Dolores Dorantes

In the summer of 2003, in the midst of reading a dozen or so blogs for the first time on a regular basis, I recall printing out the entirety of the archives for Dolores Dorantes’s blog Tabla sin asidero and reading all of it over one weekend. She occasionally posts poems there but besides those rare instances, I hadn’t read much of her poetry until now with the publication of her first book in English, a reprinting of parts two and three of a long-term project called Dolores Dorantes. It’s a book that reminds me I’m not a critic. I read and write about other poets merely to understand them and my reactions to their work. But I don’t know what my reaction might be to this marvelous book (and its translation by Jen Hofer, that ends up recreating the book in a parallel, equally alluring, English universe, printed on the same page below the originals). Published next year (though it arrived in my hands a few days ago) by Counterpath Press and Kenning Editions, Dolores Dorantes is described by its author in a brief introduction:

“I might attempt to define these books as reflections of excitement, massacre and peaceful silence in the aftermath of devastation, at least in the case of September, but I don’t know for sure.” (x)

I remember sitting outside of Boston in early summer, near the ocean for several days, reading the printed-out sheets of Tabla sin asidero. Though I didn’t save those sheets (and the archives at her blog seem to have disappeared recently) I recall her untitled, undated prose fragments as a type of serial poem I absorbed in a realm above my logical, archivist impulses. Now reading her book, I come across familiar zones of uncertainty, dread, optimistic moments of love filtered through (or is it beyond?) the seep of daily news, empire, transnational capital, self-doubts — my own obsessions with dictatorship, misinformation and surveillance as enemies of poetry, what poetry dissolves in its sweep across plains of time, seconds equaling centuries.

Dorantes ostensibly works in minimalist forms, epigrammatic poems gathered in numbered chapters, divided into two books, texts from a life-long project the poet simplifies by using her own name for title. But the verb “simplify” is wrong, of course, otherwise I’d know what to say, or where to start with this. It’s not a collection, but rather a long fragment distilled for readers across the split page of Spanish & English. Hofer’s English versions are often departures from the originals in exciting ways, such as in this moment from chapter 2 of Septiembre:

a golpe de cincel:


with the blow of the chisel:

yourself find)” (62)

Now that I read this book in North Carolina, Boston seems to have only existed once in a growing list of phantom locations, places catalogued for a litany of mundane or astral cities (simultaneous and self-conscious, archive of the notebook’s incompletion). The desire of poetry, surrounding certain texts, is to unbind itself, moving according to its own architecture without explanations or reasoning. Dolores Dorantes is a visionary book whose absent parts reclaim the author and haunt the reader. It contains spectral dimensions, whether one considers the relationship between poet and translator (collaborators, really) who shadow each other across the pages, or if you stop to notice the interplay (intertext) Dorantes allows her readers.

You can read Chapter 2 of September at Action, Yes (Volume 1, Issue 3).

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