Translated from the Spanish
by Donald Wellman and the author
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Roberto Echavarren writes riffs in a style that might be called “gonzogongorism.” He is fast and funny, cool, catchy and cruel. If you stick with him, you’ll become unstuck, but you’ll end up knowing more about yourself and what may be happening to you. –JOHN ASHBERY
To speak of Roberto Echavarren is to speak of the Neobaroque, and of a need to scandalize and provoke. It is also to speak of polyphonic verbal pyrotechnics of a kind rarely seen before in Uruguayan poetry. –ALVARO OJEDA
Whispering a language of oddities, The Espresso between Sleep and Wakefulness advances as a mixture of cruelty and humor, where the events express a unique generative law: that of the metamorfosis between the animal and the human, between the organic and the inorganic, between the personal and the impersonal. –ADRIÁN CANGI
We see here the topic of androgyny, emerging with the strength exerted by what has been freed of the gender’s naturalistic impostures, as the poet himself wrote in his essay Gender and Performance. A transgenderism coming from a whole spectrum of sources that affects gender, writing genres, and now the psychic transgeneric passage from sleep to wakefulness. An express train like a unique and continuous vibration. —LUIS BRAVO
Echavarren’s poems are born of an accumulation of experiences; they allow for a plurality of voices, and are formed from numerous, multifarious layers. The poems are characterized by abundance; references and allusions open up toward distinct horizons.—ALEJANDRO PATERNAIN
Roberto Echavarren has several prize-winning books of poetry to his credit, most recently El expreso entre el sueño y la vigilia (Montevideo, 2009) and Centralasia (Xalapa 2014; bilingual edition Sao Paulo 2014). El monte nativo (Buenos Aires 2015) is his latest title. His poetry is definitive. Rooted in both surrealism and contra-constructivist practices, it employs both dislocation and disjunctive series.
A native of Uruguay and professor of world literature, long associated with New York University, he is the co-editor, along with José Kozer and Jacobo Sefamí of Medusario: muestra de poesía Latinoamericana (Medusario: A Survey of Latin-American Poetry), the leading anthology of poetry in the Neo-Baroque style. Echavarren’s critical prose addresses the distinctive characteristics of innovative Latin-American poetry.
Among his earlier books of poetry are La Planicie Mojada (1981), Animalaccio (1986), Aura amara (1989) Universal Ilógico (1994). Performance (2000) is a critical anthology of Echavarren’s works with appreciative and analytical essays by many hands. Among other works by Echavarren of special importance to understanding his poetic practice is Fuera de género: criaturas de la invención erótica (Buenos Aires, Losada, 2007, Montevideo, La Flauta Mágica, 2014). Here one encounters meditations upon androgyny, surrealism and performance, work calculated to bend gender expectations and free the imagination to pursue the material pleasures of poetry.
“The voice of Roberto Echavarren,” writes Eduardo Milan, “alternates between intense subjectivity and equally intense objectivity. In his work two surfaces often become one, male and female are interchangeable, meaning lies on the surface of the words, not on a transcendental plain.” The echo of Deleuzian schemata is deliberate. Echavarren writes a nomadic poetry marked by fissures, faults, and reclaimed margins where a plurality of worlds blend one with another serially as in film or jazz. The work presented here, The Espresso between Sleep and Wakefulness is a transcreation in English that closely follows the text of Echavarrren’s El expreso entre el sueño y la vigilia, Montevideo (Premio Fundación Nancy Bacelo, 2009), one that, like the original, employs line length and punctuation conventions intended to create a distinctive reading experience for the reader of English poetry. (D.W.)
Donald Wellman, poet and translator. As the editor of O.ARS, he produced a series of annual anthologies including the titles Coherence (1981) and Translations: Experiments in Reading (1984). His poetry is a blend of projectivist poetics and language-centered poetry. He works with source material from several languages. His collections of poetry include Roman Exercises (2015), The Cranberry Island Series (2013), A North Atlantic Wall (2010), Prolog Pages (2009). Books of translations are Antonio Gamoneda, Gravestones (2009) and Description of the Lie (2014); Emilio Prados, Enclosed Garden (2013); Yvan Goll, Neila, Evening Song: Last Poems of Yvan Goll (2016). There is a bilingual edition of his work Remando de noche: La Poesía de Donald Wellman // Night Rowing: The Poetry of Donald Wellman (2015). Albiach / Celan: Reading Across Languages is forthcoming (2016).