Reviewed: ‘Living Writers Series’ Reading

At 7pm on Wednesday, April 24th, The Hugh C. Hyde Living Writers Series presented a poetry reading from Pura Lopez-Colome and Forrest Gander in Love Library room 430.  The event was held by The Department of English and Comparative Literature and the M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing, free and open to the public.

The two poets read, collaboratively, works that included both English and Spanish. As a student who’s taken and thrived in three years of college-level Spanish courses, with the strong desire to become fluent and explore opportunities in the field of literary translation, I loved hearing the two poets work in conjunction with one another. Pura Lopez-Colome was born in Mexico City in 1952 and attended high school in the US.  She has published literary criticisms, poems, and translations in a regular column for the newspaper Unomásuno. Some English translations of her work include No Shelter: Selected Poems (2002), Aurora (2008), and Watchword (2012). To open the event, she spoke about the voice in poetry, both externally and within, emphasizing pause and articulation. Much of her poetry, she noted, was inspired by weekly trips she’d make with her children back to Mexico City.  Forrest Gander’s publications in poetry include the books Eye Against Eye (2005), Torn Awake (2001), and Science & Steepleflower (1998). In addition to poetry, Gander also does work as a translator, novelist, essayist, and editor of two anthologies.  Originally from Barstow, he now lives in Rhode Island with his wife, poet C.D. Wright, teaches at Brown University, and co-edits books for Lost Roads Publishers, a literary small press.  Pura Lopez-Colome would recite lines in Spanish, followed immediately by Forrest Gander’s translation or additional lineage in English, and the two went back and forth meshing English and Spanish together.  There are many allusions to nature, both in terms of the earth and its inhabitants.  This is another subject I have a strong affinity for, as I used to be a vegetarian and love all animals.  Even for attendees who knew not a word of Spanish, I could see how this event was very insightful and appreciable. Below is an excerpt I did my best to transcribe from their recitation, I was only able to capture the English lines from Forrest Gander:

…To be able to speak… To be able to speak without contrivance… supreme instance of unbounded pleasure… protected in rapture… to be able to speak. To you, to oneself, to become substantial… A life absorbed in the music… Each note is a mirror… fortunately imperceptible… the tones orchestrated and arranged in personally abstracted space

As a student enthralled by the concept of literary translation, particularly of rhyming poetry, I was able to appreciate this reading very much.  I had never before read or even known about poetry that includes the meshing of both Spanish and English.  This bilingual representation of literature is especially fascinating to me and may just spark my interest in working on writing poetry, prose, or rhetoric using both English and Spanish as well.

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