Poetry as the Site of a Collision — Mexican Poet Tedi López Mills

Libro de las explicaciones

Libro de las explicaciones
BY Tedi López Mills
(Editorial Almadía, 2012 )

Muerte en la rúa augusta
BY Tedi López Mills
(Editorial Almadía, 2009 )

Contracorriente

Contracorriente
BY Tedi López Mills
(Ediciones ERA-Conaculta, 2006)

As well as being a poet, essayist, and editor, you are a translator of French, English, and U.S. poetry. What draws you to translate a particular poet’s work? Who is your favorite poet to translate?

Fascination draws me to translate a certain author; the desire to listen to those words in Spanish and to share them. Also, more personally, the desire to be infected, contaminated, influenced.

I don’t really have a favorite poet to translate. I’ve worked on Wallace Stevens, Gustav Sobin, Anne Carson, Marianne Moore and many others. When I read Pound, Eliot, Williams, Bishop, I immediately feel the urge to translate, but they have been translated and published so many times in Spanish that I’m not sure I would be able to do a better job.

I’m planning to translate Rimbaud’s Illuminations next year, inspired in a way by what John Ashbery did.

Readers will find references in poems such as “Leyendo a Virgilio / Reading Virgil” (from your book Horas, published in 2000) to classical politics and legendary battles. How does contemporary politics enter your work?

Modern poetry has forgotten how un-pacifist poetry was during long periods. In any case, there’s something surprising in recent poetry and poetry festivals: the innocence and goodness of most poets. They’re always on the right side and become even more popular by making their message very public. In a sense this attitude has over-simplified any political discussion in poetry, which is very true in Mexico: poets pointing their finger at what other poets are not doing for the country, the people, etc. So the solution sometimes is demagogical: one includes all the good causes in one’s poems so as to get strong approval and applause when one reads out loud. Complicated, baroque poems are usually found guilty of not taking reality, political reality into account. And some poets give in and write simple poems about everyday life. I’ve noticed in poetry festivals that this kind of social urge to please the public has created an international lingo among poets.

I do think that one of the consistent messages of your poetry is “It’s not that simple” —whatever it may happen to be under discussion. For example, your book Contracorriente is richly complex in form, and the poems critique reductionist notions of the “genuine” or the “authentic.” Where do you think your drive toward the complicated and baroque comes from? How does it interact with your use of symbolism?

Not all my books are as complex as Contracorriente, and that probably sounds like a confession of guilt.

The poems in Contracorriente are complicated and baroque because they are throwing themselves away as they move: from A to Z. It’s a symbolism which tries to make fun of itself, of its own reflections in these muddied and dirty waters. That’s where these poems travel and crash against themselves; the words break, tear everything apart, hurt anything that pretends to be essential.


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