The Poetess Counts to 100 and Bows Out: Selected Poems by Ana Enriqueta Teran

The Poetess Counts to 100 and Bows Out: Selected Poems by Ana Enriqueta Teran

by Ana Enriqueta Terán

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Ana Enriqueta Terán is arguably Venezuela's finest poet. Celebrated throughout the Spanish-speaking world, she is almost unknown among anglophones. Until now only a handful of her poems have been translated into English, giving at best a diluted impression of a uniquely intense imagination.

This bilingual edition reveals the power and beauty of


Ana Enriqueta Terán is arguably Venezuela's finest poet. Celebrated throughout the Spanish-speaking world, she is almost unknown among anglophones. Until now only a handful of her poems have been translated into English, giving at best a diluted impression of a uniquely intense imagination.

This bilingual edition reveals the power and beauty of this poet's Spanish poems through English versions of corresponding force. It invites readers to enter Terán's world--a world at once strongly Venezuelan and universally human, imbued with great beauty, sardonic humor, pitiless compassion, lucid wisdom, and joyful affirmation.

Selected from several volumes of Terán's work, these poems span half a century of composition and show an extraordinary range in both form and substance. Some are written in closed forms, some in free verse. Some are carefully evocative representations of the landscapes and cityscapes that have nourished the poet's intelligence and imagination. Others are dramatic character studies. All are infused with Terán's rare sensibility and realized through language that manages to be at once graceful, urgent, and explosive. This volume is a treasure for all lovers of poetry.

Deal Struck with Happiness

How much sweetness to make right the night
and this clutch of anemones
near thin smooth consoling stones,
stones havens of southern weather.
Of a woman who watches Cepheids quaver
among lightbursting mangroves.
Of a woman who offers cats-eyes and clematis
only, Islands, for the sake of setting right
her deal struck with happiness.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Born in Venezuela, where she still lives and works, in 1918, Teran published 12 books of verse between 1946 and 1992. Univ. of Alabama emeritus English professor Smith here presents a range of her steely and beautiful work, with original en face: "Simply complex, the heart turns aside/ from knowing the end where now/ becomes a robust darkness swelling/ grim light into reflex abyss." (Jan.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
American Book Review

Startlingly vivid and technically masterful poems, whose range and complexity [have] few equals. . . . [A] fiercely intimate journey contained in a slim but thoughtful volume.
— Christine Thomas
Antioch Review

The Poetess Counts to 100 and Bows Out . . . is a demanding selection of poems interweaving fables, myths, dreams, bold similes, and heightened visions of reality in order to interpret and commemorate what often nonetheless seem to be personal experiences. It is a sometimes puzzling yet also singularly sensual and resonant mixture, especially in the many cases where poems exhibit a semantically rich, philosophically ambitious, extremely compact lyricism.
— John Taylor

Product Details

Princeton University Press
Publication date:
Lockert Library of Poetry in Translation
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Barnes & Noble
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Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 2003 Ana Enriqueta Terán
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4008-2520-2

Chapter One

" To a White Horse "

What clashing of mane, what keening of neck bent toward slathery lips, sleek pastures of flank: horse pure white because I will it to be so! Your eyes copy the grave landscape, a foundered tree quakes at anchor, tinctures mulberry and skyblue clamber your haunches down the wind. You run from me, are lost in green cresting grasses, steer your breastplate toward the clashing western thicket; you run from me, a darkening pool, and white from breast to stringent gorge out of my depths your whiteness sings.

" The Name " As one who writes a prayer and asks in the prayer for great humility and extensive breath to fight off the glitter and immediacy of words. It's my office, the sentence leaping up out of gold-flecked black sand. And in the prayer asks for great obedience and right grasp of the name. No signature except the name entire on the bald dome of the poem: Ana Enriqueta Terán. Ana Terán. Ana Terán Madrid. I like this name. This solitude and rare artifice detached from me on its way to oracular clarity. That it is me myself running about over the islands, space grasped between my helplessness and the scales, rings, and snakebites of all we live and breathe.

" Wordstone " The poetess finishes the wordstone, measure and hazard. She cuts on the bias through other ages of other litigations. She auscultates the day and discovers only night plumed with autumn. She bursts, vested in the simplest act, into the congregation hall. She gets on her knees with her riches in the iguana's lair ... Once quite ready, she goes back to the starting place. The abuse place. Disclaimed are her sacred birds, her dimlit cave, her mode and rarity. Cowardice and foreign recklessness fronting the age and its solid gold periods. The poetess responds to every fire, all chimera, knotted brow, loftiness that replicates itself in equal sorrow, in equal wrestle through more shade through a grain of additional sweetness for rank grown old. The poetess shows her eagles. She is resplendent in their deep cloud wings. She is made mistress of the seasons, the four she-dogs of fair and foul weather. She is made mistress of gravel and scalped land chosen with forethought. She nails a great fiery macaw where she has to get down on her knees. The poetess finishes the wordstone, measure and hazard.

" Deal Struck with Happiness " How much sweetness to make right the night and this clutch of anemones near thin smooth consoling stones, stones havens of southern weather. Of a woman who watches Cepheids quaver among lightbursting mangroves. Of a woman who offers cats-eyes and clematis only, Islands, for the sake of setting right her deal struck with happiness.

" The Eagle " The eagle his splendid habit absolute shade. The original manna-giver above the sky in the exodus. What breathes in beloved islands. The eagle shut up inside the heart. The eagle spreadeagled and consummated in knotted brows of the fatherland. And that fixed and far-off unalloyed wretchedness that intuits God's fringes, my rags and God's and this so unfettered and solitary that spreads itself out in the night.

" Fit Vision of This Dark Side " It's the silversmith's daughter carries messages from the gods and an offering to no god at all. Shadow and aquiline mien given thanks for, ash, bread in salty saddlebag, circumstance and notice of exodus to come. Robust deservings like autumnal tatters over your upright ignorance. It's the silversmith's daughter, her spans of sweet spices, her essential fragrant jewels for sunken continents, for damsel with metal udder and long rusty hair. She will be in the night what the sunflower is in forts of the free. There will be memory of kingdoms and inheritance primogenital. Causeway with living tongues will take for itself symbols and annunciations. It's the silversmith's daughter. Oh! Fit vision of this dark side.

" Dreams " I We were and we bequeathed somber constancies: lovely and very far-off sweethearts like birds poised on dark stones; seamen and soldiers vigorously arranged in nightspace; she-wolves of raw and furtive silk through the maze of havens; little musics intermittent and haggard like fireflies in night oil. Delicately and on the other hand offered, throbs numerations and beginnings of large nutritious panting: and someone beyond the bottom, order or contribution of ancient truths to the fine ruthless secular semblance of odium.

II This time we did the stretch with masks fitted to the purest delight, to the purest most solitary gesture of the damsel and her customary mournful stance. Someone a-kneel imitating a sunflower. Polyphonic plenty, rhythmic arising; the sea with its thousands of blue genitals, the sea down under the water's hide. This time we listened to the most alien colors. The perfumes were entering through our eyes. The perfumes carried a stench of music and of forest nodding off, of very young pianos above island nudity. Then why turn your face away and huddle again in the blinding contemptible vigil. III They said to me, "Leap, throw yourself into a run, let yourself go, turn yourself totally toward the music and abandon, forget your necessity, your salt-cured cloud in agreeable hands natural delicately allowed." Because the touch of blind folk denudes the marble, casts aside or even ignores plackets arranged to resemble wind; silken lagoon over thighs and a prior smile palpates when it memorizes a satin mouth, simple, instantaneous, almost ashamed if the shame should have to insist above the main portal, this one of shades and motionless polishings.

IV Pieces of fabric, heroic rags, sparrowhawks of other thirst. Shreds of eagle instead of soul floating on the bottom. I was dreaming: "Goodbye." And it was forever. The boy, his carnality a blind animal's facing limitless drought. Solitude apes my gestures, sleep gets up with me. Solitude, shade of your shadow, delicate, perplexes the illspeaking and formerly dulcet foreigner.

V At some time the music, its infinite gash; the color, its fans forever mirages; the form seized by the eagle that stands instead of constancy. The bones, the stone bones motile reverent and seized by the secular draft of weeping.

VI The humbled one, the young keepsake welling up out of the breathless apple, out of the altar-cross sacred to the bird that makes deep tracks. Mountains as fine-honed negotiations and eager angelic profile. He will judge the violent against fabled beggars anxious about the word and lucent shibboleths. I will fear the dreadful pace, the coming in and the going out of the unconsoled like the sea in quiet coves. The sluggish chore will come down like gout from craziness, a harmful butterfly darkly designed. On the other hand will blossom the pure, uplifted, unsoundable blind girl's expression.

VII Let the the abandonment's habit and stuff obligate the stranger's smile at her most desolate floweret. Let the passerby offer to the unknown his saddest animal unseen by both. Let the Nation clip dark birds over memorable dates and dream's sacred urge.

Let summer come to be known as a spatial rose, as a unique house poised above a rhythm of hills for lovers that traverse the sky, and the unspeakable continuing audacity of banners over fatherlands and deep hurricanes. VIII We work out the proportion, the pause between someone and the plundered absolute. Barking outside is the beast of the one same portal and farther away toward overtaking the mother and following a throb barely thrusting, digging out of the impatient coming again of nothing. Then I live, or that feeds me only which says about me (not for me) something that dreams me but is not able to give me stature, nor a scrupulously polished skeletal frame: Lime's affirmation, last refuge of the I while I ooze out, turn into fumes, let myself go more sleepless than the soul. IX St. Mark 14:51-52 In their hands the shame, the inconclusive destiny. He ran away naked. Vivid tangential grimace squeezed out and sudden among everlasting forms and vocables. Some light, some nation decisively on its knees. A lone goodbye: ultimate, solo gesture. Spacious hand upraised forever. X She took me to my father's place and his boiling turtles; there the other woman kissed my hands for the last time and had not touched a flower. Evening ran across among trees foretasted and read. Advising the lion, beginning to be wolf bitch; a bull, a sweet bull gave me a name. "The heir doesn't have to play to be eaten," they answered. Eight saints passed by, eight green carved animals and a goodlooking teller of tales. When at last I opened my hand his face fell. I had no intention of picking it up; it was talking off the floor. XI The jeweler was asleep when the eighth girl took back the bronze ring. Both horses were looking around the square for a rider; another horse was feeding on manehair under the central tree. I was excavating black butterflies for the outspread cloak. The horseman took the sword and the dog I offered him. To not be through night and my own song might have kept me blind. My mother called me from a southern balcony. I came back, skin damp, shoes in hand.

XII They formed groups under a sensible tree turned bluish. They were men with black sunflowers highest up: "They are hunters, martyrs, a great silversmith; I will beg their pardon." Kneeling, I confessed my guilt but there wasn't any judge. Nobody wanted to be judge without roseate birds to confuse himself with. The woman who had been the she of kings still wore her crown. "I offer you a purple bird and wait for your orders." Yesterday, finally, night. Only the dogs move around. Only the dogs have met my sunflower, purest abysmal black. XIII At some time I will be in the unknown window and I will be the daughter. The amply robed acrobat will pass from one rattlesnake to another; about one or another rattlesnake shut up in black I will lift up my cry. The girl will be always on blue thigh mountain. (Rescue the Nation, make it your house, out of your loins birds have been born, as well as the destruction that comes to the tallest jawbones.) I will court the tattooed children: that is my back; the man will pass driven by his own wolfpack: that is my face. There where his long hair may kill him will be the assignation. We will go. XIV Mother, mother, my first cousin asks for news and tears. I will take him a list of births (my memory is bad), if the smell persists he will remember fruit fitted to ultimate thirst. I wanted my boy not to have a mask but a virile sun has chewed off his face. Mother, mother, my boy lies afloat in an immense water. Tonight his idle knees take my breasts in. Behind my headboard, O! hellish timber, the tunnel begins, the ascension begins of knees. Orders I obey: "Give up your shawls, your punctuation marks, your ABCs." Sentences let go of: "Your hair will be cut at full moon." The voice: "I am kin to the blind man abusing his and your idiot."

" Third Try at the Mother House " Third pacing it off, third giving it up, time now to get the house- the plumage that covers the month, enshadows thigh and year- hip, good plumage and sunrise-frown when they went away. This is for your own good: "You, island; you, mangrove; you, queen cottonmouth, go quite slow, sunflower at right hand always." And she who scrutinizes everything, who sews up rips in the sky, the iguana's flaws, and goes forward quite deliberately between virgin beeswax draperies wearing studs in autumn. Third time, third going out from the pages spooking the white horse, embanking cloudbones, arms open so as not to fall over themselves. And the time is doled out. Packets are assembled and laid out in blue-collar trades. Three by three the fabric, three by three the yards of fabric, drawings on the belly, good farmland stamped on the thighs. For the third time (third try at the mother house), forward, forward, looking to stay put, to build a fire, to get rid of the smut of former time, to reduce the blossom to the size of the eternal. A solitary pledge: To use the mirror to shut the eagle up in. O! gloomrose upright in the image dreamed.

" Messages for the Older Brother " For Luis Daniel Terán I The mourners who smile and pass by say goodbye with folded hands. They ground themselves on the phrase of old family prestige. Not to be ashamed, not to be ashamed. But it is spoken of, it is remembered. O my sisters, how lovely we were. Our shadows are lovely still. II They bought the night, the wandering light dreamdresses, the sight of black stone, without tears when they left him evermore in his young death. Somebody was buying. They bought dates, names, light touchings of plants over the so sweetly affectionate breast of the girls. They bought the house, my tree, walls, bricks, cedar doors. Father and mother as well. Us as well, folk all really handsome, deep, free affirming the same fire the same grace as David facing the circled tower. III My house, our house, left pale so many times. Like this flower that makes itself dark in memory so as later to come back with another face pretending not to know the taste of eagles of beauty peculiar to the canopy all at one strike in the air's breast. And in this contempt, O my brother, in this contempt. My house, our house, its rear to those handsome names, majestic house and somber, as crossing through one selfsame dream, recognized and almost perfect in nubile rejections, in fiancée with stalk of sweet cane, her naked foot's throat slit above flowering lawn. The house, the old house of pride and raw force. IV There were dogs like darker holes in the shade. Immense, outspread, above the wall they sketched in the eagle. Numbers too, profiles, outline of a left hand. Muted spurs: high narrow knees of agrarian captains.


Excerpted from THE POETESS COUNTS TO 100 AND BOWS OUT by ANA ENRIQUETA TERÁN Copyright © 2003 by Ana Enriqueta Terán. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

Richard Howard
In this attractive anthology, Terán discloses a powerful and grand spirit, whether addressing her mother, her eagle, her rivers, or her dead brother; the idiom varies from the freedoms of early modernism to formal sonnets to the 'old woman's toys' of her final tercets, but the feelings are always dense with loved objects and local solicitude.
Gwen Kirkpatrick
Above all, the poetry of Ana Enriqueta Terán transmits movement and contrasting sound patterns. In his dynamic and often inspired translations, Marcel Smith recovers for us the sprung rhythms and eccentric visual shifts in Terán's poetry. Smith has taken the risky step of translating and transforming to capture an extraordinarily complex and dense poetry, one with few equivalents even in Spanish.
Gwen Kirkpatrick, University of California, Berkeley

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