"Through the city in my head"

I finished reading Jorge Volpi's novel El fin de la locura. I liked it overall, though parts of it didn't work for me. For instance, the meeting the protagonist had with Subcomandante Marcos in the jungles of Chiapas in the late 80s seemed forced, as though Volpi were straining to make sure Aníbal Quevedo is everywhere with everyone. But as with En busca de Klingsor, I enjoyed the novel's ambition and Volpi's use of a very wide assortment of settings and characters.

Now reading Salvador Garmendia's 1963 novel Día de ceniza in a Monte Ávila paperback edition I found in NY a few months ago. The novel takes place in the chaotic atmosphere of downtown Caracas during Carnival, as we follow a lawyer and poet on his wanderings through the city over several days. Garmendia constantly shifts between the present and fragments from previous days, often pausing the narrative to focus in on the unusual and distorted details any city will always offer.

I intend to begin Sandra Cisneros's Caramelo (which has been on my list since it first came out) as soon as I finish Garmendia's book. What is it about novels that poems can't quite provide me? Maybe their all-encompasing atmospheres, the pulse of narrative and how certain characters and their situations remind me of my own lived experiences. My passion for novels is likely related to the pleasure of watching a good film.

I've been going through Stephen Spender's New Collected Poems this week. The following lines are Part I of "Meeting," from Poems of Dedication (1947):

"At dawn we rose and walked the pavement

I your shadow you my flute

Your voice wove a thread
Through the city in my head

I followed — followed
You, my sole inhabitant."


I came across a poem of Martha Kornblith's I hadn't seen before at Kalathos. It's from her book Sesión de endodoncia (Editorial Pequeña Venecia, 1997). I'm posting the poem and my English version below.

Cuando caiga el gobierno

Cuando caiga el gobierno
estaré habitualmente sola.
Como habré pospuesto
las compras
—como es habitual—
de tanto usar el tiempo
para imaginarte,
mi despensa andará
y deambularé sin un
grano de pan,
ni parientes, ni vecinos
ni calmantes, sola.
Seré una mujer en un
país en guerra
que piensa en ti


When the government falls

When the government falls
I'll be habitually alone.
Since I'll have postponed
the shopping
—as always—
from taking so much time
to imagine you,
my pantry will be
and I'll saunter without
or relatives, or neighbors
or painkillers, alone.
I'll be a woman in a
country at war
thinking of you

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