BOOK: Translations without Originals: Poems by Julio Marzán

[Julio Marzán]…emerged to public notice as a poet in the second half of the 1970’s, with his work appearing in periodicals, magazines, and journals, and published his first collection of poems, Translations without Originals, in 1986. The title is drawn partly from Jorge Luis Borges̓s celebrated tale of a fantastic planet, “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” where reproductions “from inspiration, from hope” harking back to no original are especially treasured; it is also suggestive of the distinctive U.S. circumstance, the unprecedented and doubly challenging cultural condition of a Latino bilingual that is ultimately its subject. The title simultaneously alludes to that creative artifice that is every artist̓s primary stock and trade. “I realized,” Marzán tells us, “that my poems were like [thosel reproductions [on Borges̓s fictional planet], translations from pure inspiration, and not just because I was bilingual but because all art” is finally, figuratively, and in fact effectively a translation whose prior original text does not actually exist.

“As regards the premium that the Nuyorican poets had earlier placed on poetry as performance and the (pre-rap) elements of theater and stage spectacle that are very often a part of their poetry, Marzán opts instead for the chiseled cunnings, more nuanced subtleties, and two-language polyvalences of an esthetic of artistic craft in which the poem is “a thing produced by suggestion.” Thereby seeking to avoid the consoling illusions of ethnic romance no less than a conventional racial stereotyping, Marzán has as his overarching ambition the lyrical expression of the critical determination of a Latino and American bilingual life that wishes (as he writes elsewhere) to “rise above an ultimately banal American social-political-racial discourse that sows self-doubts, wastes creative energy, and isolates one from the wider world,” confining it within the constrictive limits and patrolled borders of either the strictly insular or the merely aggressively parochial.” — Roberto Márquez, U. of Massachusetts

Berkeley: I. Reed Books, 1986


One: The Pure Preposition
The Pure Preposition    1
The Desert Walker    2
The Ringmaster    3
Epitaph    4
Emergency    5
Eve    6
Please: An Appeal    7
The Tightrope Walker    9
Thoughts    1o

Two:    Friday Evening
One    15
Dos    16
After We Swim    17
Friday Evening    19
The Carousel Boy    20
In Spring: The Blue Country    21
Sunday Morning in Old San Juan    23
In the Backyard    25

Three: Translations Without Originals
What to Dream of    29
Drinking at the Bar in “La Goleta”    31
Doing Time    33
Minority Poem    35
Rev. Ewing Sends Compasión Magazine    36
Note to Manuel    37
Graduation Day    38
Black Moon Homecoming    40

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