On the Edges of Mexican Poetry: Eduardo Milán

Eduardo Milán
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR

Translator’s Note

No consigo estar de acuerdo conmigo

I can’t get myself to agree with myself

That’s as close as I could get to the Spanish pun on the first person present indicative of conseguir that slides through our cognates of consign and cosine to rhyme with a congerie of prepositional pronouns in Eduardo Milán’s poems. Like a a somber romp, he writes:

Dudo, titubeo. ¿que debo decir que esté conmigo
de corazón, no tanto de language?
Es que el lenguaje es tanto…

I doubt and stammer. What should I say to be with me
in the heart, not so much in language?
But language is so much…

Born in 1952 on the gray side of the Uruguayan / multicolored Braxilian border, Eduardo Milán was exiled after his father’s imprisonment. He has resided for more than thirty years on the edges of the Mexican poetry scene. He is in effect trilingual — in his mother’s Portuguese, his father’s uruguayo (the ll pronounced zh), and in his Mexican habitat and family.

Milán is essentially a political poet, and his poems are often short. Some of his work is included in the important continent-wide anthology Medusario (1997), which brought together dozens of neobarrocos to exult in wispy, trailing streams of language. The New Baroque is Latin American for “Post-Avant,” but what Milán sees in the great compound lens of the world gets bitten down into a monologue that jumps over obstacles through puns and wordplay, in hope of delivering a message.

soldados por el sol dados a la infancia del cubilete

soldiers, sole dyers, dying alone in cubicles

Lacking the pun that soldados, soldiers, are also sol dados (given by the sun), I was obliged to take apart “soldiers” in a less elegant way and then changed youth to dying to make the image clearer. I like the fact that I can use words like cubilete/cubicles, so sharply seen, so voiced.

Milán comes to grips with his revered and long-imprisoned father José-Miguel Milán’s death in 2004, as discovered in his book Por momentos la palabra entera / (Occasionally the Entire Word). His father’s death in turn is central to Milán’s Selected Poems, soon to be published by Shearsman. These poems shadow forward, ominous.

The translator is a mime who “imitates” the lead speaker. Milán’s sensitivity to language’s unsteady pulsations cascades his shrewd and earnest perspective into a tumble of images made strange by sonic coincidence. Sometimes I need to follow him downstream through English’s own mutations. But mostly I’m glad to be an echo chamber. Milán is a transformative poet, stammering a fragmented but unbroken vision: the political world as shredded by language. It is my delight and honor to be able to bring these writings alive in a new language and culture to new readers.


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