Nothingness in the Rough


Gabriel Magaña Merlo
trans Suzanne Jill Levine
First book to be published in English by the great Mexican poet.


(La Nada en Bruto)

Gabriel Magaña Merlo
translated by Suzanne Jill Levine

ISBN 978-1935084235
120 pages: $15.00
November, 2012

Diálogos is proud to present the first full-length book to be published in English by the great Mexican poet Gabriel Magaña Merlo, translated by the winner of the 2012 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Translation, Suzanne Jill Levine.

Here is what poet Frank Ducros, who has translated La Nada en Bruto into French, has to say about Gabriel Magaña Merlo:

Within the canon of forms we have inherited from antiquity, poetry has always been presented as either narrative (Homer), discourse (the philosophical poem) or sometimes, lyrical song (Alcman or Sappho).  This continues to be the case in even the most modern avatar of tradition, that is, the novel, despite the sophistication of its most audacious authors (such as Proust, Joyce, Faulkner).

Only a few poets, following Mallarmé’s brilliant intuition that “poetry has completely changed its course after the great Homeric detour” which implied that narrative and discourse conceal rather than reveal the very essence of poetry, have ventured on a different path—upon which the word, necessarily embodied in language, cuts across that language limiting what it can say. It cannot be limited or reduced, furthermore, because it seeks by means of language itself the connections between the word, at its moment of birth, and the web of real things upon which it is called to reveal—not in the wake of things that have already appeared, but in their first, immediate and most secret possibilities of articulation.

Among those poets who have ventured on this path is Gabriel Magaña Merlo.

The result is a word that is not just bare or stripped down. Its rarity comes from its articulation by means of a syntax that is not and cannot be grammatical; the word precedes the very thing to which it is bound, and can only be a rhythm tracing a web of relations which would otherwise remain hidden, without the poem that produces the revelation.

In other words: none of the conventional forms suits the word. The difficulty implied in reading this poetry has nothing to do with an intended obscurity, but has everything to do with the need to let go of our age-old habits of reading.



Gabriel Magaña Merlo was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico in 1944. He has published five books of poetry in Mexico and numerous poems in various magazines. Lejos alcanzado aquí, a selection of poems from all of his books, was published by Fondo de Cultura Económica in 2012. La Nada en Bruto is translated here as Nothingness in the Rough by Suzanne Jill Levine. It has also been translated into French by the poet Franc Ducros and published in France as Le rien rugueux (Théétète editions).  His book Intolerante superficie has been translated into Italian by the poet Nanni Cagnone and will be published in Italy as Superficie insofferente by Edizioni Galleria Mazzoli. Translations of his poems have been published in Words Without Borders and the magazine OR, and will soon appear in Mandorla and Common Knowledge. In France, they have been published in the magazine Prevue poésie littérature esthétique of the Université Paul-Valéry—MontPellier III.


Suzanne Jill Levine was born in New York City.  She has received many honors for her translations of Latin American literature, most recently the 2012 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Translation, for Jose Donoso’s The Lizard’s Tale, and her recent chapbook Reckoning (Finishing Line Press) reflects her double life as poet and translator.  The author of Manuel Puig and the Spider Woman: His Life and Fictions and The Subversive Scribe: Translating Latin American Fiction, she is the general editor of the Penguin Classics Borges series and founding editor of Translation Studies Journal at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Additional information

Weight 9 oz


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