To compare the ongoing experiments of XX and XXI century novels conceived or read as poems, using or being "poetry" in their narratives. In some of these novels, poetry is a central concern. A preliminary list would include, in no particular order:

Cristina Rivera Garza La cresta de Ilión
Roberto Bolaño Los detectives salvajes, 2666
W.G. Sebald The Rings of Saturn, Vertigo
Jacinta Escudos A-B-Sudario
Roque Dalton Pobrecito poeta que era yo
Edward Upward Journey to the Border
Heriberto Yépez El Matasellos
Salvador Garmendia Día de ceniza
Wilson Harris Jonestown, Palace of the Peacock
N. Scott Momaday House Made of Dawn
Julio Cortázar Rayuela
Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Tres tristes tigres, La Habana para un infante difunto
Juan Carlos Méndez Guédez El libro de Esther
Jacqueline Goldberg Carnadas

Reading Caramelo, Sandra Cisneros invokes poetry as well, though I'm finding the novel doesn't always convince me. One aspect of it I do admire is her focus on translation, whether in her own prose which alludes to its bilingual status or in her footnotes which often historicize and comment on political & social points, providing an editorial measure that implies a translation of the novel's core events. Part of the poem-novel quality I enjoy is the ambition behind their plots. Cisneros writes of how Mexico and the United States continue to misread each other. As an allegory, Caramelo is addressing the double-consciousness of a specific Chicana lyrical self. The element I haven't been able to enjoy about the novel is the historical family saga that sometimes resorts to facile scenarios. But this is a minor complaint, considering how well she writes her postmodern version of the lyrical self.


But there are some necessary silences a novel can't accomplish and a single poem can. In Jacqueline Goldberg's Insolaciones en Miami Beach, each of the twenty-four poems serve as emblems of a crisis or desolation, echoing one another, with allusions to a class and political social structure that destroys aspects of the mind or self. The closing poem (which also concludes my seven English versions) entrances with microwave plagues, symbolic of a social disorder and yet undeniably lyrical. The self and society sometimes do coincide.

Then there's the poetic reinvention of forms in texts such as Cedar Sigo's Selected Writings (Second Edition) (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2005), a collection of poems disguised as a novel, if only at brief intervals within the poems. This is especially true with the long poem "O Twist No Inferno," which manages to flow as brilliantly as a Nas, Raekwon or Ghostface but also invokes a chapter-by-chapter development of self as "protagonist," "character" or "villain." This longer poem bleeds into the shorter poems of the collection, setting them within an ambitious plot. The lament and praise of the lyric's "visionary" power:

"A pleasure finite and held in secret from the floor."

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