How To Be a Good Savage and Other Poems

Milkweed Editions. (Seedbank). Jan. 2024. tr. from Zoque & Spanish by Wendy Call & Shook. 3:49 hrs. ISBN 9781571315960. $16.99. POETRY
Indigenous Zoque poet, translator, and activist Sánchez’s vital English-language debut features translations of some of her previously published Zoque and Spanish poems. The collection presents each poem first in Zoque, then in Spanish, then, for the first time, in English, thanks to translators Call and Shook. In their illuminating foreword, the translators note that out of an estimated 110,000 Zoque people, who are primarily located in the Mexican state of Chiapas, only 15,000 speak Copainalá, the dialect spoken by Sánchez and her family. Zoque is an endangered language, and its presence here is a gift. Sánchez’s poems speak of enslavement and resistance, of environmental activism, community, and, above all, the power of women’s voices: “I am woman and I celebrate every vein/ where I guard my ancestors’ secrets/ every Zoque man’s word in my mouth/ every Zoque woman’s wisdom in my spit.” The audio offers listeners incredible access to the Zoque language, narrated by Sánchez herself. Some might want to listen and read at the same time, if only to see the orthography of a language without an established written tradition.
VERDICT A groundbreaking and deeply passionate poetry collection that celebrates language and feminine power. Not to be missed.
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