Samantha Zighelboim's poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in POETRY, Boston Review, The Guardian, Sixth Finch, PEN Poetry Series, Stonecutter, and Circumference: A Journal of Poetry in Translation, among others. She teaches creative writing at Rutgers University, and lives in New York City.
Julia Guez’s poetry, essays and translations have appeared in POETRY, PEN Poetry Series, The Guardian, Circumference, The Brooklyn Rail, and Boston Review. Guez works at Teach For America-New York and lives in Greenpoint and online @G_U_E_Z. She teaches creative writing at Rutgers University.
Born in 1969, Luis Chaves is a Costa Rican poet who was recently awarded the National Prize in Poetry from the Ministerio de Cultura in San José. He is considered one of the leading figures in contemporary Costa Rican poetry and is frequently spoken about as the new national poet.
What sets Chaves’ work apart, among other things, is the range of registers—quotidian, metaphysical, pseudoscientific, religious, historical and pharmacological, to name a few. The movement between these registers is vertiginous at points, abetted by myriad references to high- and low-culture.
The intersections are uncanny. For example, in “Equestrian Monuments,” dialogue from The Exorcist co-exists with Kyrie, Rex. The figure of Leon Cortés, who is presumably the man in the title’s monument (“pointing towards a place / without historical value”) is counterbalanced by a cast of mock-heroic or non-normative foils: a transvestite, a cripple, a singleton, homunculus, thief, and gardener, as well as “the children of the Second Republic . . . who shave heads and chests and armpits,” the unemployed (“who consume anxiolytics / rolled-up in a candy wrapper . . .[at] a cinema in the suburbs”) and the elderly (“unmoving”).
The work inhabits a space that is often strange and unsettling. We are sometimes unsure if we are in Buenos Aires, San José or Santa Teresa. (Or, for that matter, Wyoming or New York.) Vis-à-vis genre, there are similar questions. The title poem is a litany, one of many lists intermixing poetry and prose and drama. Ekphrastically rendering TV, photographs, monuments and films, it also enacts the process of writing, speaking and performing one’s role in society (down to the “mechanics of a smile set in motion / by a signal from the stranger who took it.”) Perhaps not surprisingly, everything is “off-center,” “out-of-focus,” steeped in the “fog of the drug”, until the ordinary begins to border on the sublime in a moment as fleeting as it is indelible, as when:
a few minutes of orange light are left
flattering the silhouettes
of the park’s elderly, unmoving.
This is how it is or this how I see it through
the extenuating filter
of 10 mg of Klonopin.
Julia Guez and Samantha Zighelboim
WyomingThere is no beginning but that’s the least of our concerns: one afternoon, the reek of gasoline and an ad for Goliat soda seen through the window of this bus. The watch’s reflection uneasy against the still sky. The hem of a skirt bunched up in a pair of panties, a constellation of ants suspended in a honey jar. All is well up to this point, but now for the hard part: drowsiness comes on with the force of gravity. This much is certain: a cold wind blows in, say, Bahía Blanca. Mute is the mantle of frost over the flatlands of Wyoming.
Landing at Ezeiza at dawn on the first day of the year, a rabbit or maybe it was a hare ran alongside the plane. Bounding from the asphalt to the grass and back again to the asphalt, it strained to keep up with this gigantic machine on the tarmac.