Commentaries and Citations
Translated by Lisa Rose Bradford

Love-in-absence, past-in-present, and clarity-in-pain are the major themes of Commentaries and Citations. In these poems, dedicated to his motherland, Argentine poet-in-exile Juan Gelman composes nostalgia and desire by invoking and responding to texts that range from the Bible to the mystics and on to tango. In his unique fashion, he trespasses the limits of language and authorship to produce an unusual love poetry of cascading rhythms and stunning imagery. These poems are for the first time rendered in their entirety in this en face Spanish/English edition.

“Juan Gelman’s anguished/soulful/tormented/sensual/ecstatic poems—like those of César Vallejo and Paul Celan among modern poets, and echoing earlier Jewish and Christian mystics—aspire to grace and transcendence by way of linguistic trans/formation, fracturing and torquing language in search of the unsayable. Lisa Bradford’s sensitive translations, without reducing the densities of the orginal Argentine, beautifully convey in English Gelman’s wounded lyric questionings.”

—Stephen Kessler, whose recent translation of Desolation of the
by Luis Cernuda, won the 2010 Harold Morton Landon
Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets

“Is religion the opium of the people? Gelman’s poetry is not a ritual condemnation of religiosity but rather a unique energy that appropriates it and detaches it from itself; this is particularly true of his rewriting of the Spanish mystics in Citations and Commentaries: Gelman reads Saint Teresa as if within her were speaking the voice of a militant revolutionary exiled from her love, from her country. An invention as perturbing as affective, it affects the language and places it in a state that we would never have before imagined.”

—Miguel Dalmaroni, Universidad Nacional de La Plata/CONICET


About the Author

Juan Gelman was born of Jewish Ukrainian parents in Buenos Aires and grew up amid a myriad of languages and acquired a fascination for words early on in life. He published his first book of verse, Violín y otras cuestiones (Violin and other questions, 1956), in a time of coups and countercoups of a nascent Peronism. In order to bring to life the streets and common people of Buenos Aires, in this book he created a collage of the everyday speech of the “rioplatense” including their slang and grammar, current events, and the tango imaginary. With the publication of Cólera buey (oxen rage, 1965), his surreal blending of social engagement and wordplay expressed in a colloquial language marked and unnerving irony and poignancy that would continue to characterize his poetry.

After actively participating in the movements that brought back Perón in 1973—both the FAR (Revolutionary Armed Forces) and the guerrilla group Montoneros—he was sent to Europe in 1975 to work in public relations as a journalist. After the military coup of 1976, he remained in exile in Europe, denouncing human rights abuses, which by August of that year would involve the personal loss of his son, Marcelo, and his pregnant daughter-in-law who “were disappeared” during the military dictatorship. Having worked as a journalist and a translator in Argentina, Spain, France, and Italy, Gelman is presently living in Mexico City. 


About the Translator

Lisa Rose Bradford was born in Dayton, Ohio and presently teaches Comparative Literature at the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata and raises horses and cattle in Madariaga, Argentina. Her doctoral work was completed at the University of California at Berkeley, and since then she has edited two compendiums on translation and cultural studies, Traducción como cultura, La cultura de los géneros, and two U.S. poetry anthologies in Spanish: Los pájaros, por la nieve (RIL, Chile, forthcoming) and Usos de la imaginación: poetas latin@s en EE.UU (EUDEM, Argentina). Her poems and translations have appeared in various magazines and journals.

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