In her most recent book, Watchword—the winner of the Villaurrutia, Mexico’s most esteemed literary prize—acclaimed poet Pura López Colomé writes of life at its brink with fierce honesty and an unblinking eye. This work shares the darkness, intensity, and skeptical hope of Thomas Hardy’s great poems. Like them, López Colomé’s poems have flashes of secular mysticism, sparked from language itself, which generate unforgettable passages and give voice to a world familiar and odd, wounded and buoyant. In the energy and...
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In her most recent book, Watchword—the winner of the Villaurrutia, Mexico’s most esteemed literary prize—acclaimed poet Pura López Colomé writes of life at its brink with fierce honesty and an unblinking eye. This work shares the darkness, intensity, and skeptical hope of Thomas Hardy’s great poems. Like them, López Colomé’s poems have flashes of secular mysticism, sparked from language itself, which generate unforgettable passages and give voice to a world familiar and odd, wounded and buoyant. In the energy and intensity of her work and in her exhilarating words, we discover both a line of conduct and the source for a richer life. This bilingual edition features the poems en face in Spanish and English.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Searching for ‘divine narration,’ this poet drums on the heart of oblivion.”—Jeffrey Cyphers Wright, Brooklyn Rail

“Gander observes that López Colomé’s poetry has hermetic qualities, but he seems to want to let us in. … His careful set of choices in the act of translation complements this attitude, allowing him to heighten the warmth in English even as he retains the discipline of López Colomé’s movements.”—Kristin Dykstra, BOMBsite

"Watchword is a thought- and emotion-provoking book in that the subtext of several poems is a personal struggle with cancer whereas the texts themselves gander widely and maintain a kind of height that transcends the individual human condition." —John Taylor, Antioch Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819571182
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 2/8/2012
  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
  • Edition description: Bilingual Spanish-English ed.
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

PURA LÓPEZ COLOMÉ is the Villaurrutia Prize–winning author of several important books, including El sueño del cazador, Aurora, and Intemperie, as well as a volume of collected poems, Música inaudita. She is also the translator into Spanish of works by Samuel Beckett, H.D., Seamus Heaney, William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein, and others. In 2010, she was awarded the Linda Gaboriau Literary Translation Award. FORREST GANDER is a noted poet and translator. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Core Samples from the World. His most recent translation, Firefly Under the Tongue: Selected Poems of Coral Bracho, was a finalist for the PEN Translation Prize. He is the Adele Kellenberg Seaver Professor of Literary Arts and Comparative Literature at Brown University.
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Read an Excerpt


By Pura Lpez Colom, FORREST GANDER

Wesleyan University Press

Copyright © 2007 Pura Lpez Colom
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8195-7118-2



    Quién eres, qué

    A Barrie Cooke, el más abstracto de los figurativos

    En este mundo caminamos / sobre el techo
    del infierno, / contemplando las flores. —ISSA

    Despliega sus alas
    sin orlas
    sin vuelo
    al caminar
    al azar
    al borde de unos setos
    que jamás se han percibido
    mucho menos
    silvestres, casi;
    al descubrir
    entre su fuego,
    no en aquello
    que Ilusión resguarda,
    que en esta vida
    —esta única—
    hay que gozar,
    dejarse colmar,
    bañar de júbilo
    y más júbilo
    hasta verlo líquido;
    hay que nunca
    a quien se ama
    con igual candencia,
    igual flama que llama
    a que esas aguas
    el primer hervor
    ese único.
    Y es tan difícil.

    Y se las ingenia uno
    para ubicuo ser
    ante umbrales


    certidumbres, reciedumbres, costumbres
    a la vista.

    Por ejemplo,
    el decoro, las finezas,
    semejantes sutilezas
    en absoluto innecesarias
    cual palabras que definen
    el sonido del amor,

    apófisis mastoides,

    hueso que vibra
    en catarata
    del todo desasida
    de sí misma

    de jilguero.

    Por ejemplo,
    lo que el hado
    en virtud de otra persona
    logra en uno.
    Mucho más consuelo
    que el dolor
    o su plural:
    el incurable

    Un toque del pulgar:
    la luz y la distancia solas.

    Un deslizamiento de las palmas:
    el universo intuido

    Sus líneas,
    de Fortuna
    de Futuro.
    Y dicen, y hablan
    por los tímpanos:
    un paisaje en abundancia,
    un ansia de buscar
    un agotamiento que, de pronto,
    se asome entre colinas
    y revele
    ese jardín
    de huella en huella.

    Acaso los sueños.

    Desde un fondo
    color vino,
    color ebria soledad,
    desde sus penas fluviales
    y sus vados,
    emerge un ser humano
    femenino y tan mortal,
    tan de antemano.

    Algunas facciones.
    Algunos rasgos
    de las lenguas
    o el color.

    Ocres contra blancos,
    cabelleras contra pieles,
    peso de la carne
    contra lo ligero
    de una historia personal,
    acuarelas que arrasan,
    lágrimas sin sal.
    Y aún así,
    aquella historia
    querría reblandecerse
    al óleo:
    ser cuerpo herido
    en la entretela
    que rasgue y elucide
    este subsuelo,
    este paraíso.

    Who Are You; What

    To Barrie Cooke, the most abstract of the figuratives

    In this world we walk / on the roof
    of hell, / gazing at flowers —ISSA

    1. THE DEMON
    Unfurls his flightless,
    as he strolls
    a line of hedges
    that had gone unnoticed,
    never sniffed
    nor even
    cultivated before,
    all but wild;
    and what you see
    inside his fire,
    by Illusion,
    is that this life
    this only life
    must be relished,
    allowed to brim
    and to wash you through with elation
    and more elation
    until life liquefies;
    never would you
    someone you love
    to such heat,
    even for this vision
    of a speaking flame
    hissing waters
    into their first boil
    their only boil.
    And so the going is hard.

    And so you find a way
    to stay present
    to thresholds, penumbras


    affirmations, consolations, adaptations

    For example,
    decorum, finesse,
    as feckless as the words
    used to express
    the groans of love,

    mastoid apophysis

    a bone that throbs
    in a cascading
    broken loose
    with itself

    from a goldfinch.

    Consider, for example,
    what fate,
    by virtue of someone else,
    might draw from you.
    By far, more consolation
    than grief
    or its plural:

    The touch of a thumb:
    nothing but light and distance.

    Palm against palm:
    an intuited uncharted

    The palm's lines,
    of any Future.
    But they say
    what they have to say:
    full as a landscape,
    prodding us to seek
    the depletion that
    peaks between hills
    and reveals
    a garden
    of signs within signs.

    Perchance to dream.

    From winetinged,
    depths, binges,
    from fluvial agonies
    and their fords,
    a human being emerges
    in brushstrokes,
    feminine and ever so mortal,
    from the start.

    Certain features take
    shape. Strokes
    of idiom
    and color.

    Ochers against whites,
    hair against skin,
    her muscular weight
    against the lightness
    of her personal history,
    banal as it is;
    evaporating watercolors,
    saltless tears.
    And even so,
    such a history
    might be softened
    in oils:
    that the wounded body
    in the canvas
    might illuminate and elucidate
    this underworld,
    this paradise.


    Violáceo viaje
    a una matriz
    al descubierto.
    Dedos vegetales
    que se estiran ululando
    son los míos,
    los que tocan las membranas
    más delicadas del ojo
    por dentro.
    Han dejado ahí un residuo dactilar,
    un estanque de círculos

    Algo avanzó por los arroyos,
    los hilos de agua
    de mis nervios,
    una manera táctil de silbar,
    de llamarle a alguien por su nombre


    cubriendo de emociones
    su rugoso tronco
    sin que,
    se enrede,
    se enrosque,
    se encienda
    su fragilidad.

    Mas los cielos no se abrieron ni voz atronadora
    hizo estremecer tejidos interiores aún más tiernos,


    tan susceptibles, tan finitas
    tan proclives al aumento,
    tan sensibles al misterio.
    Tan inflamables y estallables.
    Tan puertas de par en par
    a la sensualidad de un pensamiento
    capaz de darle un vuelco a las entrañas.

    Que en ese su instante de tranquilidad,
    cuando Equilibrio las sorprende
    pueden recibir la campanada
    que las recorra de punta a punta,
    enviar el sonido hasta la campanilla
    y un sustantivo llenar,
    ahora sí,
    la boca de verdad.
    Un por fuera
    prolongándose sin cielo:


    que avisa, sosiega,
    se clava y penetra,
    eje a colores,
    gracia en brote.

    Sólo tú sabías el nombre
    y lo dijiste:
    los pistilos,


    en las papilas,
    desprotegidas éstas
    de la descarga
    del sabor.

    Simple y llana flor silvestre

    que alguna vez imaginé,
    cuyos pétalos entorné
    como a las hojas
    de una puerta,
    como a mis párpados,
    y luego conocí en persona,
    echada en el pasto algún domingo,
    a los diez años de edad.
    Y parecía
    dirigirme la palabra.

    Tibuchina Flower

    A violaceous voyage
    toward a womb
    of discovery.
    Vegetal fingers,
    ululating, strum up
    an identity:
    they're my own,
    and they touch the most
    delicate membranes of my eye
    from the inside.
    There they leave a dactylic residue,
    a pool of unique

    Something surges through the channels,
    the watery threads
    of my nerves,
    a tactile whistling,
    as though someone had been called by name


    the rough bark flushes
    with emotions
    but without—
    the fragility of emotion.

    And yet, the skies didn't open, no thundering voice
    reached even the most sensitive tissue.


    so susceptible, so limited,
    so given to thickening,
    so sensitive to mystery.
    So inflammable and explosive.
    So thrown open like doors
    to the sensuality of a thought
    capable of turning the stomach.

    In that instant of tranquility,
    when Equilibrium catches the membranes
    off guard,
    they absorb the clanging that
    vibrates through them, one end to another,
    as sound shimmies down to the uvula,
    until at last
    a word can fill
    the mouth with truth.
    The outside
    goes on minus its sky:


    which teases, appeases,
    pierces and fixes me
    on its axis of color,
    thankfulness in bloom.

    Only you knew the name
    and spoke it:


    stored in the papillae
    from the firing
    taste buds.

    A simple and common wildflower

    I think of now and then
    whose petals I opened out
    like the leaves
    of a door,
    like my eyelids,
    a flower I feel I met in person
    lying on the grass one Sunday
    when I was ten.
    And it seems to me that flower
    led me to the word.

    Tres escenas lacustres

    Creí que no existía
    al pie de la letra.

    Mirando el cielo cambiante
    recostada en una barca,
    mecida en cuna primordial
    con nupcial velo de tul
    y encaje de mortaja
    por la tangible mano
    del viento.

    Todo lo sabe,
    es principio que pronuncia
    esto no es barca sino barco,
    nave de locos, desquicio
    Las nubes
    su cabello de ángel;
    tras él
    un alarido ubicuo
    —ven, escóndete aquí, ésta es tu casa—
    que quiere ser de, pertenecerle a
    un sitio
    junto a alguna cordillera
    un valle con ríos cual nervaduras
    de las hojas cuando impúdicas
    muestran el envés
    o cuando éste se muestra púdico
    en el esquema de un cuerpo
    con sus músculos y sus dendritas,
    cual pertenencias, mis pertenencias,
    mis seres queridos
    que comienzan a entumecerse

    rumbo a otra parte,
    difuntos a quienes mi pulso
    mece al vivir
    como de aire.

    He nacido ahí.
    No merced a un pescador
    que me invitó, hechizando,
    a seguir sus pasos sin planta,
    sino al verdadero dueño
    de ese sueño desnudo de temor:
    dejarse arrullar, abandonarse,
    observar bien,
    observar el azul,
    no perderse entre las ansias
    de caminar sobre las aguas.

    Three Lacustrine Scenes

    I didn't believe literal
    could exist.

    Watching the changeable sky,
    lying in a boat
    rocked in a primeval cradle—
    with my tulle marriage veil
    and a lace shroud—
    by the living hand
    of the wind.

    Knowing everything to come,
    genesis says
    this isn't a ferry, just a rowboat,
    a ship of idiots, an endless
    The angel-hair
    of the clouds
    dissolves and
    from behind
    them, a howl
    —quick, hide yourself, here's your home—
    seems to echo from,
    pertain to,
    some neighboring cordillera,
    a valley rivered like the nerve system
    of leaves when, without shame,
    they bare their undersides
    or when the undersides shamefully suggest
    the schemata of a body
    marked by muscles and dendrites,
    pertinences, what pertains to me,
    my own body parts
    which begin to go numb,

    to go haywire,
    dying off even as my pulse
    tries to pump them with life,
    so many huffs of air.

    I was born there.
    No thanks to the spellbinding
    fisherman who called me to follow,
    soundlessly, in his steps,
    but thanks instead to the actual dreamer
    of that dream stripped of its terrors:
    that dream of letting go, of being lulled,
    of looking clearly,
    steadily into the blue
    instead of losing myself to the longing
    to walk on water.


Excerpted from Watchword by Pura LÃ?pez ColomÃ?. Copyright © 2007 by Pura LÃ?pez ColomÃ?. Excerpted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
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.

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Table of Contents

Prefacio de traductor (en inglés)
Quién eres, qué
Tres escenas lacustres
Llaga profunda
Acaso Borneo
El cuadro de mi vida
Diálogo de las cenizas
Fábula disuelta, ensimismada
Y el anturio, impávido
Qué escándalo
Cor cordis
Una mancha
Año Uno
• Conejo / Año Luz
• Liebre
Sueño de música estelar
Los viejos almacenes
Contar los hilos
Agua helada
Imitatio Christi
Allée Marie Laurent
Translator’s Preface
Who Are You; What
Tibuchina Flower
Three Lacustrine Scenes
Deep Wound
Maybe Borneo
My Life’s Portrait
Dialogue of the Ashes
Dehiscent, Enraptured Invention
And the Intrepid Anthurium
The Roar
Heart’s Core
Come On In
A Mark
First Year: Rabbit / Light Year: Hare
Dreaming a Music of the Stars
Those Old Grocery Shops
Counting Threads
Ice Cold Water
Imitatio Christi
Allée Marie Laurent
Poet’s Afterword — Ethereal Slipknot: The Intangible Integrity of the Poetic Word (On winning the Villaurrutia Prize)
Translator’s Notes
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