Sunday, June 7, 2020

"Resistencia: Poems of Protest and Revolution" - Edited by Mark Eisner and Tina Escaja

As I arrived at the end of the opening poem in "Resistencia: Poems of Protest and Revolution," Gabriela Mistral's riveting "Tiny Feet," I knew that I was in for an unforgettable journey with this remarkably vibrant and fiercely inspired collection representing poets from every Latin American country grappling with identity, place, and belonging in ways that ask difficult questions and offer no easy answers.

After a powerful introduction by Julia Alvarez, "Resistencia" fearlessly brings to life poetry from past literary icons and exciting new voices exploring feminist, queer, ecological, indigenous, and urban themes alongside the expected rages against imperialism, dictatorships, and economic inequality. As I arrived at the end of the collection, Javier Zamora's "To President-Elect," I lamented the end of a collection that felt so immersive yet seemed to end so quickly.

"Resistencia" includes each poem in its original language along with an English translation, the translations themselves an epic work of art adding depth of meaning and feeling to this remarkable collection. The translators include US Poet Laureate emeritus Juan Felipe Herrera among many others, their efforts bringing many of these poems to English-speaking readers for the very first time.

"Resistencia" is a particularly riveting read at a time when nearly the entire United States is forced to confront institutionalized racism and racial injustice. These issues, even those written years ago, are still ever-present and the words here, though representing life in other lands, ring as true to this day.

"Resistencia" brings us contemporary voices such as Colombian poet Carlos Aguasaco and the remarkable Gioconda Belli, a Nicaraguan poet whose poetry is both politically inspired yet immersed in both feminism and the erotic, while also bringing us the stunning and still resonant work of Gabriela Mistral and the familiar name of Pablo Neruda among many others.

There are others, so many others, that it would be nearly impossible to name them all or to even choose a handful of favorite pieces among this stunning collection.

I ached with Mistral's "Tiny Feet,' here called "Little Feet," while being deeply moved by Cesar Vallejo's "Mass," Alfonsina Storni's "You Want Me White," MIguel Otero Silva's mesmerizing "Sowing," Raquel Verdesoto De Romo Davila's "The Rebel Word," and Mario Benedetti's "The South Also Exists."

I felt lament alongside Rosario Castellanos' "Silence Near an Ancient Stone," wept with Raquel Jodorowsky's "Here We Are," and shuddered with a faint familiarity with Roberto Sosa's "The Poor."

Ana Maria Rodas's "I Know" is gut-level poetry, her "I'll never be more than a warrior for love" lingering in my heart and in my mind even now.

There's more. There's so many more. The poetry in "Resistencia" longs to be read and longs to be spoken aloud. These are words of vibrance and importance and liberation demanding not just coffee nook consumption but a rebellious coming to life.

Edited by Mark Eisner and Tina Escaja, "Resistencia: Poems of Protest and Revolution" is a must-read for those who embrace the power of poetry and the written word to change the world because, indeed, many of the poets in this collection changed their worlds and, in some cases, even gave their lives to speak difficult truths and to empower their people.

Slated for a September 15, 2020 release by Tin House, "Resistencia: Poems of Protest and Revolution" is a timely and vital collection of poetry honoring the history of Latin American poetry and the written word as resistance, protest, revolution, and hope.

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