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Poetry From the November 2011 issue: Writing from the Caribbean
At one and a half I rolled up the stairs
to the second floor.
At six I almost drowned in a pool.
At seven a current swept me down a river.
They hit me with a stick, with a rifle-butt,
with a two-by-four. They rammed an elbow into my face,
my stomach too; they kneed me, whipped me, slashed me with machetes.
The neighbor’s dog bit my arm.
They cut my ear when they pierced it.
I’ve been knocked cold. Slapped. Slandered.
Chased by sergeants on motorbikes. By two bill-collectors.
By three Mormons on bicycles.
By girls from Herrera and El Trece.
I’ve been mugged thirty times.
In shared cabs. Private taxis. On scooters. On foot.
A guy gave me a ride and told me: “I’m gay.”
They’ve stolen my TV set, my mattress,
six pairs of sneakers, four billfolds,
a watch, half my books.
They’ve filched several manuscripts, and committed plagiary.
(With what they’ve robbed from me
they could open a pawnshop in Los Prados.)
I’ve broken my right arm, my ring finger,
my hip, my thighbone, and I’ve lost four teeth.
My brother Abelardo gave me a bump on the noggin that still hurts.
At my graduation bash they lit into me with bottles.
Then I published a book of poems and a neighbor read it.
Skeptically, she said she could write
better poems in half an hour, and she did.
An accident with a donkey on the highway.
Attempted suicide in Cabarete.
Tachycardia. Hepatitis. Fucked-up liver.
Satanized in Eastern Europe. Kicked by Mexicans in Chicago.
In Montecristi, a waitress threatened to kill me
(right now she’s sticking pins in a doll that looks like me).
The neighbors dream of shooting me.
The poets dream of writing me elegies.
Other guys want to douse my head with gas,
flip a burning match, and see my curls on fire.
Girls want to jump in bed with me.
A few weeks ago a policeman stopped me
and asked if I was the poet who’d read poetry
that night and I said yes and the policeman
said those poems were good
and made a bow, sort of.
"Autoretrato" © Frank Baez. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2011 by Hoyt Rogers. All rights reserved.
Rodé al año y medio por las escaleras
hasta el segundo piso.
A los seis casi me ahogo en una piscina.
A los siete me arrastró la corriente de un río.
Me golpearon con un palo, con la culata de un fusil,
con una tabla. Me propinaron un codazo en la cara
y otro en el estómago, rodillazos,
El perro del vecino me mordió un brazo.
Me cortaron una oreja haciéndome el cerquillo.
Noqueado. Abofeteado. Calumniado.
Perseguido por sargentos en motor. Por dos cobradores.
Por tres mormones en bicicleta.
Por muchachas de Herrera y del Trece.
Me han atracado treinta veces.
En carros públicos. Taxis. Voladoras. A pie.
Alguien me dio una bola y me dijo I am gay.
Me robaron un televisor, un colchón,
seis pares de tenis, cuatro carteras,
un reloj, media biblioteca.
Se llevaron varios manuscritos y cometieron plagio.
(Con lo que me han robado pudieran abrir
una compraventa en Los Prados).
Me fracturé el brazo derecho, el anular,
la cadera, el fémur y perdí cuatro dientes.
El hermano Abelardo me dio un cocotazo que todavía me duele.
En la fiesta de graduación me cayeron a trompadas y botellazos.
Luego publiqué un libro de poesía y una vecina lo leyó
y escéptica dijo que era capaz de escribir
mejores poemas en media hora, y lo hizo.
Accidente con un burro en la carretera.
Intento de suicidio en Cabarete.
Taquicardia. Hepatitis. Hígado jodido.
Satanizado en Europa del Este. Pateado por mexicanos en Chicago.
En Montecristi una mesera me amenazó de muerte
(ahora mismo, clava alfileres en un muñeco idéntico a mí).
Los vecinos sueñan conmigo baleado.
Los poetas con dedicarme elegías.
Otros con rociarme gasolina en la cabeza
y arrojar un fósforo y ver mis rizos en llamas.
Otras con llevarme a la cama.
Y hace semanas un policía me detiene y me pregunta
si yo no era el poeta que había leído poesía
aquella noche y le digo que sí y el policía
dice que son buenos poemas
y hace una reverencia o algo así.
Frank BaezFrank Baez
Frank Baez might be described as the homegrown Junot Diaz of the Dominican literary scene: a native author rather than a son of the diaspora, but with the same “hip” originality and “with-it” verve. Born in 1978 in Santo Domingo, Baez has made a name for himself in his own country as the Dominican Republic’s most important young poet and short-story writer. His collection of stories, Págales tú a los psicoanalistas [For the Psychoanalysts, You Pick Up the Tab!] (Editorial Ferilibro, Santo Domingo, 2007) won the First Prize for Short Stories at the Santo Domingo Book Fair of 2006. With his fellow poet Homero Pumarol, he founded a “spoken word band” called El Hombrecito, which in 2009 cut a CD called Llegó el hombrecito [The Hombrecito Has Arrived]. He regularly gives readings accompanied by music, and is an amateur DJ.
The quality of Frank Baez’s work has already won him an international following as well. His first book, Jarrón y otros poemas, was published in Madrid by Editorial Betania in 2004, and selections from his verse recently appeared in the Latin American anthology Cuerpo plural: Antología de la poesía hispanoamericana contemporánea (Editorial Pre Textos, 2010). His latest poetry collection, Postales, won the National Poetry Prize Salomé Ureña in 2009 as a manuscript, and was published in Costa Rica and Argentina even before it appeared in the Dominican Republic. As editor of the online poetry review Ping Pong, he has published scores of poets from Latin America, North America, and Europe. Highly conversant with the literatures of all three continents, he is a distinguished translator of English and American verse.
Translated from SpanishSpanish by Hoyt RogersHoyt Rogers
Hoyt Rogers has published his original work, essays, translations, and editions in dozens of books and periodicals. He is the author of a collection of poems,Witnesses (1986) and a volume of criticism, The Poetics of Inconstancy (1998). His most recent poetry appeared in Agni Online in 2010, and his latest short story was published by the New England Review in the summer of 2011.
Hoyt Rogers translates poetry and other literary works from the French, German, and Spanish. With Friedhelm Kemp, he produced the first translations of George Oppen into German. His translation of Klaus Eidam’s biography of Bach was published in 2001. His translations of Jorge Luis Borges appeared in the Viking/Penguin centenary edition of 1999. His translation of Yves Bonnefoy’s The Curved Planks, with accompanying essays and a preface by Richard Howard, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2006. In the same year, his translation of Philippe Claudel’s novel Les âmes grises appeared at Knopf. His anthology of Bonnefoy’s last two decades of work, Second Simplicity, with a lengthy introduction, was published by the Yale University Press in January 2012. With Paul Auster, he is currently preparing a new bilingual edition of poems by André du Bouchet.
Though Hoyt Rogers travels much of the year, above all in Italy, he resides mainly in the Dominican Republic.
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