The Spines of Love
The Spines of Love
By Víctor Terán
Translated from the Zapotec and Spanish by David Shook
The Spines of Love collects work from Víctor Terán’s poetic oeuvre for the first time in a trilingual edition: in their original Isthmus Zapotec (an endangered indigenous Mexican language) and in David Shook’s Spanish and English translations.
"The enormous stone that I am,
no one can move it.
But something happens to it,
just one of your glances
and it trembles undone."
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About the Book
The Spines of Love collects work from Víctor Terán’s poetic oeuvre for the first time in a trilingual edition: in their original Isthmus Zapotec (an endangered indigenous Mexican language) and in David Shook’s Spanish and English translations. Sensual and intricately wrought, these poems take readers on an emotional journey through love and loss with a searing lyricism entirely Terán’s own. His lover’s body is a city where the poet can “give perfect directions,” her name slips over his tongue “like a fish between the hands / of a fisherman,” and when she leaves him it’s with memories like “an ocean of incessant fish.”
The Spines of Love stands for a simple but bracing truth: Yes, love can hurt, but even after it departs, it strengthens us.
“I’m reminded of Pablo Neruda in a bitter mood. The poems are about lost love and betrayal, and the long free verse poems with short lines owe something to Neruda’s laconic and confessional style. There’s also a dry wit in these pages….There are times it teeters on the edge of the sentimental, but somehow regains its balance just in time….Full of delightful twists of image when describing the poet’s emotions….His style is graceful and vivid, his subjects compellingly familiar.”
—Judi Sutherland, Sabotage Reviews
“A significant array of stateless languages and cultures, while positioned outside the reach of dominant nation-states, has begun more recently to create new literatures as vehicles for those outsidered by the ruling powers....Like others so engaged, and perhaps more than most, Víctor Terán begins from a base in the Zapotec spoken–and now written–on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and in Oaxaca, and pushes outward to merge and become a part of the poetry and literature of the world at large....The importance of these poetries for a new poetry and poetics of the Americas is by now irreversible—or should be. Terán’s forthcoming publication by Restless Books in Brooklyn is but another step in that direction.”
—Jerry Rothenberg, “Poetry and Poetics” blog for Jacket 2
About the Author
With his work translated and anthologized around the world, Victor Terán is the preeminent living poet of the Isthmus Zapotec language of Southern Oaxaca, Mexico. He was born in Juchitán de Zaragoza in 1958. His work has been published extensively in magazines and anthologies throughout Mexico. Since 2000, he has also appeared in anthologies in Italy and the United States (Reversible Monuments, Copper Canyon: 2002; Words of the True Peoples, U Texas P: 2005).
A three-time recipient of the national fellowship for writers of indigenous languages, his first book,Diixda; Xieeña (Barefoot Words) was republished in 1997 by Ediciones Bi'cu' Nisa. His books of poetry include Sica ti Gubidxa Cubi (Like a New Sun; Editorial Diana: 1994) and Ca Guichi Xtí' Guendaranaxhii(The Spines of Love; Editorial Praxis: 2003). Terán works as a media education teacher at the secondary level, on the Oaxacan Isthmus.
David Shook’s translations of his work have appeared in Poetry, World Literature Today, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Agenda, Modern Poetry in Translation, Oxford Magazine, PN Review, and a Poetry Translation Centre chapbook. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and featured on BBC4.