Cipango

Overview

Chilean poet Tomás Harris's Cipango—written in the 1980s, first published in 1992, and considered by many to be the author's best work to date—employs the metaphor of a journey. The poems collectively allude to the voyage of Columbus, who believed that he'd reached the Far East ('Cipango,' or Japan), not the Americas. Building on that mistaken historical premise, Cipango comments on the oppressive legacy of colonialism in Latin America—manifested in twentieth-century Chile through the 1973 military coup by ...

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Overview

Chilean poet Tomás Harris's Cipango—written in the 1980s, first published in 1992, and considered by many to be the author's best work to date—employs the metaphor of a journey. The poems collectively allude to the voyage of Columbus, who believed that he'd reached the Far East ('Cipango,' or Japan), not the Americas. Building on that mistaken historical premise, Cipango comments on the oppressive legacy of colonialism in Latin America—manifested in twentieth-century Chile through the 1973 military coup by Augusto Pinochet and the brutal dictatorship there—and on the violence and degradation of contemporary urban society. The author's vision is of a decadent, apocalyptic world that nonetheless contains the possibility for regeneration.

Cipango is characterized by strange and obsessive imagery—strips of mud, will-o'-the-wisps, vacant lots, blue rats—juxtapositions of contemporary and archaic diction and of incongruous settings that range over time and place; the use of an understated irony; and a dark, incantatory voice. The speakers in various poems address personages such as Columbus, Marco Polo, and the Great Khan, and refer to a breadth of sources including Columbus's diaries, Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers, Bram Stoker's Nerval's Aurelia, the Holocaust, Billie Holiday, and the film Goldfinger. The book's content and formal elements combine to produce a work of almost epic scope, one with universal appeal.

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Editorial Reviews

American Poetry Review
The enormous challenge of translating this poetry and creating coherent poems in English has been met admirably by Daniel Shapiro….Tomás Harris is an exceptional poet, hardly known in the United States, who is engaged in writing in and about our history-battered time. Daniel Shapiro, with his rich, accomplished translations, has performed an immense service by bringing Harris' writing to the attention of the Anglophone public….Shapiro has made a significant contribution to our literature by providing access to this important poetry.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611483291
  • Publisher: Bucknell University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2009
  • Pages: 321
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Harris

Tomás Harris is the author of Cipango and other books of poems.

Daniel Shapiro is director of literature and editor of Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas at the Americas Society in New York.

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