dije,
pero sus ojos no podían ya distinguir las sombras.
 
 
II
                       
 
Each one of us has learned to live
with the slow cordage of insomnia,
to breathe the final exhalation of the fallen,
to rub against the peeled flesh of the wall.
 
Each one of us
has the smell of poppies when they open,
the breath of an eye torn from its orbit,
the feeling of hatred and of hunger.
 
Each one of us
has his laugh like a stem,
and knows of rancid breath and hope.
 
“Listen to me,” I said,
but their eyes could no longer make out their shadows.
 
 
 
III
 
 
Un ángel se pasea embriagado,
huraño
como un búho.
 
Las mujeres estrujan sus senos
y les brota una leche agria
que dan de mamar a pequeños y sombríos esqueletos.

Del otro lado, las arañas,
sus patas,
sus palpos lujuriosos.

«Escúchenme», dije,
pero era como el verbo de una antigua patria torrencial.
 
 
III
                  
 
An inebriated angel strolls by
shy
as an owl.
 
The women squeeze their breasts
and a bitter milk comes forth
with which they suckle somber skeletons, their little ones.
 
On the other side, spiders,
their feet,
their luxurious palpi.
 
“Listen to me,” I said,
but it was like a verb from an ancient torrential homeland.
 
 
 
V
 
Sin embargo, he descubierto
algo espurio en el gesto de esa mujer desnuda
que ahora golpea su pecho con un pedrusco.
 
Ella se inclina sobre nosotros
en un movimiento de pulpo o de ola.
Su espalda insurrecta nos anima al celo,
pero inmediatamente se incorpora
como borracha de sol.
 
Su desidia hace temblar al animal que emerge de su aliento
y una cierta lobreguez nos engulle.
 
Vemos el musgo alado que cubre su cabeza como una trampa
y en ese minúsculo crepitar de sus huesos
nuestro desdoro anida como un insecto.
 
Su cuerpo es el centro.
Su sexo,
el lugar donde alucinamos.
Y ahora me doy cuenta de que su vulva aprisiona al monstruo
que hacía de factótum de nuestras causas.
 
 
 
V
                 
 
Nonetheless, I have discovered
something spurious in the gesture of that naked woman
who now is beating her breast with a chunk of stone.
 
She leans over us
Moving like an octopus or a wave.
Her rebellious back puts us in heat,
But suddenly she sits up
as if drunk with the sun.
 
Her indolence makes the animal emerging from her spirit tremble
and a certain darkness engulfs us.
 
We see the winged moss that covers her head like a snare
And in that miniscule crackling of her bones
our misery nestles like an insect.
 
Her body is the center.
Her sex
the place where we hallucinate.
And now I realize that there she holds the monster
That turns our causes into handmaids.