Translated by G. J. Racz
While the Wolf is Around
Mientras el lobo está
120 pages: $16.00
While the Wolf Is Around [Mientras el lobo está], which won the 2009 Generation of ’27 Poetry Prize, is the sixteenth book of poetry by Eduardo Chirinos, one of Peru’s most important contemporary authors. A member of Peru’s 80’s Generation, Chirinos has been widely anthologized in the Spanish-speaking world. While the Wolf Is Around treats many of the subjects and themes found throughout Chirinos’s oeuvre: the return to childhood, the vagaries of memory, the alternative reality of dream, a fascination with animals, the utility of seeing and hearing, the writer’s place in poetic tradition, the ongoing commentary on art and film, and the never-ending search for originality through innovative expression. Chirinos’s poetics wage a constant battle against linguistic exhaustion, frequently staving off cliché through a wry tone and simple eloquence. This book is his fourth in English translation, joining Reasons for Writing Poetry, Written in Missoula, and The Smoke of Distant Fires.
Eduardo Chirinos is one the leading voices of contemporary Latin American poetry, one of the most accomplished, prolific, and adverturesome in the entire lyric repertoire in Spanish.
Chirinos is one of the most outstanding poets to appear within the last thirty years. His words create a recognizable but original world, at one and the same time natural and accessible, like something out of our own experience.
José Miguel Oviedo
Within his historical context, that of Peruvian poetry in the 1980s, Eduardo Chirinos represents that rare case of a poet who aspires to be nothing more than a poet.
Martín Rodríguez Gaona
Chirinos is simultaneously lyrical and narrative, mythic and historical. His poetic visions are circular voyages in which the subject is just a point of reference within a language that constantly confounds him.
The formal beauty of Eduardo Chirinos’s poetry is certainly one of its bastions, written as it is under the torrential sweep of words the poet both restrains and measures out, scanning them into what will end up being a poem.
Juan Carlos Abril
Let’s just say that, in Chirinos’s work, the force of his words lies in dignifying the ordinary precisely for its ordinariness: scenes so common as to pass by unperceived, moments that make up our days but not the lists of “This Day in Hisotry.”
The challenge in Chirinos is to hurl meaning toward epiphany, which he overwhelmingly succeeds in doing.
Eduardo Chirinos invites the reader into his circle game of chance observation and poignant discovery, and his accounts of the daily routine, memory, poetry and paintings find a fortunate home in G. J. Racz’s translation. Grounded in moving rhythms and brilliant word choice, these versions manage to elevate the commonplace as well as the precious to a level of subtle musicality and delight.
Lisa Rose Bradford
Eduardo Chirinos is lucky to have G. J. Racz as his translator. Racz brings to the task a great knowledge of Spanish and great skill with American English. He knows how to transform spoken language into poetry, as Chirinos does. A lesser translator would fall into prose. Racz’s translations are accurate equivalents of Chirinos’s poems, and a great pleasure to read.
Jonathan Cohen, editor/compiler of William Carlos Williams’s By Word of Mouth: Poems from the Spanish, 1916–1959
In these intensely personal yet erudite poems, Eduardo Chirinos draws from his childhood in his native Peru as well as from the classics and myriad other sources. The speakers here address writers, painters, and philosophers, even Poetry itself, in meditations that juxtapose the quotidian and the sublime. Bravo to the poet, and to translator G. J. Racz for delivering another collection of Chirinos’s verse so naturally into English.
Daniel Shapiro, Editor, Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas, Americas Society
In While the Wolf Is Around, G.J. Racz masterfully renders the playful, ironic tone of the original into English, yet he refuses to sacrifice the uniqueness that makes Eduardo Chirinos one of the most notable voices in contemporary Spanish American poetry.
While the Wolf Is Around confirms that Eduardo Chirinos is one the most relevant poets in Spanish-language poetry today. In this highly engaging book, written with lucidity and passion from its structure down to the details, memory shakes hands with daily life, chronicle with invention, friendship with literary admiration, one’s own life with the lives of others. What’s remarkable here is the breadth and depth of the understanding of reality, which includes art and poetry itself as objective consciousness: “Yesterday the sun reflected/ off the blade of a knife. Maybe it was trying/ to tell me something, but I only shut my eyes./ I’ll hold onto that resplendence until tomorrow.” This is a book of prose poems where the prose isn’t prosaic, it doesn’t forget it’s lyric, and it flows aided admirably by the language’s transparency and precision. Just like in the best Spanish-language poetry from halfway through the last century, in these pages what’s emphasized is the implicit message, what’s sought out is an active reader, who completes the text begun by the author, and so: “Everything a poem has to say should be/ hidden.”
Víctor Rodríguez Núnez, author of thaw