If the squirrels
were to devour your eyes
bring you to life
in one of his paintings.
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Poetry From the October 2005 issue: Jaguar Tongues
Humberto Ak abalHumberto Ak abal
Humberto Ak abal writes in Kichè (Maya) at his home far from his birthplace (1952) in Momostenango, Totonicapán, Guatemala. He is one of the most widely translated poets writing in an indigenous language in the Americas, his work having appeared in the U.S., as well as Austria, France, Switzerland, and Germany and in a large hardcover edition sponsored by the United Nations. He reads easily in a very deep voice that somehow reminds one of the sound a great tree would make, if trees spoke Kiché. Some of his work has been translated into English by Robert Bly, other poems by Dennis Tedlock. He has received the Blaise Cendras Prize from Switzerland, as well as many prizes and honorary degrees in Latin America.
Translated from SpanishSpanish by Earl ShorrisEarl Shorris and by Sylvia Sasson ShorrisSylvia Sasson Shorris
Earl Shorris is the author of Ofay; The Boots of the Virgin; Under the Fifth Sun: A Novel of Pancho Villa; In the Yucatan; The Death of the Great Spirit; The Oppressed Middle: Scenes From Corporate Life; Power Sits at Another Table; Jews Without Mercy: A Lament; Latinos: A Biography of the People; A Nation of Salesmen: The Tyranny of the Market and the Subversion of Culture; New American Blues: A Journey Through Poverty to Democracy; and Riches for the Poor: The Clemente Course in the Humanities, and the coeditor of In the Language of Kings: An Anthology of Mesoamerican Literature--Pre-Columbian to the Present; The Life and Times of Mexico, and While Someone Else Is Eating: Poets and Novelists on Reaganism. He is currently under contract to W.W. Norton to write a book on American politics and religion. He has been a contributing editor to Harper's since 1972, and his essays and articles have appeared in The Nation; The Atlantic Monthly; The New York Times; The New York Times Magazine; The New York Times Book Review; The Los Angeles Times; Dallas Morning News, Miami Herald; Lingua Franca; The Family Therapy Networker; American Educator; Nexos; American Libraries, The Baffler, Diogene (UNESCO),Der Spiegel; Maariv, and the Antioch Review. He is the founder and chairman of the advisory board for The Clemente Course in the Humanities, which teaches the humanities at the university level to the multi-generational poor, and the co-founder, with Howard Meredith and members of the Kiowa, Cherokee, Chickashaw, Maya, Nahua, Lakota, CYup'ik and other tribes and nations, of the Pan-American Indian Humanities Center located at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.
Sylvia Sasson Shorris is the author of Talking Pictures: With the People Who Made Them and co-editor of While Someone Else Is Eating: Poets and Novelists on Reaganism and In the Language of Kings: An Anthology of Mesoamerican Literature Pre-Columbian to the Present. She has published articles in The Nation, Chicago Tribune, Fork Roads, and Review (a publication of the Center for Inter-American Relations), and has been a translator in Mexico for Luis Montes Film Distribution, and in New York for 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation.
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