Friday, April 17, 2009

Poem: Antonio José Ponte

(finally posted)
Antonio José PonteA few years ago, I came across Antonio José Ponte's (1964-) two translated collection of stories, In the Cold of the Malecon and Other Stories (City Lights, 2000, translated by Cola Franzen and Dick Cluster) and Tales from the Cuban Empire (City Lights, 2002, also translated by Cola Franzen), both of which charmed me. I was under the impression that he was mainly a fiction writer, but like many an author outside the US, he covers all the beds: he has published collections of poetry, many volumes of essays, a novel, and a novella, among other things, both inside and outside Cuba. He's also collaborated on a book of essays. All of which is to say that Ponte is one of the most prodigious figures of his generation of Cuban writers, and his renown exceeds the Straits of Florida and the Caribbean Sea. Here's a poem so that you can see for yourself.


Idioma alrededor,
lo que dicen,
Y perdido el afán de leer en las cartas,
n o queda conocido
más que el sabor del agua.
La botella
facturada en un chino
que imprimen por la arena
las patas de los pájaros...

Aunque, si se desconoció hasta aquí
qué estrella era la estrella
y cuál árbol el árbol,
no importa ya ignorar.

Puede intentarse mayor extranjería
en un café de perros,
de jíbaros o pulpos,
no se estaría cercado por humanos.


Language all around,
what is said
is lost.
And lost is the urge to read the cards,
the taste of water
is all that is still known.
The bottle's
receipt a cluster of signs
the birds' webbed feet
press into the sand...

Although, if no one knew
which star was the star
and which tree was the tree,
ignorance is no longer a concern.

One might propose even a greater oddity:
in a dog's café,
a café of beasts or octopuses,
one would not be fenced in by human beings.

Copyright © 2007, Antonio José Ponte, translation by the poet, from Island of My Hunger: Cuban Poetry Today, Edited and with an Introduction by Francisco Morán, San Francisco: City Lights Books. All rights reserved.

Here's a video of Ponte reading:

No comments:

Post a Comment