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This review is taken from PN Review 190, Volume 36 Number 2, November - December 2009.

THREE LATIN AMERICAN POETS GABRIELA MISTRAL, The Locas mujeres Poems of Gabriela Mistral (University of Chicago Press) £13.00
VÍCTOR RODRÍGUEZ NÚÑEZ, The Infinite’s Ash (Arc) £13.99

MERCEDES ROFFÉ, Like the Rains Come (Shearsman) £8.95

Víctor Rodrígues Núñez is a renowned poet both within his native Cuba as well as in Spain and Latin America. This collection, with its clumsy title, The Infinite’s Ash, brings his poems into English for the first time. The translator, Katherine Hedeen, a colleague in the same department at the university where Núñez currently works, has done a fine job in giving these poems a credible life of their own, a task marred only by a number of simple errors: for example, ‘Hypothesis’ has ‘domes’ for ‘doves’, and ‘Trains’ has ‘since I set’ for ‘since nightfall’.

The poet’s sharp intellect and ranging erudition are much in evidence, and some of his best writing occurs when he wears his post-modern heart on his sleeve, as in ‘A Poem With Tiger’, whose playful tone is characteristic of the collection, as in the mock-syllogism of ‘Logic’ or in the scientific discovery in ‘Eulogy for the Neutrino’ that ‘the world fits in an alexandrine’. At his best Rodrígues Núñez blends a range of registers and poetic traditions to powerful effect, so that traces of Vallejo, Neruda, Alberti and Blake can be found scattered through the selection like a crumb trail.

This makes it all the more difficult to take the poet seriously when he tries to bring gravitas to the closing lines of a number of his poems. Here are just two of a number of similar endings - ‘blinded by nothingness’ and ‘sure that everything is forever’ - ...

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