Never Made in America: Selected Poems of Martín Barea Mattos
In this first full-length publication of his work in English, Uruguayan poet, visual artist, musician and cultural critic Martín Barea Mattos aims his poetic collage technique at the materialist pop culture that has become the norm in the Americas. Ubiquitous cultural artifacts and spaces like flash drives and parking lots take the place of icons of old as he moves along the circuitous streets of the modern city and into nightmarish mega-superstores (with Baudelaire as his guide), covering this territory with an accomplished array of stylistic shifts, sometimes reminiscent of Frank O’Hara’s musings on the everyday, sometimes with deeply symbolic imagery more resembling García Lorca. With echoes, as well, of Ginsberg, Kafka and Dante, Barea Mattos emerges here as one of the more daring and darkly funny voices in poetry today.
Called by Aliki Barnstone a “consummate poet-translator,” Mark Statman has rendered the work, often spiced with local idioms, into a compelling, readable English, perfectly capturing Barea Mattos’s singular style. With an Introduction by Jesse Lee Kercheval.
Praise for Never Made in America
From their particular spatial arrangements to their incantatory sound-repetitions, Martín Barea Mattos’ poems come to us with airs of specific lanes and gardens. In Mark Statman’s elegant translations, Barea Mattos’ poems gain new life—the life of “leftover material / memorial garbage dumps”. At times concrete, at others aerial, Barea Mattos’ poetry always keeps alive the consciousness of one human being, in words culled, as treasures, from daily use. Poetry is the beneficiary, and so are we, its readers.
In an optical illusion that plays with the reader and makes one question which is the original, poet Mark Statman translates to English Martín Barea Mattos, whose collage-like poetry is replete with plays on words, cultural references, social commentary, and a great deal of movement. Statman rises to the challenge due, in addition to his experience as a translator, to his command of the creative process and what it means to write poetry. Never Made in America is fresh and strident, gripping the reader from the first line.
Martín Barea Mattos is playful, artful and alert to the absurdities of language and the strangeness of life in the contemporary Américas. How fitting that his verse takes the tone of parable, protest and even prayer—a polyphonic ability necessary to navigate our broken world’s speed of change, double-speak and contradiction. We need this superb translation by Mark Statman of one of Uruguay’s energetic and thought-provoking voices.
Praise for Martín Barea Mattos
Automatic writing that attacks these disillusioned times of consumerist and empty postmodernism, much in the same avant-garde way as Chaplin in Modern Times. Workers peck without much hope for Progress. Here, with echoes of Vallejo or the Neruda of the Odes, of the Lorca of Poeta in New York or Alberti of Cita triste con Charlot, a display of how linguistic experimentation and humor are not at odds with social protest.
—María José Bruña Bragado
Martín Barea Mattos (dis)orders the universe of signs and thing in a political book about a century that literally exploded at its peak. But the song remains the same and this book registers the tensions of those times: a geography of a deserted wasteland, parking as a map of the poem. The poetry is not in the aisles: it is in the essence of the supermarket. Accumulate, scatter, invite and warn. Consumption in an exclusively human pirouette, an epochal face.
In this precarious and dilapidated habitat “life is a sale” made in the midst of filth. With this fetish, Martín Barea Mattos deconstructs the poetic breath in meticulous fragments of toxic materials. The poems take on the conscience not only of the products that surround us, but a quality of soul that belongs to them, of offers for lives whose prices are conjectural and at the same time priceless.
Martín Barea Mattos writes at the intersection of human rot and the sky we do not look at. Writing as if the world was no longer anything more than an old abandoned market in whose endless corridors the rats and vestiges of unfinished works swarmed, the poet desperately walks amid the sales aisles and wonders if there is anything beyond. After the shipwreck and oblivion, perhaps there is nothing but the value created by those survivors who, floating backwards in the water, still communicate with the “abysmal whisper of the sea,” facing the sky.