Friday, April 27, 2007

A Moment with Homero Aridjis

Homero Aridjis is often described as "Mexico's greatest poet since Octavio Paz." I am afraid I do not have enough Spanish to judge the claim (or sadly, even enough knowledge of Mexican poets) but based upon the poems in Eyes to See Otherwise: Selected Poems (New Directions, 2001) he must surely be among their very best.

Aridjis was born on April 4, 1940 in Contepac, Michoacan, Mexico. His father was a Greek immigrant, his mother was Mexican. He is the founder of "The Group of the 100," an association of Mexican artists, writers and intellectuals concerned about environmental issues.

He has won many awards for his work, was ambassador of the Mexican government to the Netherlands and to Switzerland, and served as the president of International PEN. Aridjis lives in Mexico with his wife Betty Ferber, who often translates his work and who co-edited this volume of poems with George McWirter.


for Andre P. de Mandiargues

They arrived one September morning
when the tourists had already gone
in the ruined rooms they opened their suitcases
changed their dresses
and before the temple for a moment
were naked air made flesh
The swallows flew away from their bodies then
when they entered the dark enclosure
and their voices warbled off those walls
like the most tremulous of the evening birds
At sunset the village men
came seeking them out
and made love to them on folding cots
which appeared about to collapse on the stones
and afterwards at night
From far off the dogs were heard the trees
the men the pyramid and the plain
singing with life's same hum
And for weeks they drank and loved in the ancient city
stepping over as they moved ghosts and the dogs of death
until one morning in an old car the police came
to arrest them
and they left Uxmal in the rain.


NOTE: Eyes to See Otherwise: Selected Poems is a bilingual edition, so those of you who know Spanish will particularly enjoy this collection. This translation of "Whores in the Temple" was done by Martha Black Jordan.


Blogger jenni said...

I liked this translation. So many times with this paticular subject, the writer either tends to romanticize or victimize and even sometimes demonize either the men or women. But this is carefully neutral without feeling flat. It reminds me a bit of Cavafy, in how it's historical precision and lack of ornament. I'll check more of this poet's work out. Thanks.

8:22 AM  
Blogger greg rappleye said...


Yes, you will like Aridjis. He should definitely be better known in this country.

6:01 AM  

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