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By Word of Mouth: Poems from the Spanish, 1916-1959

Overview

The first collection of translations of Spanish and Latin American poetry by William Carlos Williams, containing many previously unknown poems.
William Carlos Williams (1883–1963) produced a startling number of translations of both Spanish and Latin American poetry starting during WWI and continuing through the late fifties. Williams grew up in a Spanish-speaking home and sometimes described himself as half-Spanish. His mother was Puerto Rican and his father spoke Spanish ...

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Overview

The first collection of translations of Spanish and Latin American poetry by William Carlos Williams, containing many previously unknown poems.
William Carlos Williams (1883–1963) produced a startling number of translations of both Spanish and Latin American poetry starting during WWI and continuing through the late fifties. Williams grew up in a Spanish-speaking home and sometimes described himself as half-Spanish. His mother was Puerto Rican and his father spoke Spanish fluently. “Spanish is not, in the sense to which I refer, a literary language,” Williams wrote in his Autobiography. “It has a place of its own, an independent place very sympathetic to the New World.”
Williams approached translation as a way not only to present the work of unknown Spanish poets, but also to extend the range and capacity of American poetry, to use language “with unlimited freshness.” Included in this bilingual edition are beautifully rendered translations of poets well-known — Neruda, Paz, and Parra — and lesser-known: Rafael Arévalo Martínez (from Guatemala), Rafael Beltrán Logron~o (from Spain), and Eunice Odio (from Costa Rica).

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Editorial Reviews

Edith Grossman
“Jonathan Cohen shows us why translation is crucial to understanding Williams, who approached it as an essential act of poetry. The poet emerges as the first among our modernist writers to see the literary value of translating classical and contemporary verse from both Spain and Latin America. By Word of Mouth makes that clear.”
Paul Mariani
“This book will reinforce the sense of Williams as one deeply invested in the language and rhythm of the New World — North as well as South.”
Wiliam Carlos Williams Review - Peter Schmidt
“Superbly compiled, edited, and annotated by Jonathan Cohen, and with a stimulating preface by Julio Marzán, the bilingual anthology By Word of Mouth is the most important addition to the Williams canon since Christopher MacGowan's edition of Paterson.... Every admirer of Williams' work should own this volume. It does not gather pieces of secondary interest. Rather, Williams’ poems from the Spanish are not just well worth reading in their own right; they will also enhance how we understand Williams' original English-language poetry and his evolution as a writer. Our notion of Williams’ work in 'the American idiom' should be forever broadened and changed because of By Word of Mouth.”
Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas - Jason Weiss
“Almost fifty years after his death, incredibly, the great American poet William Carlos Williams has published his first book of translations. Thanks to Jonathan Cohen, who had the skill and the care — and the awareness — to bring the book into existence, we now have a more complete picture of Williams's poetic practice.”
NewPages - Patrick Dunagan
“A splendid surprise.”
Peter Schmidt - Wiliam Carlos Williams Review
“Superbly compiled, edited, and annotated by Jonathan Cohen, and with a stimulating preface by Julio Marzán, the bilingual anthology By Word of Mouth is the most important addition to the Williams canon since Christopher MacGowan's edition of Paterson.... Every admirer of Williams' work should own this volume. It does not gather pieces of secondary interest. Rather, Williams’ poems from the Spanish are not just well worth reading in their own right; they will also enhance how we understand Williams' original English-language poetry and his evolution as a writer. Our notion of Williams’ work in 'the American idiom' should be forever broadened and changed because of By Word of Mouth.”
Jason Weiss - Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas
“Almost fifty years after his death, incredibly, the great American poet William Carlos Williams has published his first book of translations. Thanks to Jonathan Cohen, who had the skill and the care — and the awareness — to bring the book into existence, we now have a more complete picture of Williams's poetic practice.”
Patrick Dunagan - NewPages
“A splendid surprise.”
Mark Jarman - The Hudson Review
“The great pleasure of By Word of Mouth, Williams’ translations of poems from the Spanish, which he did throughout his career, is reading Williams as he puts on the language of Quevedo, Hernández, Neruda, and Parra, among many others, including his own mother. He saw translation as a way to practice and learn his craft, and in this he both takes part in an ongoing tradition of poetry and sets himself apart from the Modernists we think of as his peers, except for Ezra Pound. This collection is the first record I know of of an ongoing engagement with the poetry of Williams’ first language.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811218856
  • Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 10/5/2011
  • Edition description: Bilingual Edition
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 1,385,864
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

William Carlos Williams (1883–1963), author of Paterson and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Pictures from Brueghel, is widely considered one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. Also a short-story writer, novelist, essayist, and translator, he helped in a big way to establish modernism in America.

Jonathan Cohen is the editor and compiler of William Carlos Williams’ By Word of Mouth: Poems from the Spanish,1916–1959and editor and translator of Ernesto Cardenal’s Pluriverse: New and Selected Poems, both published recently by New Directions.

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