1 March, 2007Issue 6.2LiteraturePoetrySouth America

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Poetry and Patriotism

Tyler Fisher

José Martí
Ismaelillo
Translated by Tyler Fisher
Wings Press, 2007
128 pages
ISBN 0916727424

As international interest turns to Cuba in the wake of Fidel Castro’s failing health, nineteenth-century revolutionary poet José Martí’s 1882 poem sequence Ismaelillo offers an increasingly relevant account of the search for a Cuban political and poetic identity.

Magdalen College doctoral student Tyler Fisher’s new translation of Ismaelillo will be published by Wings Press this September. Fisher’s is the first complete English translation of Ismaelillo and offers a fresh rendering of some of the most powerful poetry in Latin American letters. Composed for Martí’s infant son during the poet’s banishment from Cuba, Ismaelillo foreshadows the modernista movement in Spanish-American poetry and presents a poignant interplay of political and paternal emotion. This bilingual edition from Wings Press will include his critical introduction and notes.

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Valle lozano

Dígame mi labriego
¿Cómo es que ha andado
En esta noche lóbrega
Este hondo campo?
Dígame de qué flores
Untó el arado,
Que la tierra olorosa
Trasciende a nardos?
Dígame de qué ríos
Regó este prado,
Que era un valle muy negro
Y ora es lozano?

Otros, con dagas grandes
Mi pecho araron:
Pues ¿qué hierro es el tuyo
Que no hace daño?
Y esto dije – y el niño
Riendo me trajo
En sus dos manos blancas
Un beso casto.

Lush Valley

My peasant ploughman, tell me how,
How have you walked
Within the gloom of this dark night
Through this low field?
What flowers, tell me, did you use
To grease your plow
So that the pungent soil smells
Of lilies now?
And tell me from what streams you drew
To irrigate
This valley once so barren black
Yet verdant now?

When others with large dagger blades
My chest have gouged,
What iron then is this of yours
That makes no wound?
All this I asked the little lad,
Who laughing brought
To me within his two white hands
An unstained kiss.

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Tyler Fisher is presently completing his dissertation on Spanish Counter-Reformation poetry. He is a past contributor to The Oxonian Review of Books and his work has appeared in The Lyric, The Formalist, and Bibliophilos.