Victor Rodríguez Núñez elevates the mysticism and mystery of poetry through people, events, and experiences that we can be begin to understand tangibly through the use of metaphors relating to science, mathematics, inventorship, and space phenomena
Victor Rodríguez Núñez, Every Good Heart is a Telescope, Trans. by Katherine M. Hedeen, Toad Press, 2013.
Poetry always has the feel of mysticism and mystery, or maybe this feeling is a stereotype left over from high school literature class. It is generally the result of confusion, lack of time committed to consuming the poetry, and the general difficulty poetry imposes on the reader.
In Víctor Rodríguez Núñez’s collection, Every Good Heart is a Telescope, he elevates the mysticism and mystery of poetry through people, events, and experiences that we can be begin to understand tangibly through the use of metaphors relating to science, mathematics, inventorship, and space phenomena. Such imagery is equally as mystical and mysterious as poetry itself, but almost everyone has been consumed by science, mathematics, inventorship, or space at some point in their lives, most often during childhood. The reader will immediately become refamiliarized with their dreams of the yesteryear through Núñez’s love affair with the heavens, metaphysics, alchemy, and our unbounded universe.
As an example, my favorite in the collection is a poem entitled Hypothesis, describing admiration through great mathematicians and scientists, including the likes of Ptolemy, Copernicus, Bruno, Galileo, Kant, and Hegel:
the world was like certain women’s eyes
A sphere of wet crystal
where each star traces a perfect orbit
with no passion
tide or catastrophe
Copernicus came along
wise man who traded breasts for doves
cosines for fright
and the sun’s pupil became the center of the universe
while Giordano Bruno crackled
to the delight of husbands and priests
probing deeply into young girls’ hearts
shipwrecked on good wine
—light gathered up by sun—
he raped stars that weren’t from the movies
and before dying on a comet’s tail
he declared love to be infinite
Kant in turn knew nothing of women
prisoner in a butterfly of calculations
in metaphysical pollen
and for Hegel
the problem was excessively absolute
As for meEach of Núñez’s poems has similar patterns to that reflected above; they are each fleeting at first glance, but upon a second, third, fourth read, they are universal and infinite in reach. This is partly due to his reliance on images pulled from science, mathematics, philosophy, and metaphysics, each of which have the same unbounded aura. This is also a result of Núñez’s continual practice of directly addressing the reader in his poems. This technique causes each poem to become intimate in a way that I have rarely encountered in poetry.
I propose to the twentieth century
a simple hypothesis
critics will call romantic
Oh young girl who reads this poem
the world revolves around you
In Vincent Francone’s Three Percent review of Of Flies and Monkeys, Francone states “a poet needs to involve me in the process of reading the poem, in short: craft is not enough.” Núñez meets and surpasses Fracone’s requirement—he does not use his craft as a crutch, and instead supplements his skill by requiring the reader to be alert, to become engrossed, and most importantly, not to forget the collection after only reading it once. My sole criticism of the volume is that I wish the original Spanish text were included alongside the English translation. Despite this, I will never look at the stars again without thinking of Núñez’s poetry. - Tiffany Nichols
Víctor Rodríguez Núñez (Havana, 1955) is one of Cuba’s most noteworthy contemporary writers. He is a poet, journalist, literary critic, translator, and scholar. Among his books are Cayama (1979), Con raro olor a mundo (1981), Noticiario del solo (1987), Cuarto de desahogo (1993), Los poemas de nadie y otros poemas (1994), El último a la feria (1995), Oración inconclusa (2000), Actas de medianoche I (2006), Actas de medianoche II (2007), tareas (2011) and reversos (2011). His Selected Poems has come out in many countries, most recently Todo buen corazón es un prismático (2010) in Mexico, and has been translated into English, French, Italian, and Swedish. In addition, a wide selection of his poems has appeared in another twelve languages. His poetry has been awarded major prizes, such as the David (Cuba, 1980), the Plural (Mexico, 1983), the EDUCA (Costa Rica, 1995), the Renacimiento (Spain, 2000), the Leonor (Spain, 2006), and the Rincón de la Victoria (Spain, 2010). During the eighties he wrote for and was the editor of El Caimán Barbudo, one of Cuba’s leading cultural magazines. He has compiled three anthologies that have defined his poetic generation and published various essays on Spanish American poets. Among his translations are books by John Kinsella, Margaret Randall, and Mark Strand. He divides his time between Gambier, Ohio, where he is Professor of Spanish at Kenyon College, and Havana, Cuba.