The work of Dominican poet and novelist Pedro Mir (1913-2000) was celebrated this past week at the Ateneo de Madrid, one of the oldest and most prestigious cultural institutions in Spain. The occasion was the celebration of the second edition of his Poemas, published originally ten years ago as the first book published by Editorial La Discreta. Mir is the Dominican Republic’s foremost 20th-century literary figure and his trajectory as a writer, art critic, and historian was celebrated through a concert of some of his poems set to music, like “Hay un país en el mundo” (There is a Country in the World), “Contracanto a Walt Whitman” (Countersong for Walt Whitman), “Concierto de esperanza para la mano izquierda” (A Concert of Hope for the Left Hand), and “A Julia sin lágrimas” (To Julia without Tears), among others.
Pedro Mir is considered to be one of Latin America and the Caribbean’s most distinguished 20th-century poets and is often compared to writers of the stature of Nobel Prize winners Pablo Neruda and Derek Walcott. Poems like “”Hay un país en el mundo,” with its haunting refrain “los campesinos no tienen tierra” (the peasants don’t have land) marked Mir as a poet committed to social justice for the embattlled peasantry of the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean. Mir, like fellow Dominican writer Juan Bosch a committed socialist, dedicated a great part of his life to political activity in opposition to the Trujillo regime and its political legacy. In 1982 the Dominican Congress conferred upon Mir the title of National Poet, and in January 1993 he received the National Prize for Literature. On the occasion of Mir’s death, the Dominican Republic declared three days of national mourning.
The edition celebrated in Madrid this week includes all of Mir’s major poems, among them his first book of verse, the incomparable Hay un país en el mundo. It also includes a previously unpublished poem, “A Julia sin Lágrimas,” dedicated to Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos. The edition was supervised by Mir himself and appeared for the first time just months before his death in 2000.
If you can’t read the original Spanish you can still sample Mir’s work in Countersong to Walt Whitman, translated by Jonathan Cohen, published in 2006 by Azul Editions (www.azuleditions.com).
The new edition launched this week can be found at Ediciones La Discreta
For more on the event in Madrid (in Spanish) go to http://www.larepublicacultural.es/article1697.html
Photograph of Pedro Mir by Joseph Shneberg.