New Book: Pedro Mir’s“Poems of Good Love…and Sometimes Fantasy”

Pedro Mir’s Poemas de buen amor… y a veces de fantasía (1969) has now been translated into English by award-winning translator Jonathan Cohen. With an introduction by Silvio Torres-Saillant, this new bilingual edition was published by Peepal Tree Press (January 2023).

In following up his translation of Contracanto a Walt Whitman / Countersong to Walt Whitman, the publication of Jonathan Cohen’s translation of Poemas de buen amor… y a veces de fantasía, by the great national poet of the Dominican Republic, and an unquestionably major Caribbean poet, Pedro Mir, shows another side entirely of Mir’s work: intensely political in the Countersong, sensual and erotic in Poems of Good Love. There is a challenge that the translator rises to in making English language poems that are truthful to the deliberately opaquer language of this collection in comparison to the communicative clarity of Mir’s more overtly political collections.

Here, Mir sets himself the task of writing about love in a way that is truthful to the Marxist historical materialism he embraced, in contrast to what he saw as the conventions of love poetry where love is seen as some kind of disembodied spiritual experience. As the introduction by Silvio Torres-Saillant makes clear, there were negatives as well as positives that followed from the task Mir set himself. It is obvious that fifty years ago (1969), feminism had not yet penetrated Mir’s Latin American Marxism and there are elements of the patriarchal, indeed of the religiously Catholic in Mir’s insistence that the chief purpose of love is procreation. What Mir triumphantly gives us, though, is a celebration of the carnality of love and the sheer joy of sex as the biological gift that (perhaps) ensures our continuance as a human species.

Pedro Mir is considered one of the Dominican Republic’s most significant poets. Pulitzer-winner Junot Díaz recently said in The New York Times: “We need a lot more books in English about the Dominican experience. Fortunately, the field is growing, and there’s some good stuff out there. I recommend one start with one of the country’s greatest poets, Pedro Mir, his Countersong to Walt Whitman and Other Poems. Pure genius.” [View author profile]

Jonathan Cohen is an award-winning translator of Latin American poetry and scholar of inter-American literature. He has translated the work of Ernesto Cardenal, Enrique Lihn and Roque Dalton, and is the author of a pioneering study of Pablo Neruda. [View author profile]

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