It's been a good long while since I shifted from writing mostly poetry to writing mostly fiction, but every so often I hear a sentence that's got a line break built into it, and on my good days I pay attention. One result, a poem called "Alchemical Failure," is just now in the splendid Fall/Winter 2006 issue of Confrontation, sharing pages with stories by Tom Stacey and Kathleen Spivack, a play by Tom Lavagnino, nonfiction by George Held and poems by Brett Foster, Rachel Trousdale, Alan Britt and Andrew Kaufman, among many others.
December 5, 2006, 7:46 p.m.Category: Poetry
I taught for five years at the University of Piura in northern Peru, and participated in a fair number of literature conferences there. After the one we did in 1999, two of my colleagues and fellow presenters, Carlos Arrizabalaga and Ricardo Huamán, decided to put together a volume of essays based on the presentations. There were the usual number of false starts and reimaginings, and when I left Piura in 2000, it wasn't clear whether or not the project was ever going to come together. But Carlos and Ricardo never gave up, and the result is now out, a handsome volume called Aproximaciones a la literatura peruana. My contribution is called "Pelando la fruta," and works through one of my favorite books of poetry, Carlos Oquendo de Amat's 5 metros de poemas.
I really wish this poet, and this book, were better known. Oquendo died young, and only published this one slim volume. Not all of his poems have aged equally well, but most of them are beautiful and a few are extraordinary. The book's quite hard to find these days, even in Spanish; the most recent edition is that of Ediciones el Taller del Libro in Madrid, published in 2003, ISBN 84-933844-1-0.
In English, the only translation currently available is this one, and according to Amazon, there are all of two copies for sale, both used, the cheapest of which retails for almost $200. But if you read Spanish, you can find all of the poems here, thanks to Jesus Castagnetto.