Translated by Vanessa Pérez-Rosario
June 15, 2021
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The ocean in Boat People is haunted and the
book is the heartbreaking journey from sea to horizon. Melancholy and songlike,
Santos-Febres documents the nameless, the chum: bodies set adrift by commerce.
Like M. NourBese Philips’s Zong!, this phenomenal translation in which I become
“a drop of fish sweat,” my body dancing to the poetry’s music but also
lamenting the violences that underlie it. —Carmen Giménez Smith, author of Be Recorder and Milk and Filth
Mayra Santos-Febres is one of our most powerful writers, and Boat People has long been a part of the poetic counter-tradition that shaped generations of Puerto Rican poets. Thanks to Vanessa Pérez-Rosario, English-language readers are now plunged into the depths of a text that, to echo Patrick Chamoiseau, is composed of "that strange conference of poets and great beings," lost at sea, tossed on shores, or caught in a world without return address or safe passage. Written like a border drawn on water, this oceanic book is both a source of life and a record of death. It remains as devastatingly urgent as the day it was written.—Raquel Salas Rivera, author of lo terciario and while they sleep (under the bed is another country)