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Vertical Poetry: Recent Poems.

Vertical Poetry: Recent Poems, by Roberto Juarroz. Trans. and Intro. Mary Crow. Fredonia: White Pine Press, 1992. [76 Center Street, Fredonia, New York 14063] [bilingual]

One of Argentina's most respected poets, Roberto Juarroz has attracted widespread critical attention both in Latin America and in the United States. Some of his early poetry was translated by W.S. Merwin and published in 1987 by North Point Press. Now, thanks to Mary Crow's sensitive, beautifully executed translations of Juarroz's later poetry, a broader selection of his work is available to the general English-speaking audience.

Octavio Paz called Juarroz's poetry "language reduced to a drop of light." Indeed, these poems are like jewels--each an exquisite insight into the human condition. Rather than the political energy or descriptive breadth that characterizes much modern poetry, a deep penetration of the soul distinguishes Juarroz's. Mary Crow writes in her introduction that Juarroz explores "the vertical depths of language, the inward wells." His concern with silence and sound, time and infinity, the one and the many, the glory of life and the lure of death make this poetry both intensely personal and universal. Yet, rather than individual lives, Juarroz is interested in the peaks and the valleys, the view from above and below the meld into one vision. Every element is united to every other: "Every word is a doubt,/ every silence is another doubt./ However,/ the inter-twining of both/ lets us breathe." (Eleventh.IV.45)

Sleep is a hundamiento, a "sinking down" into the depths of the being, but waking is "another sinking." The bottomless well is a powerful image of the unfathomable abyss: "the well has a secret agreement/ with man". The shadow, the night, the rose, the snow, the hunted animal aid the poet in his vertical plunge into the inner depths. The paradoxical nature of existence is at the center of much of Juarroz's work. Life is both a party and a void, yet " the center of the emptiness there's another party."

Born in 1925, Juarroz has published eleven volumes, all of them entitled Vertical Poetry. Each book is distinguished from the others by a number, and within the books the individual poems are also numbered rather than titled. Since the poems and collections are united by form and theme, they constitute a whole, the individual parts of which flow into one another unencumbered by titles. While much modern poetry seems disturbingly disjointed, Juarroz's glides and swirls, doubles back upon itself and surges forth, always maintaining a sense of cohesiveness.

Juarroz's poetry has been translated into languages as diverse as French, Danish, Rumanian, Hindu and Arabic. The Merwin English translations contain selections from the first through seventh volumes of Vertical Poetry. The present collection contains material from the eighth through eleventh volumes. The poet is currently completing a twelfth book of Vertical Poetry. He has also written several books on literary theory.

Mary Crow is a poet in her own right. Her most recent collection is Borders (Boa, 1989).
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Author:Mujica, Barbara
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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