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Toward the Splendid City: Poems

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Poetry. In this bilingual collection of poetry, Marjorie Agosin focuses on the great cities of the world and the suffering endured there as the result of war and similar atrocities. With a spare hand, Agosin also creates haunting and memorable portraits of the people who populate this landscape, allowing us to see that at the core of our existence is something human, something indeed splendid.

"Collection divided into four sections, each devoted to a different city but unified by the poet's quest for...

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Overview

Poetry. In this bilingual collection of poetry, Marjorie Agosin focuses on the great cities of the world and the suffering endured there as the result of war and similar atrocities. With a spare hand, Agosin also creates haunting and memorable portraits of the people who populate this landscape, allowing us to see that at the core of our existence is something human, something indeed splendid.

"Collection divided into four sections, each devoted to a different city but unified by the poet's quest for splendor amid suffering and injustice. No ancillary material; translations are excellent, however. Bilingual format (Spanish on the right, English on the left) is provocative"--Handbook of Latin American Studies, v. 58.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Agosin, a U.S. native, was raised in Chile and writes in Spanish. At first, these bright lyrics on somber themes (mostly alluding to recent history: ``Auschwitz,'' ``What Was Yugoslavia'') intrigue and captivate with the gentle surprise of their images: ``To encounter/ cities/ I unlearned/ the rhythm of/ maps.'' At length, however, Agosin's lightly poised oxymorons seem overly mannered, lacking the moral stature of the subject matter, and the empty virtuosity of some formulations can rankle: ``a perpendicular and open street,/ a threshold,/ a doorway where I encounter myself/ like a remembrance.'' The reader discovers a tendency merely to wait for the clever turn in the final pungent phrase of a typical poem. Translator Schaaf follows Agosin's delicate idiom with ease and insight. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Over recent years, U.S. readers have looked to contemporary Latin and South American poets for accounts of war, torture, and the mourning of loved ones. In some of her best poems, Agosin-born here and raised in Chile-depicts ravaged, if unexpected, landscapes: Sarajevo, Dubrovnik, Auschwitz, or torturers in unnamed, vividly depicted countries. Unfortunately, struggle is not the main focus of this bilingual volume. Drawing upon her wanderings, Agosin works toward the metropolitan utopia suggested by the book's title and the titles of individual sections. Her descriptions are clichd at worst, unspecific at best. Jerusalem is described as having "insomniac eyelids." Cities are seen in the eyes of a son, a lover, and a mother. Despite her avowal to seek "what is/ luxuriantly/ innermost, hidden,/ untamed," she seldom penetrates the surface, making all cities sound alike. There are a few nice moments, but the whole is formulaic and unmemorable.-Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780927534468
  • Publisher: Bilingual Review/Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1994
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.51 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.47 (d)

Meet the Author

Marjorie Agosín, human rights activist, writer, and scholar, was born in Bethesda, MD, in 1955, but her family returned to Chile when she was only three months old. A descendant of Russian and Austrian Jews who fled pogroms and the Holocaust, she grew up in Santiago de Chile, where she attended the Instituto Hebreo (Jewish school) until she was fourteen. Then, the Pinochet dictatorship forced her family into exile. In 1971, they moved to the U.S., where Agosín completed her education. She is currently a professor of Latin American Studies at Wellesley College, MA. Agosín has won several awards for her human rights work, including the Good Neighbor Award given by the Conference of Christians and Jews and the Jeanette Rankin Award in 1995. She received also in 1995 two prestigious literary prizes: the Letras de Oro prize for poetry, and the Latino Literature Prize for her poetry collection Toward the Splendid City (1994). Agosín is one of the most prolific Latin American women writers living in the US. She has published over 20 books of poetry, four books that could be defined as either autobiographical fiction or memoirs, three collections of short fiction, and 10 books that include scholarly work and personal essays devoted to women and human rights. She is also the editor of 18 anthologies of literary works, literary criticism, and autobiographical writings. Her poetry, fiction, and most of her essays are published in Spanish. Her early poetry collections were first published in Latin America, but her latest poems have been first published in the U.S. in bilingual editions. Her autobiographical writings focus on her family background and her personal experience of displacement as a Jewish Chilean woman in the U.S. She defines herself as Latin American, rather than Latina, and considers herself primarily a poet. Cultural translation is an essential aspect of her works as a committed writer, educator, and scholar. As an editor, she is mainly interested in giving visibility to Latin American literature and culture, and especially women's contributions in literature and in the arts.

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