Gelsys García Lorenzo in “Asymptote”


The new issue of Asymptote (April 2020) includes translations of four poems by Cuban writer Gelsys García Lorenzo. The poems were translated from Spanish by Loretta Collins Klobah and Maria Grau Perejoan, whose forthcoming bilingual anthology of thirty-three Caribbean women poets—which includes more poems by García Lorenzo—is titled The Sea Needs No Ornament/ El mar no necesita ornamento (Peepal Tree Press, 2020). [You may access García Lorenzo’s poems here.] The translators write:

Cuba, her island of birth, is at the core of García Lorenzo’s acute, condensed, and subtly ironic—mostly narrative—poems. Her lines are concerned with issues such as politics, human nature, and expressive arts throughout the passage of time. The selection of poems translated here are four of the five by her that we also included in our bilingual anthology of over a hundred poems by thirty-three Caribbean women writers, The Sea Needs No Ornament/El mar no necesita ornamento (Peepal Tree Press, June 2020). These poems are political in the sense that they refer to imperialism and dictatorship. She draws parallelisms using both artefacts from past centuries and cheap, throwaway consumerist objects.

Architectural details, such as caryatids, and other wondrous items poetically retrieved from curiosity cabinets create a fantastically foreboding dreamscape of the revolution. Automatons like those crafted by Swiss watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz in the late eighteenth century and a wind-powered clock, complex inventions seen as emblematic of modernity in their day but later relegated to museums as outdated, as well as vending machines, are incorporated into poems that do not offer easy answers or certainties about the present moment or the Cuban social experiment, but exquisite chiaroscuros of the Caribbean island, critiques of imperialistic global forces, and reminders of the role of the writer-artist. Translating García Lorenzo’s short poems has been a joyful exercise of precision, a watchmaker’s precision.

Gelsys García Lorenzo (b. 1988) received her doctorate degree in Hispanic philology from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in 2016, and her licenciatura en letras from the Universidad de La Habana in 2010. She has published the poetry collections No te afeitarás en vano (Hypermedia Ediciones, 2016) and La Revolución y sus perros (Leiden, 2016), among others. She has also compiled an anthology about Bible-inspired theatre pieces, Anuncia Freud a María (Leiden, 2017).

Maria Grau Perejoan holds a doctorate degree in cultural studies with an emphasis on Caribbean literature and literary translation from the University of Barcelona, and an M.Phil. in cultural studies from the University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago. She was a visiting lecturer at the UWI, St. Augustine Campus for three academic years, she then moved on to lecture courses in translation and Caribbean literature at the University of Barcelona. Since 2020 she has been a lecturer at the department of Spanish, modern and classical languages at the University of the Balearic Islands.

Loretta Collins Klobah received the OCM Bocas Prize in Caribbean Literature in the category of poetry for her first book The Twelve Foot Neon Woman (Peepal Tree Press, 2011). It was also short-listed for the Felix Dennis Prize in the Forward Prize series. Her second book Ricantations (Peepal Tree Press, 2018) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and a National Poetry Day selection. It was long-listed for the Bocas Prize. She has been awarded the Pushcart Prize, the Earl Lyons Award from the Academy of American Poets, and the Pam Wallace Award for an Aspiring Woman Writer. Her poems have been widely published in journals and anthologies. She lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she is a professor of Caribbean literature and creative writing at the University of Puerto Rico.

Here is the link to the poems

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