Roberts Pool Twilights / Roberts Pool Crepúsculos. Roger Santiváñez. Translated by Elsa Costa. U.S.: Cardboard House Press. 2017.
Roberts Pool Twilights / Roberts Pool Crepúsculos—carefully prepared by Cardboard House Press as a strikingly beautiful bilingual edition, dexterously translated by Elsa Costa—is divided into three sections: “I - Roberts Pool Crepúsculos” (“I - Roberts Pool Twilights”), “II - Dante’s Reading” (“II - Dante’s Reading”), “III - Final aún” (“III - Finale yet”), closing with the visual poem, “El delicioso enigma de la piscina” (“The delectable enigma of the pool”).
Santiváñez interrupts habitual forms of reading through a writing that engages the materiality and the limits of language. This liminal writing is salient in Santiváñez’s arresting use of enjambment and a sense of enticing agrammaticality, infusing the text. The closing stanza of “9.” from section “I - Roberts Pool Crepúsculos” (“I - Roberts Pool Twilights”) reads,
“Ese resonar no cesa never ever se ex
Tiende en el tiempo que me resta para re
Vivir su son aquí en la página que escribo”
(“This resonance never ends never ever stret
Ches in the time I have left to revive its
Sound here on the page I write”)
Each line, due to this enjambment—which breaks the sense of a line’s autonomy—paradoxically offers a reading of each line on its own, as a result of Santiváñez’s manipulation of line breaks, and in this case, prefixes. Santiváñez encourages us here, in a way suggestive of the Brazilian Concrete Poets, to begin reading where its seems most appropriate, where a linear reading, while certainly fruitful, is not the only possible point of entry.
The epigraph of Ezra Pound to Roberts Pool Twilights / Roberts Pool Crepúsculos—“She like a great shell curved”—may help us to enter the curved, organic structure of this book of poems, which seems to function with a circular logic that is both visual and linguistic. This logic is evinced by the titles of sections in Spanish written compositionally in circles, that are concluded by the translation of these titles in English. The fact that Roberts Pool Twilights / Roberts Pool Crepúsculos has been organized bilingually proposes an entrance into and closure of Santiváñez’s book of poetry.
In her translation, Costa engages Santiváñez’s challenging text as a kind of dialogue, which does not impose order or semantically capture Santiváñez’s poetic word. Rather, Costa’s translation reveals a poetic creativity that maps and conjures the syntactic procedures of Santiváñez’s poetry. The accumulative imagery of Santiváñez’s verse finds a conversational partner in Costa’s translating. For example, Santiváñez’s employment of enjambment—a procedure which would seem to be confined to the border purportedly established by one language—is reproduced, re-formed in English by Costa. We can see an instance of this translational care in the following fragment of “13.” from section “I - Roberts Pool Crepúsculos” (“I - Roberts Pool Twilights”):
“Insinuación de su oculto horizontal per
Fume inasible que ronda luciérnaga fugaz”
(“Insinuation of your occult horizontal in
Tangible perfume that hovers fleeting firefly”)
The transgression of linguistic borders gives way to a geographical liminality that inscribes Roberts Pool Twilights / Roberts Pool Crepúsculos. The closing visual poem, “El delicioso enigma de la piscina” (“The delectable enigma of the pool”), provides a temporal and geographic delineation of this text: “Praderas de New Jersey, Cadahus, en son US, 15 de julio de 2010” (“Meadows of New Jersey, Cadahus, en son US, July 15, 2010). At the same time, however, references to Lima, for instance, position Santiváñez’s book of poems as residing in both Perú and the U.S., a text which organizes and destabilizes the fixity of images and memories of either space. We can perceive this process in “4.” from section “I - Roberts Pool Crepúsculos” (“I - Roberts Pool Twilights”):
“Despedida que es mi canto fúnebre &
Sin embargo feliz hasta la sonrisa de
Una rimense monalisa tiempo intocada”
(“Farewell that’s my funeral dirge &
Happy withal till the sight of
A Rímac monalisa time untouched”)
If Roger Santiváñez develops a poetry of sensation, a poetry that cannot be detained upon the invocation of one image, that falls into the next, then a similar phenomenon takes place in his geographical self-positioning. Here, Santiváñez seems to await or project the “rimense monalisa” (“Rímac monalisa”) in a liminal space between Perú and the U.S., cognizant of a present localization, but always open, always inhabiting that other space.
William J. Ryan