By Raul Gutierrez

Trees talk to each other at night.

All fish are named either Lorna or Jack.

Before your eyeballs fall out from watching too much TV, they get very loose.

Tiny bears live in drain pipes.

If you are very very quiet you can hear the clouds rub against the sky.

The moon and the sun had a fight a long time ago.

Everyone knows at least one secret language.

When nobody is looking, I can fly.

We are all held together by invisible threads.

Books get lonely too.

Sadness can be eaten.

I will always be there.

(Today’s poem originally appeared on Heading East, and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Raul Gutierrez, Founder and CEO of Tinybop, is an entrepreneur with a 20-year history in technology and the arts. Tinybop was born out of a belief that all kids are explorers. His hope is to build a company where ideas, design, and engineering come together to delight, inspire, and educate children. Raul was born in Monterrey, Mexico, grew up in Lufkin, Texas, and now lives in Brooklyn, with his wife and two young boys.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem has universal appeal. It captures the magic of imagination, and of love, before ending with a turn that both surprises and speaks to the heart. It is the kind of work that one reads, and shares, until it takes on a life of its own. It has been translated into over ten languages; just this week it was translated into German! (Check it out below.)

Today’s post is dedicated to my husband, who found and shared it with me, and to Natasha and Darren Brown. It is your inspired parenting that Matt and I both thought of when we first read this piece.

Want to read more by and about Raul Gutierrez?
Heading East – Mexican Pictures
Read today’s poem in Deutsch (German)!
Follow Raul Gutierrez on Twitter


By Edgar Rincón Luna
Translation by Anthony Seidman

At a certain moment
after having left home
you thought that you had forgotten something
an object
something uncertain
and that it was necessary to turn back

Once in particular
while in the middle of childish games and glee
a word took you by surprise
and you turned your gaze elsewhere in search of it

Then with undeniable fear
a voice surprised you while you spoke
another voice
simple another

And when the vast and
traversable night offered herself to you
you became aware how
between the dust and the city
for us
poetry was building an enclosure

Por Edgar Rincón Luna
En el español original

En algún momento
después de haber salido de casa
pensaste que algo se te había olvidado
un objeto
algo desconocido
y que era necesario regresar

Alguna vez
en medio del juego infantil y la risa
una palabra te tomó por sorpresa
y volviste tus ojos a otro sitio buscándola

Entonces entre el miedo innegable
una voz te soprendió mientras hablabas
simplemente otra

Y cuando la noche se te ofreció vasta
te diste cuenta
de cómo entre el polvo y la ciudad
la poesía se nos fue levantando un cerco

(Today’s poem is taken from the collection Aquí empieza la noche interminable (Tierra Adentro; Mexico City). Different versions of today’s poem appeared in Hunger Magazine (2003) and The Bitter Oleander (2010). “El Cerco” and this translation appear here today with permission from both the poet and the translator.)

Edgar Rincón Luna is a poet from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. He is the author of several collections including Aquí empieza la noche interminable (Tierra Adentro) and Puño de Whiskey (Ediciones sin nombre). His poetry has appeared in dozens of journals in Mexico, Spain, and the United States, including Reverso, Beyond Baroque, Hunger, and The Bitter Oleander.

Editor’s Note: Inherent in the words, imagery, and meter of today’s poem, simplicity dances with vastness in a way that at once lulls me and keeps me alert. Simple, elegant, beautiful; culminating in a final stanza that is as lovely and evanescent as the dust it’s built upon.

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las afinidades electivas / las elecciones afectivas


By Martin Camps

Mosquitoes do not die of hunger.

There is always a leg for them

an arm or a deaf ear to their hungry voice.

You will never see the aged corpse of a gnat.

They only know about violent death:

of a body burst by a slap,

by a discharge of light or by air poisoning.

They will sink the day they find out they can

walk on the water.

(“Mosquitos” appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Martin Camps has published three books of poetry in Spanish: Desierto Sol (Desert Sun, 2003), La invencion del mundo (The Invention of the World, 2008), and La extincion de los atardeceres (The Extintion of Twilight, 2009). Has is the recipient of two poetry prizes from the Institute of Culture of Mexico and an Honorable Mention in the Bi-National Poetry Prize Pellicer-Frost in 1999. His poems have been published in The Bitter Oleander (Pemmican Press), Alforja, and Tierra Adentro, among others. He answers all email at

Editor’s Note: Martin Camps is among my all-time favorite poets. His work never ceases to be breathtaking in its form, its function, and–especially–its sound. The way Camps plays with language appears, in some ways, to stem more from his Spanish-speaking roots than from an experimental poetry slant, and the effects simply blow me away. And then, of course, in all his poetic brilliance, he concludes with an epic end-line.

Want to see more by and about Martin Camps?
Email to buy his books directly from the poet for $6 each.
See an alternate version of today’s poem: Mosquitoes

Peticao a NASA
La Belleza de No Pensar

An Uneasy Revelry: a review of Before Saying Any of the Great Words

An Uneasy Revelry

by Okla Elliott

“Unease in the ochre-filled skies, unease in the silky /labyrinth of the gut, unease / in the artist’s double, triple nibs”

—David Huerta, “Song of Unease”

Since many American readers may not be familiar with David Huerta, let me introduce you to the poet, before I go on to discuss this career-ranging selection of his poetry and Mark Schafer’s excellent translation of it. Huerta has written nineteen books of poetry and has received nearly every literary award a poet can win in his native Mexico. He is associated with the Neobaroque movement in Latin American literature and with postmodern language poetry. In 2005, he received the Xavier Villaurrutia Prize for lifelong contribution to Mexican literature. Suffice to say, he is one Mexico’s (and the Spanish language’s) major poets. He is also well known as a political columnist, translator, and activist. But fame and recognition are not enough to convince a discerning reader, and one ought not to be impressed by awards but rather by the work itself.

The first poem I’d like to look at, “Machinery,” is a good example of both Huerta’s strength as a poet and the difficulties Schafer had to overcome in translating him. It is a longish poem (65 lines), so let’s only look at the opening movement:

What’s the use of all this I ask you your fever your sobbing
What’s the use of yelling or butting your head against the fog
Why crash in the branches scratch those nickels
What’s the point of jinxing yourself staining yourself

The odd syntax and the overflow of poetic energy are well represented in the English. My only complaint is that in the first line, the English allows for a double reading such that the speaker asks the “you” his question and perhaps asks “your fever” and “your sobbing,” while also allowing “your fever” and “your sobbing” to still be the “all this” of his question—all of which is a really pleasant possible double reading, but which is unfortunately not in the Spanish. The Spanish reads “Para qué sirve todo eso te digo tu fiebre tu sollozo.” The verb is decir (“to tell, to say”), thus allowing for the more literal “What’s the use of all this I tell you your fever your sobbing” but which does not eliminate the possibility of a double reading, since the issue isn’t really so much the verb as the indirect object “te” in Spanish that is placed before the verb instead of after it in English, thus eliminating the possible double-meaning in Spanish and creating it in English. Basically, what we have here is an example of why Umberto Eco calls translation “the art of failure.” Spanish grammar clarifies what the English cannot without major alteration to either the sense or syntax. And so my complaint is not with Schafer’s translation but rather with the onerous task of translation itself. Schafer meets with dozens of these sorts of impasses throughout the book and generally finds innovative ways around them, and when no way around exists, he limits the loss in joy from the original, as he has here. (My complaint, I trust most will agree, is rather nitpicky and perhaps entirely unimportant in some readers’ minds.)

Let’s now look at “Sick Man” in its entirety, which exemplifies the productive strangeness of many of Huerta’s poems. Here, illness disrupts reality and language, making technically nonsensical language carry an emotional resonance that a more direct psychological realism could not:

The nighttime dog eats
two rings of blood
but the twilight dog chases him away.
The diamonds in his chest
burn and scatter.
The daytime dog licks
the entrance to his chest
but the nighttime dog
knows the way out.
All the dogs
want a backbone of diamonds.
Two rings of fresh blood spin around.
His chest finds itself increasingly alone
with the scent of barking.

That threatening bark is perhaps the threat of debilitation at illness’s hand, the fear of death, the crushing loneliness of serious illness. And the synergistic confusion is (and isn’t) the impenetrable meaningless of death/illness. I don’t mean to shrink Huerta’s poetic language to prosaic interpretations, since he could just as easily have written a straightforward thought-piece on illness and animal imagery, had that been what he intended to communicate, but I think the above-mentioned notions are some of the things he is after. Also, notice the perfect use of the title to force our understanding of the poem. I likely would have thought the poem was only mediocre if it were, for example, titled “Dogs.” His title (“Hombre enfermo” in the original) adds an emotional valence to all the words of the poem that would otherwise be mere pretty language without emotional import. This technique of title-as-lens is one Huerta uses to great effect throughout the book.

Schafer tells us in his introduction that he has two goals in mind with this book. “On the one hand, I want to offer English-speaking readers an overview of Huerta’s poetry since he published his first book, El jardín de la luz, in 1972. On the other hand, given that Huerta is alive and well, writing and publishing prolifically, I want to give readers ample opportunity to revel in his more recent work.” And revel is exactly what the reader does.
The publication of Before Saying Any of the Great Words is another in a long line of great contributions Copper Canyon Press has made to American poetry. In a post-monolingual world, and especially in the USA, which is quickly becoming officially and unofficially bilingual, I hope Huerta’s work will be read widely. Works in translation have a long tradition of influencing English-language poetry—from the Earl of Surrey, who invented blank verse in order to translate Virgil’s Ænead (which was metered but not rhymed)—thus allowing for Shakespeare’s plays to exist as we know them—to the importing of such forms as the sonnet from its Italian progenitors or the couplet from the French, and so on. What better time than now, in the age of globalization, for us to learn from our literary compatriots who live in other countries and write in other languages? I would therefore suggest Before Saying Any of the Great Words not only for classes on Latin American literature but also for poetry workshops, working poets everywhere, and anyone interested in the marvelously rich culture of Mexico.


[The above review was originally published in Florida State University’s The Southeast Review in a slightly different form.]