Reversible Monuments: Contemporary Mexican Poetry

A small anthology of contemporary Mexican poetry was first proposed after a successful series of poetry readings co-sponsored by the Mexican Cultural Exchange and the Academy of American Poets in 1998. However, it had been thirty years since the last comprehensive anthology was published in the U.S and there was a serious dearth of contemporary Mexican poetry available in translation. Editors Mónica de la Torre and Michael Wiegers soon realized a slim volume would not be sufficient, and instead amassed an ample 675-page anthology Reversible Monuments, published in 2002.

The introduction by translator and essayist Eliot Weinberger provides a concise history of Mexican poetry, discussing the artistic relationships and influences shared between the United States and Mexico in the twentieth century. Discussing the cultural climate in Mexico at length, he marvels at the thriving intellectual class and the country’s deep respect and pride for its poets.

Long overdue, this bilingual collection consists of Mexican poets born roughly after 1950—essentially the generation of poets who emerged after Octavio Paz, particularly those who have published at least two books of poetry. Of the thirty-one poets chosen, only two have poetry books published in the United States: Gerardo Deniz and Pura López Colomé, whose recent book was translated by Forrest Gander. The collection also includes the widely anthologized and translated Elsa Cross, and Coral Bracho, who has published six books and is one of the leading poets of the younger generation.

Instead of providing a sampling of many writers, the editors decided to offer  long selections of poetry from selected poets, a choice that allows readers to truly hear the poets’ voices and recognize the scope of their work. Each poet is introduced with a short biographical note and the poems appear in both Spanish and English, on facing pages.

As Weinberger exclaims in his introduction, “the news is that Mexico has a new and large generation of poets--practically an excess of poets worth reading and all of them heading in different directions.”