Translated from the Spanish by Liz Henry
Release date: September 26, 2017
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My Lai is first a document. A testimony to an era that touched us differently depending on our different circumstances. But being a document does not necessarily make it a book of poetry. More than anything, My Lai is poetry, and in my judgment, first-rate poetry that adopts a conversational “American” style of a certain density. This can be seen in the book’s language and its marvelous structure—the interspersed quotes, the internal movements of each text, the beat which goes dim and then radiates, the agony which doesn’t fall into the funereal pomp of rhetoric, the deep disquiet facing a personal, national, and universal era and history—in My Lai, all of this is recovered in the beautiful progression of the voice of Carmen Berenguer, a fundamental poet in contemporary Spanish-language poetry. From the singular experience that spans from the late 60s to the early 70s, she makes us relive an idealism, an anti-materialism, and an urgent sense of liberty that, more than a utopia, is a real possibility. This is an essential book to enlighten new generations about a living era that has so much to offer. —JOSÉ KOZER
A dizzying, quickening, rhythmic and hallucinatory text. As with all Carmen Berenguer’s writing, My Lai is a design for remembering, radical and inventive. A story of orphans, of ruffians, of authors and empresses, a hybridity of prose and poetry, of quotes and autofictional memoir; it is the tale of a picaresque, centered in the 70s. My Lai is a book of trips, of people in flight, of songs, of clashing languages. A labor of voice and journeying, of asthma and air, My Lai traverses the Americas and arrives at the North to embody the art of translation, the everyday tongue twister that every person who lives abroad from their country discovers on the road. —FRANCINE MASIELLO
In My Lai, Berenguer proves again why she has been, for quite some time, an essential Latin American poet. She does this in an introspective tone, sotto voce, as if the journey to a familiar but unknown place could only be made by way of her words’ emotions—what happens to them when they arrive at the reality where they had planned to arrive, yet still have trouble recognizing it. We sense the strange fullness of having entered a place in time and in the world that a great poet has invented.—EDUARDO ESPINA
Carmen Berenguer (Santiago, Chile, 1946) is a Chilean poet and audio-visual artist. She is the author of Bobby Sands desfallece en el muro (1983), Huellas de siglo (1986), A media asta (1988), Sayal de pieles (1993), Naciste pintada (1999), La gran hablada (2002), Mama Marx (2006), Maravillas pulgares (2009, digitally; 2012, paper), Venid a verme ahora (anthology, 2013), and Mi lai (2015). In 1997, Berenguer received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. She is the first Chilean woman recipient of the Pablo Neruda Award in 2008. In 2014 she received the Naji Naaman honor prize for her work. Her poetry has been gathered in several anthologies and has been translated to English, Swedish, French, Italian, and Persian. She has been an editor of various publications, including Hoja X Ojo (1984) and Al Margen (1986). She is one of the organizers of the International Congress of Latin American Women’s Literature (1987). She lives in Santiago, Chile and is an active member of the Chilean Society of Writers.
Liz Henry is a writer and technologist from San Francisco. Liz has been a member of the American Association of Literary Translators since 2001. Her published translations include works by Nestor Perlongher, David Rosenmann-Taub, Juana de Ibarbourou, Alberto Arvelo Torrealba, Carmen Berenguer, and Elvira Hernández, along with co-translations from Hebrew with Yehudit Oriah. Her own poems were recently published in 2012 by Aqueduct Press in the book “Unruly Islands”. As an editor, her works include Riot Grrrl zines from the 90s, many small books of poems and several anthologies published by Tollbooth Press and Burn This Press. With Robert K. Pesich and Sanja Pesich she edited an anthology of poems by San Francisco Bay Area poets in 2003. Liz live on a houseboat in San Francisco Bay until 2011 and now lives with her family, children, and cat in a house that was a refugee shack for survivors of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.