Poems in Spanish

Paul Hoover


April 2005



At once rhythmically charged and stilled by the silences, Paul Hoover’s Poems in Spanish takes the English language into fraternity with the haunting lyricism of Spanish, and in this way pays tribute to the great poets writing in the Ibero Hispanic tradition of the 20th century-among them Pessoa, Lorca, Vallejo, Andrade, Neruda, Sabines. Poems in Spanish is a collection written in English, but it is an English that surprises with its sharply etched and yet resonant cadences. Hoover’s achievement reminds us that we often must hear our own voice translated through other mediums before we can receive it most accurately, and before we can recognize most truthfully its sounding of our own deepest sensibilities. Hoover’s poems include as their subjects the ethics of interpersonal relations, the social identity’s conflicted relationship to self discovery, and the family bounds which function as a frame that both supports and limits our potential. Yet, just as we have come to see in Hoover’s previous collections, this poet is equally interested in using subject matter’s representation of event to examine what is occluded by the event of representation. These poems demonstrate how a reader can find in poetry a source of pleasure-for the ear, the heart, and imagination.

About the Author

Paul Hoover is the editor of the influential anthology Postmodern American Poetry, co-editor of the literary magazine New American Writing, and author of nine previous poetry collections. He is Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University. His prizes include the Jerome J. Shestack Award from American Poetry Review, an NEA Fellowship in poetry, and the GE Foundation Award for Younger Writers.

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The World as Found

All these things the creator told me in Alabama.
-Sun Ra

Mariposa, what a clean word is that!
It can fly around all day
and never get mud on its wings.
It makes a clean sound as it passes right through me—
almost nothing really.

Mud sprawls on the ground, completely helpless.
Who can ever respect it?

Mariposa, butterfly
so pretty and maybe crazy,
like Blanche Dubois as a girl.
Even Schmetterling
has a cadence true to its ideal.

Words in my mouth
are preparing for summer,
giving birth to themselves again.

It isn’t rocket science.
Everyone knows their names:
barranco and embankment,
noises and ruidos
get down on your knees and pray!
A beautiful woman is passing,
and, if you insist, a man.
Words of skin and bone.

Where’s my refuge and my trap,
Where do they go when I think them?

All day the words are at me,
coming and going and meaning,
and in the evening also.
It’s the traffic of the world.

But at night, if it happens
that I sink into her body,
there is no word, not even silk,
to tell you what I’m thinking.
Sound spills from my mouth,
shapeless all around us.

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