Thursday, April 09, 2015

Sarah Cortez, ed., Goodbye, Mexico: Poems of Remembrance (Texas Review Press, 2015)

As a poet I keep a sharp eye out for calls for submissions but alas, or rather, in a way, happily, for Texan poet Sarah Cortez's Goodbye, Mexico, I had nothing, nada, because for me, it's "Hola, México," just about every day. Translation: I'm living in Mexico City and not planning on leaving anytime soon. But happily, always happily, I translate contemporary Mexican poetry, and I knew of just the perfect poem: Agustín Cadena's "Café San Martín," so haunting and musical, from his splendid collection, Cacería de Brujas. And so I am delighted to say that Cadena's poem, in my translation, was selected by Sarah Cortez to be included in this important collection.

About Cadena:

Agustin Cadena was born in the Valle de Mezquital, Hidalgo, Mexico. For several years Cadena has been living in Hungary, where he is professor at the University of Debrecen. Author of more than twenty books, including the poetry collection, Cacería de Brujas, Cadena writes in multiple genres, including the novel, screenplay, short story, poem, essay, and children's literature.

> Visit his blog, El vino y la hiel.

From the back cover of Goodbye, Mexico:

"This anthology gathers the strong voices of accomplished poets reaching into and beyond nostalgia to remember, to honor, and to document through figurative imagery their experiences of Mexico and the vibrant border areas before the ravages of the narco-violence. That Mexico has been irrevocably altered by illegal human trafficking and drug cartel violence is indisputable. Together with other complex dynamics of the current century, such as globalization, the failing middle class, and the disrupted tourist industry, this beloved country has changed almost beyond recognition. Many on both sides of the border grieve the loss of the Mexico that was, particularly the Mexico that existed during the last half of the Twentieth Century. This loss engenders memory; memory engenders poems."*

Other poets in this collection include Diana Anhalt, Alan Birkelbach, Sarah Cortez, Martín Espada, James Hoggard, Janet McCann, and Alberto Ríos. If you know poetry, you know that's an all-star list.

With his permission, here is my translation of Agustín Cadena's poem, "Café San Martín":


Do you remember the Café San Martín?
I do, sometimes,
when it rains in the afternoon and it’s summer.
We liked to go there and drink coffee
and smoke while we looked at the rain.
The Café San Martín was small,
lukewarm, and it had big windows
that looked onto a meridian of June.
But it is no longer there.
Now on that corner where it was
they sell video games.
Have you tried to go back?
Have you walked in the rain, alone,
remembering the girl you were
and asking yourself where would these people have gone,
with their pink curtains and old spoons
and their Café San Martín?
Yes, I have wanted to go back,
many times,
when I happen to think of you,
when my shoes fill with water
and I wish I were that age again
and not so foolish
as to let go of your hand that afternoon.
Once again it is June and raining.
Everywhere there are cafés
in certain neighborhoods.
The present erases all traces. 

P.S. Sarah Cortez and other poets will be reading from Goodbye, Mexico on Saturday June 27, 2015 @ 7 - 9 PM  The Twig Book Shop, 306 Pearl Parkway, San Antonio, Texas.

I hasten to mention that despite the troubles on the border and elsewhere, many areas of Mexico are stable and even thriving. I also hasten to add that the narco-violence finds fuel north of the border, and for anyone doubting the deep contradictions and corruption in the United States itself in regard to narcotics policies and trade, I highly recommend for a start on that gnarliest of subjects Sam Quinones' alarming and deeply researched new book, Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic.

Five Quick Questions for Agustin Cadena

+ "Lady of the Seas" a complete short story by Agustín Cadena translated by C.M. Mayo in Mexico: A Traveler Literary Companion

My review of Sarah Cortez and Sergio Troncoso, eds, Our Lost Border: Essays on Life Amid the Narco-Violence in Literal.

Looking at Mexico in New Ways: An Interview with John Tutino

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