Migrations: Poem, 1976–2020

NYRB. Nov. 2021. 304p. tr. from Spanish by Mark Schafer. ISBN 9781681375700. pap. $20. POETRY
Gervitz, a Mexican poet of Eastern European descent, published her only volume of verse in several editions spanning 44 years; its organic growth resembles Jorge Guillén’s Cántico or Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Devoid of capital letters, with sparse punctuation, stripped of subtitles, and printed in indented lines, its free verse runs over 260 pages, many of which frankly contain lots of white space; thus it could be argued to be either one massive poem or several smaller ones. The migration overtly based on her family’s own experience merges into an internal spiritual migration that combines the two major themes of Jewishness and eroticism. This version of Schafer’s outstanding translation expands his earlier one from 2004. The appendix includes two illuminating interviews with the poet and the translator. The multilingual glossary explains the Mexican cultural references and translates the foreign language phrases used in the text. The list of sources indicates page references, though there are no cross references from the text to the source list.
VERDICT Readers will not find a direct narrative here, as the verses don’t always flow seamlessly from one section to the other, but they can nonetheless bask in a remarkable poetic experience.
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