Fuel and Fire: Selected Poems 1956-76
Translated by Julia Leverone
ISBN: 978-1-944884-54-3 (pbk.)
124 Pages: 17.95
Fuel and Fire is subversive poetry, written unabashedly against the deadly Argentine state that unrolled the dirty war in the seventies. Francisco “Paco” Urondo, journalist and militant, extended the ability of poetry to witness and denounce the circumstances of his time, frankly and devastatingly–when he himself was made to live clandestinely, fleeing the threat his insistent writing and activism posed. The poems of this translated selection were produced between 1956 and 1976, the year Urondo was assassinated by the state. They contain humility and desperation, accusation and lament; they place blame on an ignorant public, but hope in the hands of individuals, of those who can give themselves over to love.
This selection from Urondo’s Obra poética, (Adriana Hidalgo, 2006), edited and translated by Julia Leverone, offers for the first time to English-speaking readers an overview of the work of this prolific and dedicated poet and activist. Juan Gelman, a fellow poet and friend, remembers Urondo as saying once that he “took up arms because he was looking for the right word,” which illustrates the inseparability, for Urondo, of his art and politics, placing him in the tradition of other political poets like Wilfred Owen, Eugenio Montale, Paul Celan, Zbigniew Herbert, Robert Hayden, and Adrienne Rich.
This selection includes representative work from his first book, Ancient History, through Battle Stories, written near the time of his death. Of the work of this translation Julia Leverone writes:
I translated for the poems themselves. I have been in intervals stricken with the texture of Spanish words as they convert to English, with the sweetness of a literal phrase; and with the incredible truths being spoken in them. Paco’s voice, and message, were on my mind, but I have a voice and hold a message, and am also a poet. I cannot deny this. Paco had not yet been brought to the English-speaking world of poetry, and because of this I intended to make his late debut a show of all his talent; how he navigated his revolutionary ideology, his cityscapes, and conversationality. But where I could I made the choice for sound and, by extension, the wholeness of the poem. He paid attention to these, so I do, as my American English ear sends me. Interpretation occurs in some moments where my mind was with the reader. I have been Lowell and Pound, you and Benjamin. And above all, Urondo: even in my writing, away from the translations, he stays with me.