este día comenzó
en un bosque que nunca estuvo
en las películas de lars von trier
aunque yo era un cuerpo
de mujer con cabeza de venado
en medio del dolor de los dientes
entonces tu tenías al venado
ronroneando en la costa tatuado
junto al mar como en un cuento
que subieron en youtube.

–Mara Pastor

.

this day began
in a forest that never was
in the films of lars von trier
although I was a body
of a woman with the head of a deer
in the midst of a toothache
then you had the deer
purring on the coast tattooed
next to the sea as in a story
they uploaded on youtube.

–translated by Urayoán Noel

 

It’s all about entonces. The then marks the spot. In line 7, the poem opens up: from an eccentric “I” to an intimate but inscrutable “you,” but also, perhaps, from an anti-pastoral into a love poem and/or an inside-joke (of course, the latter are not mutually exclusive, as Frank O’Hara reminds us). Born in San Juan in 1980, Pastor is one of the leading Puerto Rican poets of her generation, but the references here (Lars von Trier, deer) are hardly typically Puerto Rican; if anything, Pastor’s poetics is about the self’s displacements and unfoldings (inner and outer), a global nomadism by turns quirky, fierce, and philosophical, epitomized in her 2011 book Poemas para fomentar el turismo (“Poems to promote tourism”), which I am currently translating. Drawing on numerous contemporary iterations of the postmodern lyric (Latin American, Caribbean, U.S.-American, and beyond), Pastor fashions a poetry playful and ironic enough to keep readers on their toes yet profound enough to reveal, to reframe the real. This is Poetry with a capital P  and a meditation on the pitfalls of the same. In that sense, the entonces in line 7 marks a temporality within the poem (meaning afterward) but it also marks a failed syllogism with aunque (“although”) in line 4, which is the first turn in the poem. There is no causality here, only the casualty of becoming, of a story as random yet shareable as the YouTube video in the final simile. After line 7, the poem seems to take flight, from the untranslatable music of the onomatopoeic ronroneando  (“purring”) and the gorgeously alliterative run-on costa tatuado (“coast tattooed”) to the more conventionally alliterative and prosaic como en un cuento (“as in a story”). These two lines set up the slyly anticlimactic last line, where the tension between “I” and “you” bleeds into the nameless third-person-plural uploaders of the YouTube video (paparazzi or just fate?). In choosing to riff on line 7, I do not mean to suggest that what precedes it is Pastor’s anti-pastoral antipasto to a post-volta main course; neither anti-past nor simply oral, Pastor’s poetry makes its own tradition, an anti-path with no antipathy. To the tourist-reader, her poetry is at once familiar and foreign, much like the tropics it refracts.

 

*

Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Urayoán Noel is the author of various books of poetry in English and Spanish, including, most recently, Los días porosos (Catafixia Editorial, 2012). He has received fellowships from CantoMundo and the Ford Foundation, among others. His forthcoming books include the critical study In Visible Movement: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties to Slam (University of Iowa Press) and a bilingual edition of Pablo de Rokha’s early poetry for Shearsman Books. An Assistant Professor of English at SUNY Albany and a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at NYU, he lives in the Bronx, NY.

Mara Pastor (San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1980) is a poet, editor, and translator. She earned her B.A. from the University of Puerto Rico and her M.A. from the University of Notre Dame, and she recently completed her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. She is the author of Alabalacera (Terranova, 2006), the artist’s book El origen de los párpados (2008), the cartonera Candada por error (Atarraya Cartonera, 2009), Poemas para fomentar el turismo (La secta de los perros, 2011), and the just published Children of Another Hour (Argos Books), which includes texts translated into English by the poet Noel Black. Her work has appeared in Boston Review and Mandorla, and in the anthologies Hallucinated Horse (Pighog Press, 2011), A Megaphone (Chainlinks, 2011), Red de voces (Casa de las Américas, 2012) and volume two of 4M3R1C4, 2.0 (Autonomous University of Nuevo León, 2012). With poet Nicole Cecilia Delgado, she recently edited Vientos alisios 2001-2013, an anthology of contemporary Puerto Rican poetry published as a special issue of the journal Punto de Partida (National Autonomous University of Mexico). She blogs at mardecir.blogspot.com

Pastor, Mara. “este día comenzó.” Reprinted with permission of the author and translator.

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