Cipango. Harris, Tomás. tr. by Daniel Shapiro.U.S.: Bucknell Univ. Pr. 2010.321p. ISBN 978-0-8387-5734-5. POETRY The work of Harris, lauded in his native Chile and South America with the prestigious Pablo Neruda, Casa de las Américas, and Altazor awards, is stark and lugubrious. The verses are instilled with images of death and fear; they are nautical, buoyant on the imagined sea of the explorers who lusted for gold. The title gathers its meaning from Christopher Columbus's mistaking the island of Hispaniola for Cipango, Marco Polo's Japan. Harris wrote the five books that make up this volume during Pinochet's dictatorship (1973-90), and together with the horrors of the Spanish vessels and the riches of Kublai Khan, the acts of terror unleashed during the dictatorship attain a climactic poignancy ("I'm a beggar woman, a whore,/ the only pearls my teeth,/ my teeth, brothers, that I hoard for the Divine/ in the little silk purse/ of Death smoke/ from the 80's"). What emerges is an epic odyssey in time, seen through the eyes of the perpetrators, as well as the eyes of the pillaged. Time is strung together by images that resurface--a sun wrapped in cellophane, will-o'-the-wisps, nocturnal butterflies, red fish devouring each other, blue rats--and the tragic citizens of Concepción, who dwell, sometimes lustful and happy, amid the violence and neon of the red-light district. Shapiro's faithful translations, produced here alongside the Spanish text, do well to mirror Harris's language acrobatics--from Old Spanish to contemporary to vernacular--and choral cadence. A fine collection; recommended for libraries and bookstores with a contemporary South American poetry collection and wherever current events titles are popular.--Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Palo Alto, CA --Library Journal
About the Author
Tomás Harris is the author of Cipango and other books of poems.
Daniel Shapiro is director of literature and editor of Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas at the Americas Society in New York.
--This text refers to an alternate