Winner 2004 International Octavio Paz Prize for Poetry. Featuring “La Tierra Giró para Acercarnos” (The Earth Turned to Bring Us Closer) from the Oscar-nominated film 21 Grams, this new translation of selected poems and prose by Venezuela’s leading poet Eugenio Montejo is translated from the original Spanish by Australian poet Peter Boyle.
Covering Montejo’s work from the 1960s to 2004 this major selection deals with universal themes of loss, death, family and love as well as reflecting on humanity’s relationship to nature in an ever more materialistic and urbanized world. Montejo’s poetry would be of special interest to all readers of poetry as well as to those interested in understanding a Latin American perspective on modernization and globalization.
‘The Trees, a selection of Eugenio Montejo’s poetry from the last forty years, shares with Kaplinski a fascination with natural images; like Malarmé, with endings and beginnings. Peter Boyles rhythmic and limpid translations of the Venezuelan writer aim to fill an absence of Montejo’s works available in English.’ —Viki Holmes
‘Montejo sees his poetry as ‘a melodious chess game we play in solitude with God’ but distances himself from the ‘political ritual of churches’, comments which capture the nature of a poetry that is spiritual but removed from any dogma. His subjects are wide-ranging: the essence of objects of the natural and domestic world, the dangers of consumerism, travel and cities, art, his relationship with family and culture. However, the backdrop is always the insignificance of our individual experience in contrast to life's continuity, our task simply to ensure ‘that the song will endure’.’ —Belinda Cooke
‘Like all good translations these versions have the feel and stature of an original; poems of beauty adn loss, the wonder in the everyday – a thrush singing in a tree, a rooster’s crow, the ‘earthdom’ of things, as Boyle translates Montejo’s neologism terredad. This is deeply spiritual poetry for agnostic sensibilities, poetry written, Montejo notes in ‘Fragments’, as ‘a prayer spoken to a God who only exists while the prayer lasts.’ for here is a volume, both in original and translation, that understands the sacrament of poetry, the power – and fragility – of the thought once expressed, of the word spoken: “the bird you hear singing is in Greek,” Montejo warns in his version of Cavafy’s ‘Ithaca’ ‘Don’t translate it’. We can only be grateful that Boyle ignored this advice, to the immeasurable benefit of us all.’ —Josephine Balmer