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Good Books: Eduardo Gabrieloff on Latino Writers

Eduardo Gabrieloff was born in Colombia and moved to Colorado when he was four years old. His work has been published in many literary journals, including Pank, Ninth Letter, The Journal of Ordinary Thought, and can be seen on Denver Public Library's audio archive of poetry. He is a 2014 Canto Mundo Fellow, and was a 2011 Callaloo Fellow. He lives in Denver, Colorado with his partner and child.

“I was forced to read a lot of the poetry canon in high school and hated it,” he says. "One day I announced, proudly, to the class that I could do better, and set to do so. After eighteen years, I’m making progress. And, thankfully, I’ve come to respect and love poetry.”

Eduardo Gabrieloff recommends three good books by Latina/o writers:

Days and Nights of Love and War
by Eduardo Galeano

I don't remember where I got this book. I think I found it in a trash pile in college, one of those epic ones where the seniors just throw away anything they can't take with them. At some point, about a decade later, I actually opened it up. And not just because he has a fantastic first name. This is a book of fragments, loosely linked vignettes that follow Galeano through exile from Uruguay. He lives in Argentina, working as a journalist, after being exiled and the survives the coup d'etat in 1976. The language Galeano uses ranges from simple and straightforward to beautifully lyric; one paragraph will be a political declaration, the next a description of crying with a child whose feelings were hurt. Galeano intersperses these sorts of stories to show the life of an exile. Politics are always on his mind, but he still has to live a normal life. And it's a life filled with sadness and mourning. It is a story of survival, struggle, and remembrance. And it is beautiful.

Toda Violeta Parra: Antologá de canciones y poemas

This is a book of Chilean folk-singer Violeta Parra's song lyrics and some of her poems. Violeta, along with Atahualpa Yunpaqui, were leaders of the Nuevo Cancion movement in South America, a cultural force that is still going more than 60 years later. Violeta's songs showed the poetics of Spanish in ways I don't think it is possible to do in English. I take away a lot from her songs and the craft of her writing. She manages, like Galeano, to write about politics in a way that focuses on the art rather than polemics. This book is an odd one to bring up, as I don't think there's a way to find it outside of interlibrary loan, but the lyrics to her songs can be found online (though untranslated). It's also worth noting how minimalist her songs are, musically. I can't call them three-chord songs, a la The Ramones, but they're close!

Poemas y antipoemas
by Nicanor Parra

The Parra family is prolific. Violeta's brother, Nicanor, is a world famous poet. This book, released in 1954, is still relevant. Nicanor strips the inflated language typical of South American poetry from the 50s and before and introduces a new school of poetry. I think, even subconsciously, his work affects a lot of people around the world. From the Beats to slam poetry, his influence is still felt. There's even a journal, Anti, named after the anti-poem movement! The idea that poetry doesn't have to be aesthetically beautiful to be worthwhile is still hard for me to wrap my head around and let happen in my poems, but every time I read Poemas y antipoemas, I'm struck by the depth of the poetry while it, for lack of a better description, stays simple.

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