An academic poetry opus from prolific Cuban author Yáñez (The Bleeding Wound/Sangra Por La Herida, 2014, etc.).
Divided into four sections, the author’s latest collection opens with “Acto I: The Visits/Las Visitas,” which takes readers through settings shrouded in secrecy: “Don’t be deceived by appearances: / the patios of the convents / —those flower-filled, disquieting jails— / may lend themselves to dirty tricks of the worst kind.” In “Intervalo: A Reminder/Recordatorio,” the speaker tells readers that “poets dream / of a long permanence / and to that end they construct cathedrals / and poems.” “Acto II: Class Notes/Apuntes de clase” reads like a clever advice column for students; “Rhetorically Speaking” offers tips on hiding what one is reading or writing from a professor, and in “A Generational Duty,” the author encourages young poets to “do whatever you must to sew within the secret seam / of letters / the shifting pain of the universe / and the laws of the tenderness that is always flowing / always flowing.” This section also invokes legendary poets such as Jorge Luis Borges and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz in eponymous poems. “Final: Limitations/Limitaciones” is rife with death references and ends with a contemplative poem about a phone book with the contact information of the departed. While the author excels at anchoring the reader in physical surroundings, and Miller has faithfully translated the Spanish text, perhaps what Yáñez needed more than a translator was a stronger editor. The poet’s descriptions can be flowery, such as this one of a hotel: “Its demolition, / planned by the competent officialdom, / will preclude new accomplices / to its antiquity / (I wonder to whom it will now relate / its stories /and its delusions of grandeur).” Overall, the book feels like a memoir written in stanzas, at times bordering on self-indulgence and the kind of nostalgia better shared between two friends: “don’t fail to keep in mind / that those places / we never visited / will still be weighing heavily on me.”
A well-written but occasionally verbose collection that will please academics but may test the patience of lay readers.