Laughter, anguish, pain, and beauty are all sensations Rodrigo Lira’s poetry arouses. Though his life was cut short by suicide in 1981, he continues to influence contemporary Chilean poetry today, establishing an essential point of reference between experimental neo-avant garde movements of the 1970s and 80s and younger generations of post-dictatorship poets. Combining erudite literary knowledge, intense language, and dark burlesque humor, Lira’s work is often read in comparison to contemporaries Nicanor Parra and Enrique Lihn, both of whom greatly admired his poetry.
From a historical and political perspective, Lira offers a glimpse into the suffocating environment of Augusto Pinochet’s right-wing dictatorship (1973-90). Shifting between explicit and more concealed political criticism, Lira’s poetry profoundly reflects the psychology of living under dictatorship, as expressed in “4 Three Hundred and Sixty-Fives and One 366 Elevens,” one of his longer poems whose obscure title refers to the number of years past since the military coup of September 11, 1973. In this poem, Santiago is on the verge of dystopia and, despite attempts to resist repression, the lyric personae only finds consolation in death, albeit through humor.
Interest in the poetry and figure of Rodrigo Lira has yet to spread much beyond the borders of Chile, due mainly to the difficulty of translating his work into other languages. While exploiting Chilean slang and complex wordplay, Lira also develops a particular way of integrating pop and popular culture into his writing. The effort to transfer such poetry into another language, with its own distant cultural references, must forsake certain interpretations and possible impacts among Chilean readers. These translations attempt to break down those barriers and bring Lira’s poetry closer to an English-speaking audience.
– Thomas Rothe
Héctor Hernández Montecinos was born in Santiago, Chile in 1979. His books of poetry that were published between 2001 and 2003 are collected in [guión] (Lom Ediciones: Santiago, Chile, 2008); [coma] (Lom Ediciones, 2009) collects his writings from 2004-2006. His other books include Putamadre (Zignos: Lima, 2005), Ay de Mi (Ripio: Santiago, 2006), La poesia chilena soy yo (Mandrágora cartonera: Cochabamba, 2007), Segunda mano (Zignos: Lima, 2007), A 1000 (Lustra editores: Lima, 2008), Livro Universal (Demonio negro: Sao Paulo, 2008, traducido al portugués), Poemas para muchachos en llamas (RdlPS: Ciudad de México, 2008), La Escalera (Yerba Mala cartonera: La Paz, 2008) El secreto de esta estrella (Felicita cartonera: Asunción, 2008), La interpretación de mis sueños (Moda y Pueblo: Stgo, 2008) y NGC 224 (Literal: Ciudad de México, 2009). He has been invited to present his poetry in Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Peru. Since 2008, he has lived in Mexico where he teaches, and directs a small literary press called Santa Muerte cartonera. He holds a doctorate in literature with a focus in art theory.
The Brooklyn Rail welcomes you to our web-exclusive section InTranslation, where we feature unpublished translations of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and dramatic writing. Published since April 2007, InTranslation is a venue for outstanding work in translation and a resource for translators, authors, editors, and publishers seeking to collaborate.
We seek exceptional unpublished English translations from all languages.
Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry: Manuscripts of no longer than 20 pages (double-spaced).
Plays: Manuscripts of no longer than 30 pages (in left-justified format).