A Spanglish blog dedicated to the works, ruminations, and mongrel pyrotechnics of Yago S. Cura, an Argentine-American poet, translator, publisher & futbol cretin. Yago publishes Hinchas de Poesia, an online literary journal, & is the sole proprietor of Hinchas Press.

Saturday, March 31, 2012


Superintendent John J. Pedicone, Ph.D.
Tucson Unified School District
1010 E. Tenth St.
Tucson, AZ 85719
(520) 225-6000

Hinchas de Poesia
Yago S. Cura, Publisher
Max Macias, Librarian
1_9__ Venice Blvd.
L.A., CA. 90066

Dr. Pedicone

We have never met, and my son and/or daughter is not a student in the school district you oversee. I am writing today in my capacity as the publisher of Hinchas de Poesía (www.hinchasdepoesia.com), an online literary journal, and in collaboration with Max Macias, a Chicano librarian that lives near Portland, OR. We are both members of REFORMA, although the contents of this letter and the opinions expressed herein are solely our opinions (Yago S. Cura and Max Macias).

We are writing to express our intense gratitude for your continuing, yet albeit wholly indirect, support of Ethnic Studies in the United States of America. Put Simply, if it were not for you upholding Arizona state law ARS 15-112, which prohibits the use of educational materials that, "promote the overthrow of the United States government; promote resentment toward a race or class of people; are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group; advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals," then Ethnic Studies in the United States might still just be a tangential, ancillary artery of Literature.

As a small online publisher I may have had increasingly less and less to publish; likewise, with less Ethnic Studies books, Max would have less and less books to shelf (because that's the only thing librarians really do!)We understand that you are not only upholding the law, but your conscience as well! We salute your efforts and comprehend that without the pencil-pushing demagogues in the T.U.S.D. Governing Board and the myopic middle-management zanganos that could not teach their way out of a sopping-wet, paper bag, there is no way you could have marched into that classroom in Tucson High Magnet School, boxed up those books, and goose-stepped out.

We understand your leagues of apology press releases and we salute (heartily, as if from a fatherland) your press releases that negate Shakespeare's The Tempest as a banned text, or that the texts that are banned are available through the Tucson Public Library, which assuredly has enough Ethnic Studies texts available for every darn Arizonian. There is so much compassion in the Latino community that we blanket you with understandings, comprehendings, and cognitive integrative systems. But, let's be honest: without your sage and cosmopolitan bigotry, many of the writers whose books you rightfully banned might have been relegated to the status of literary conference hags and community college writing hacks destined solely to the erosion of illiteracy at the "hood" level.

But, as Sherman Alexie believes, you have made these texts sacred, eminently attractive to minority students, and a hive of rumors, gospel, heresy, and yellow journalism. You have a forced editors out of their editing chairs and deputized them (informally, of course) to become book smugglers or librotraficantes. Tony Diaz, the editor of Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, could have just been another minority writer, editor, translator, teacher; you have made him aspire to justice and smuggle into your district relatively unknown texts which now smolder with the mesmerizing possibilities of something forbidden. You have empowered our texts at a time when less and less people are reading books, especially when the numbers of people of color is at an all time low-high not high-low.

Monday, March 26, 2012


The Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti is relatively unknown in the United States, but in Latin America the name Mario Benedetti is synonymous with Poetry. Even though the work of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is more heavily championed in the United States, Benedetti is the real workhorse of Latin American Poetry. By the time of his death in 2009, Benedetti had published over 80 books (poetry, novels, plays, etc.) in Spanish, and his poetry, plays, and fiction have been translated into more than 25 languages. Although Benedetti is primarily known as a poet, his work was the basis for two movies, 1975's La Tregua and 1992's El Lado Oscuro del Corazón (both produced by Argentine movie companies).

Benedetti's poems are the ones young boys in Montevideo plagiarize the most to their girlfriends. His poems are the ones on the lips of taxi drivers, sanitation workers, and salarymen. That is why, Witness: The Selected Poems of Mario Benedetti, translated by Luoise B. Popkin is such a gem. Witness not only brings Benedetti's best work to light for a discerning American public, it does so through a translator that knew and had a working relationship with Benedetti while the author was alive. A personal relationship with an author does not a translator make, but Louise B. Popkin travels frequently to Uruguay and knows the Uruguayan dialect and several of the registers Uruguayans utilize on a daily basis. Thus, in terms of proximity to source language, Popkin's translations are on some next-level, high-fidelity grind.

Reading Benedetti's poems are like listening in on a phone call to Montevideo, or ear hustling a pavilion of Uruguayan ingenues. Benedetti's poems are colloquial and direct in ways all poets would all like to emulate, but rarely can. In Office Poems (1959), Benedetti sings of the numbing drudgery experienced by the salarymen and salarywomen of Montevideo. These poems address that sense of financial obligation that suffocates office workers the world over, but Benedetti doesn't point his finger at them: dread is universal, an almost modern rite of passage,

"in this envelope stuffed with peso bills
dirty from so many dirty hands
which they pay me, of course, at the end of each month
for keeping their books up to date
and letting life go by,
one drop at a a time
like rancid oil."

Benedetti played a large part in legitimizing Cuban literary venues and endeavors, serving as a celebrity poet at several conferences and workshops on the island during the late 60's. Furthermore, he was politically aligned with the Tupamaros, an urban guerilla movement that gained notoriety after staging some dramatic fund-raising in banks and depositories. Benedetti was a lefty, but he was openly critical of the atrocities and the state-supported terror that Latin American military inflicted upon the populace during most of the 70's. With that said, one of my favorites from Witness: The Selected Poems of Mario Benedetti, is "Desaparecidos," the term used in Latin America for dissidents and students that were "disappeared" by police and military agents during most of the 70's.

"They're out there somewhere/ all assembled
disassembled/ bewildered/ voiceless
each seeking the others/ seeking us
hemmed in by their question marks and doubts
with their eyes on the ironwork in the plazas
the doorbells/ the shabby rooftops"

According to Margaret Randall, the feminist poet, writer, photographer and social activist, Mario Benedetti visited the United States in 1959, but was later denied an entry visa by the U.S. government. This might go a long ways to explaining why his allure is so dismal in the United States, but Benedetti doesn't strike me as a person interested in the court of American public opinion. Witness: The Selected Poems of Mario Benedetti (White Pine Press, 2012) is the definitive, comprehensive tome for enthusiasts of Latin American Poetry but the translations are so seamless that poetry fans writ large are bound to take notice and hopefully a revival of Benedetti's work might ensue.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Macarena Shoes

"most people doing the Macarena: 1,541"--U.K. Guardian, Thursday 17 November 2011

No coincidence the wrist:
a.k.a. most chismoso of the appendages.

Or, that a tier of Filipino inmates
could be coerced by Warden-Michael-Jackson-Fan
to execute the monster dance jamboree in “Thriller.”

Entonces, only in group dances do we jump
as one packet of certifiable, concerted entity?

Como es que hacen en Pyongyang, pues?

Or, perhaps, the answer is quite simple: they do it in Pyongyang
with state-issued Macarena Shoes.

O.K., then, my Macarena Shoes are assault slippers
that glissade vibratto fuzzicles of Amphibian Television.
that jete from Fad-Dance Tendons to Phalanges of Increasing Gusto.

No, sir, my Macarena Shoes move smoov', unbound by Physics,
deployed by Wizards on Alchemy Campuses, sought by several
low-level distributors.

My Macarena Shoes engender moves.
And, moves sleep deep in the bussoms of Boys
despite the consternation of fey shoulders.

Latchkey kids feel me on this: the minute the tumbler released
the bolt for me to enter my unattended home my moves became inspired,
and I swore I could move like a Belizean named Dunbar Bradley
or Basil Edgar Thomas.


I finally did this interview thing for Rafa Alvarado's World Wide Word Radio Network. Give it a whirl and listen to my chocolatey radio voice and Louise's awesohttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifme answers, especially her beliefs against using Latinate cognates to translate Southern Cone Castellano which has its own way of saying things.


Saturday, March 17, 2012


I will be interviewing Louise B. Popkin for Rafa Alvarado's World Wide Word Radio about Benedetti's "Witness" (White Pine Press) on Wednesday, March 21, http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif2012 from 11:00am until 12:00pm.

According to the website, Louise "resides in the Boston area, where she teaches Spanish at Harvard's Division of Continuing Education. She also spends several months each year in Montevideo, Uruguay, and her translations of Latin American poetry, theater and fiction have appeared in such literary journals as Triquarterly, Mid-American Review, Kenyon Review, and Beacons, as well as in numerous anthologies.
Please tune in and join the conversation,

So, I thought I would come up with some questions to ask Louise B. Popkin since our interview is going to last for at least an hour.

1.) I see in Benedetti's poems a great love of juxtapositions, and odd pairings. Like in "Angelus," Benedetti describe an office environment where the tables are big enough "for all our elbows" and then follows that up with, "una silla que gira cuando quiero escaparme/ a chair that spins when I want to get away." I imagine this does not make it easy for you as a translator. Please talk about some of the difficulties you had translating Benedetti's poems?

2.) Could you please talk about your process as you translate, from what you listen to in the background as you translate to the type of computer you use? Is your process completely analog, or are there digital elements?

3.) In the introduction to "Witness" you new book out on White Pine Press, you talk about translating "Birthday in Manhattan" and how Benedetti's work is deceivingly straight forward, but rich with allusions and meanings you would have to coax out. Could you please elaborate?

4.) In what ways is literary translation like hunting or setting up a trap for an animal?

5.) In Office Poems it almost seems Benedetti is trying to incite the salarymen and salarywomen of Montevideo to throw off their cubicle-yokes and riot. Do you think Benedetti might have wanted to incite office workers to revolt against their immediate supervisors?

6.) Nowadays, having a job, any kind of job, is seen as a blessing. Do you think the tension in Office Poems might be lost on an audience that's weathered the severe economic downturn of 2008 to the present?

7.) Do Office Poems talk specifically about a malaise only felt in Montevideo, or is this Dread of Offices a global phenonmenon?

8.) In your opinion, did Benedetti do something specific against the U.S. government to deny him an entry visa? Was it simply his involvement in cultural events and the Cuban Milieu?

9.) What do you think Mario Benedetti might say about a person like Julian Assange and WikiLeaks? How does Benedetti's poetry stand as "Witness" against daily degradations and obfuscations that happen in Latin America?

10.) You write that the last time Benedetti was in the states was in 1959. Do you think this contributed to his limited publicity before an American reading public? In other words, might he have cultivated more of an audience in the U.S. if the U.S. government hadn't barred him from entering the U.S.?

11.) Why should we read Benedetti in the states? What poets do you believe he has directly influenced, much like Vallejo directly influenced Benedetti?

12.) I see that for this book, Witness, you collaborated directly with the estate of Mario Benedetti and White Pine Press. Where there times when they wanted different things? Was this an organic collaboration, or did you feel at times different players wanting different things?

13.) How did you go about selecting the poems in Witness? How does the title directly address Bendetti's involvement in political movements, and why did you decide to title it Witness?

14.) Was there an over-riding thematic approach you used to select the poems you were going to translate?

15.) What books are on Benedetti's book shelf in the afterlife?

16.) What might have Benedetti said about River Plate descending to a second tier futbol club? I know Benedetti belonged to Nacional, but do you think he would have been a fan of Forlan's?

17.) Why aren't there more poems about futbol? I know of Galeano's Futbol a Sol y Sombra but besides that one, I haven't heard of too many poems written about futbol. The format of poetry seems especially suited to the short bursts of creative energy that typifies the game.