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This review is taken from PN Review 65, Volume 15 Number 3, January - February 1989.

LOW VOICE FROM CUBA Belkis Cuza Malé: Woman in the Front Lines, a bi-lingual selection of poems, translated by Pamela Carmell (Unicorn Press, Greensboro, North Carolina) n.p.

The book's title is misleading. Though no one could mistake her feminine viewpoint, Belkis Cuza Malé is no battling feminist. If she is in the front line, it is in defence of the imagination. Despite her unhappy experience of Fidel's revolution, in which she once believed, she is no political poet; nor does she follow the aesthetic or the rhetorical line of so much Cuban poetry. Had this selection of her poems of twenty years been entitled 'Glimpses of reality', the reader would have been better prepared for what he finds in these forty-odd pieces, printed in Spanish with not always reliable verse translations by Pamela Carmell.

Belkis Cuza Malé was born in a provincial town in 1942, and came to Havana about twenty years later with a university degree and a small book of published poems to practise as a journalist. She was soon associated with the avant-garde publishing group El Puente, which was quickly broken up, largely owing to its too vociferous defence by Allen Ginsberg. When I first met her at about this time she was shocked by being refused Party membership. Her poems written then were addressed to the memory of Anne Frank. From then until her marriage to the poet Herbert Padilla, her position deteriorated, though a group of her poems appeared in an anthology Ocho poetas. She shared her husband's disgrace and eclipse after 1969 and finally left with him for the United States in 1979. Here they have published a ...


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