Katherine M. Hedeen
Cuba has always attracted the passionate sympathies of poets and revolutionaries. ‘Cuba, my love, they put you on the rack,’ wrote Pablo Neruda in Canto General, ‘cut your face, pried open your legs of pale gold, crushed your pomegranate sex, stabbed you with knives, dismembered you, burned you.’ Ernesto Che Guevara was a poet. The country’s national poets, Jose Martí and Nicolás Guillén were also revolutionaries. After the fall of Batista, poets like Ginsberg, Hikmet, Yevtushenko and Enzensberger visited Cuba to write about the Revolution. But Cuban poetry was revolutionary long before the popular triumph of 1959, and it has remained so despite – and because of – the profound changes on the island since.
Nothing Out of This World is an introduction to the work of thirty-six poets from Cuba writing in the second half of the twentieth-century, including Heberto Padilla, Nancy Morejón, and Víctor Rodríguez Núñez. The oldest poet here, Fina García-Marruz, was born in 1923; the youngest, Damaris Calderón, in 1967. It’s an extraordinary and heady mix, combining African and Spanish influences, realism and surrealism, colloquialism and baroque, experiment and commitment, a lucid and moving introduction to a collective poetic subject that defies all kinds of social oppression. Introduction by Víctor Rodríguez Núñez.
for Roberto Fernández Retamar When the revolution arrived the crowd entered my home It seemed to rifle through the drawers, the closet, change the sewing basket That old silence ceased and my grandmother stopped weaving memories, she stopped speaking, she stopped singing Hopeful I saw, had to see, how the light entered that room when my mother opened the windows for the very first time Miguel Barnet
to the memory of Loló Soldevilla I’m a faceless little woman sitting on the tip of a rock, toward the bottom of a landscape where a river and two seas are found. I can’t stop contemplating them: a river for two seas, two seas for a river; until the gannet’s cry, beyond the clouds, awakens them. I can’t speak, I have no hands. An age-old whip slowly cut them off. And I scarcely recognize the newly learned words. I scarcely have a tongue for good morning and good night. Everything is immensity around me. Everything is immense like my hurricane hair and my grandparents’ beastliness: My grandmother Brígida, drowned in the ink of notaries, yet invincible, murmuring and small; tattooed in the memory of quails, there in Ciego de Ávila; fixed in the furies of turbines where Felipe Morejón Noyola dwelled; fixed in the memory of Aida Santana, with her honey hatchet; fixed in my own heart. My grandmother Ángela, thrashed and singing decimated by twenty-four births, thrown to the tenement houses with her sad song, thrown to the dogs, thrown to early undeserved death, like all early deaths, yet singing a nameless song in an armless rocking chair, with María Teresa, ‘con sus trovas fascinantes que me las quiero aprender.’ Deaths of my grandmothers I never met. Deaths of my predatory grandfathers I never met either. The willows’ leafage calms my worry. The birds are chirping. Sitting before this foam, the memories of La Place Academy splash: The best student in fourth grade has the role of a mischievous little black chick whose brothers and sisters were all little yellow chicks but the little black chick was the disobedient one, the sinner, perhaps the true guilty one. That same student – barred from studying at the Sorbonne thanks to some disapproving opinions, wisely hidden, and above all thanks to the trap set by so many bastards, interested in proving how unseemly a little black chick daring to set foot in Paris – it could never stop being, never stopped being that little black chick. I am a faceless little woman. The July wind came. They’d destined me to an old broom and a frying pan, the last place in line, a muzzle and the most unaware submission. They came down hard on me. They beat me down too. Blessed the old broom and frying pan, the last place in line, a muzzle and apparent submission. I am a faceless little woman sitting on the tip of a rock and the güijes howl in the night overcome by the July wind I am who I am on a golden chair. Nancy Morejón
for Margaret Randall I’ve seen something of the world Managua dust storms bare snow covering the pines along the road to Smolyan and the flags arguing atop the tower of the University of Puerto Rico I’ve seen something of the world Palenque’s bewitched stones the bay of honey forgotten by summer at Ponta Delgada and the Red Square painted by Kandinsky I’ve seen something of the world and it only deepens my sorrow Nothing belongs to me Víctor Rodríguez Núñez
For this freedom of song beneath the rain we’ll need to give it all For this freedom of being closely tied to the sweet, steady insides of the people we’ll need to give it all For this freedom of sunflower open in the dawn of factories switched on and schools lit and of earth creaking and child awakening we’ll need to give it all There is no alternative but freedom There is no other way but freedom There is no other homeland but freedom There will be no more poem if not for the violent music of freedom For this freedom which is the fear of those who always violated it in the name of magnificent miseries For this freedom which is the night of the oppressors and the definitive dawn of all the people now invincible For this freedom revealing the sunken pupils the bare feet the leaky roofs and the eyes of children who wandered in the dust For this freedom which is the empire of youth For this freedom beautiful like life we’ll need to give it all if necessary even shadow and it will never be enough Fayad Jamís