The Whole Island: Six Decades of Cuban Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology

The Whole Island: Six Decades of Cuban Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology

The Whole Island: Six Decades of Cuban Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology

The Whole Island: Six Decades of Cuban Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology

Synopsis

Cuba's cultural influence throughout the Western Hemisphere, and especially in the United States, has been disproportionally large for so small a country. This landmark volume is the first comprehensive overview of poetry written over the past sixty years. Presented in a beautiful Spanish-English en face edition, The Whole Island makes available the astonishing achievement of a wide range of Cuban poets, including such well-known figures as Nicolás Guillén, José Lezama Lima, and Nancy Morejón, but also poets widely read in Spanish who remain almost unknown to the English-speaking world--among them Fina Garcéa Marruz, José Kozer, Raúl Hernández Novás, and Angel Escobar--and poets born since the Revolution, like Rogelio Saunders, Omar Pérez, Alessandra Molina, and Javier Marimón. The translations, almost all of them new, convey the intensity and beauty of the accompanying Spanish originals. With their work deeply rooted in Cuban culture, many of these poets--both on and off the island--have been at the center of the political and social changes of this tempestuous period. The poems offered here constitute an essential source for understanding the literature and culture of Cuba, its diaspora, and the Caribbean at large, and provide an unparalleled perspective on what it means to be Cuban.

Excerpt

Relations with Cuba have preoccupied the North American imagination far more than one might expect, given the island’s small size and minimal power. North American understanding of Cuba has, at the same time, been obscured by longings for the exotic, as well as mythologies of both right and left, in which Cubans have also been known to indulge. It’s been imagined as a place simpler than our own, whose people are less inhibited and more passionate, friendly to strangers and prone to dancing in the street, a land strangely set apart in a childhood fantasy, as evidenced by the opulent hulks that cruise its streets. For those of the left, there’s the equally simplified Cuba of heroes, where the new man, freed from the shackles of exploitive cultures, has managed to create a society based on cooperation and compassion rather than greed, despite the opposition of the giant to the north. And for those of the right there’s a gray, joyless, island-wide gulag, where all spirits are crushed under the weight of oppression.

The reality has always been more complex. Except for a period of relative cultural isolation and attendant provincialism between the collapse of the Spanish empire on the mainland in the 1820s and Cuba’s own achievement of independence in 1902, Havana has been a cosmopolitan city. It was one of the major entrepôts of Spanish America, and all the currents of European thought and culture passed through its port. Cuba has had an active literary culture for four hundred years, which since the late nineteenth century has had a disproportionate influence on the literatures of all of the Spanishspeaking Americas. Even before the Revolution, when literacy rates hovered around 70 percent, the education of those who received one was often extraordinary. Among the first actions of the revolutionary government was a massive literacy campaign and a large investment in education at every level, as a result of which Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates and one of the best-educated populations anywhere. Presses and journals, though plagued by censorship and worse, and under government control, like almost everything else in Cuba, have proliferated, publishing an endless outpouring of . . .

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