The Magazine, #2, 180121, Victor Rodríguez Núñez and Katherine M. Hedeen

The Magazine, #2, 180121, Victor Rodríguez Núñez and Katherine M. Hedeen

The current Kenyon Review (JAN/FEB 2018, Volume XL Number 1) features a special section, Generation Zero: New Cuban Poetry, edited by Katherine M. Hedeen and Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, translator and author of With a Strange Scent of World, herein.

In the introduction (available online), they write:

It’s not a cliché by any means to declare that few times in its history has Cuban poetry been more varied, innovative, critical, and attractive than it is right now. And an undeniable part of it is the verse written by what has been called Generation Zero (Generación Cero), poets born after 1970 and who began publishing after 2000.


The work by these young poets reaffirms Cuba’s long, rich tradition of dialogic poetry, which finds its identity through the identification with the other, and is marked by tensions between commitment and autonomy, dialogue and creativity, continuity and rupture.

This introductory essay is a succinct analysis of the situation of contemporary Cuban poetry, and indeed poetry in the Spanish-speaking world in the present ideological environment. They note, for example, that not a single Cuban poet was included in the recently released anthology El canon abierto: Última poesía en español [The Open Canon: New Poetry in Spanish] published by Visor, the most respected poetry press in Spain, in 2015, and add:

Cuban poetry has had to confront, above all in the seventies, neo-Stalinist aesthetic standards, which demanded, among other things, “reaching the people,” being clear and direct. This is precisely one of the paradigms of the so-called “poetry of experience,” which prevails in Spain today, with offshoots in Latin America, especially among the contemporaries of Generation Zero, the self-designated “poets of uncertainty.” By contrast, the young poets selected are very well aware, from historical experience, of the danger of making aesthetic concessions in the name of coherence and transparency, and, as such, they defend poetry’s integrity.

Which makes us wonder if we in the English-speaking world, where "coherence and transparency" continue to be the ideological vogue, might have something to learn from this collection.

And here's a poem to read and listen to from With a Strange Scent of World, by Víctor Rodríguez Núñez and translated by Katherine M. Hedeen, The sound files features Victor reading the poem in the original Spanish and  Kate reading the translation.
Kate and Victor both teach at Kenyon, where Kate also serves as Translation Editor for Kenyon Review
Pick up a copy of With a Strange Scent of World for half price, today only.

Praise for the Neutrino

For Jesús Selpúveda

I celebrate you

                       because no one in the world 

is smaller

               and still 

you cross galaxies nebulas stars

not reacting 

Because even as light

                                 you move

much slower than light

or rest motionless


the theory of a warming universe

Because thanks to you

                                   the past was only

reheated plasma and not ashes

Plasma’s density reached 

billions of tons

by cubic centimeter

Because no one knew

                                 until now

you were ninety-seven percent

of everything

                    leaving only three to be divided up

among sons of bitches and the rest

Because thanks to you

                                  no one’s far 

from anyone now and everything tends to join

And it doesn’t matter if

in a solid flame

                        at a radiant point

I celebrate you

                       because you are

                                                essence of spasm

matter of tenderness

                                 or that tiny bit of nothing

my aunt uses to brown her custards

Thank god

                  the world isn’t infinite

Like a verse

                    it’s made up of syllables 

that can be counted

The world fits in an alexandrine

Elogio del neutrino

Para Jesús Sepúlveda

Te celebro

                porque en el mundo nadie 

es más pequeño que tú 

                                   y sin embargo 

atraviesas galaxias nebulosas estrellas 

sin reaccionar con nadie

Porque aún siendo luz

                                  puedes moverte 

muchísimo más lento que la luz 

o descansar inmóvil 


la teoría de un universo caliente

Porque gracias a ti 

                            el pasado fue solo 

plasma recalentado y no cenizas 

La densidad del plasma 

era de billones de toneladas 

por centímetro cúbico

Porque nadie sabía

                             hasta ahora 

que eras el noventisiete por ciento 

de todo

           quedando solo un tres a repartir 

entre hijos de puta y demases

Porque gracias a ti 

                            nadie se aleja 

ya de nadie y todo tiende a unirse

Y no importa que sea 

en una llama dura 

                            en un punto radiante

Te celebro

                porque eres 

                                  la esencia del espasmo

materia de ternura

                             o ese poco de nada 

con que mi tía dora sus natillas

Gracias a dios

                      no es infinito el mundo

Como el verso

                      está hecho de sílabas

que es posible contar

El mundo cabe en un alejandrino

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