Jaime Saenz - The poetic environment of Jaime Saenz is the frigid cold, the rediscovered dynamism of language, and the beautiful abyss that always moves and swells in the shadows, phantom and mystical and blue and magnificent.

The Cold,Jaime Saenz (translated by Kit Schluter, preface by Forrest Gander)

Jaime Saenz, The Cold, Trans. by Kit Schluter, Poor Claudia, 2015.

Kit Schluter’s translation of Jaime Saenz’s The Cold gives Anglophone readers an extraordinarily luminous vision of one of Bolivia’s most essential—and elusive—writers, as well as a powerful and distinctive complement to Gander and Johnson’sImmanent Visitor: Selected Poems of Jaime Saenz (2002). Part translation, part intimate address from translator to author,The Cold embodies what Schluter calls “the parallax inhabited” between the I and the you. Reflecting Saenz’s affinity with German Romanticism, Schluter’s afterword plunges us into the evanescent relationship between two forms of being which have been divided that they may yearn for their union. It is a work of desperate—perhaps impossible—lyricism, a work, as Charles Olson might have said, that is uncannily “equal…to the real itself.” - Cole Heinowitz

The poetic environment of Jaime Saenz is the frigid cold, the rediscovered dynamism of language, and the beautiful abyss that always moves and swells in the shadows, phantom and mystical and blue and magnificent. How do I even articulate the feelings that surge through me when I read these poems? Reverie is hardly an adequate word. Kit Schluter’s translations of these poems have probably destroyed me more than once, given me hope more than once, and have often been my companion in the late night rain with a glass of whiskey, missing and sensing the entire world, reconciling the complicated and persistent nature of feelings, and learning to find beauty in the breath of a broken heart. Absolutely and necessarily devastating. Absolutely and irrevocably beautiful. - Janice Lee

Jaime Saenz, The Night, Trans. by Kent Johnson and Forrest Gander, Princeton University Press, 2007.

Some Days in the Life of The Night: an Introduction

Jaime Saenz is arguably the greatest Bolivian writer of the twentieth century. His poetry is apocalyptic, transcendent, hallucinatory, brilliant--and, until recently, available only in Spanish. Forrest Gander and Kent Johnson's translations of Saenz's work have garnered much-deserved attention and acclaim. Here for the first time in English they give us his masterpiece, The Night, Saenz's most famous poem and the last he wrote before his death in 1986.
An unusual man, Saenz lived his whole life in La Paz, Bolivia, seldom venturing far from the city and its indigenous culture that feature so prominently in his writings. He sought God in unlikely places: slum taverns, alcoholic excess, the street. Saenz was nocturnal. He once stole a leg from a cadaver and hid it under his bed. On his wedding night he brought home a panther.
In this epic poem, Saenz explores the singular themes that possessed him: alcoholism, death, nightmares, identity, otherness, and his love for La Paz. The poem's four movements culminate in some of the most profoundly mystical, beautiful, and disturbing passages of modern Latin American poetry. They are presented here in this faithful and inspired English translation of the Spanish original.
Complete with an introduction by the translators that paints a vivid picture of the poet's life, and an afterword by Luis H. Antezana, a notable Bolivian literary critic and close friend of Saenz, this bilingual edition is the essential introduction to one of the most visionary and enigmatic poets of the Hispanic world.

"Published as a part of the excellent Facing Pages series of translations, major Bolivian poet Jaime Saenz's death-obsessed masterwork, The Night, is now available in English for the first time. Veteran translators Forrest Gander and Kent Johnson of Saenz (1921-1986) seem to understand the haunting beauty of these lines as though they had written them."--Publishers Weekly

"This bilingual edition of Saenz's The Night brings to English-speaking readers the anguished, hallucinogenic world of this morbid Bolivian poet...The translators' introduction sets the tone and scene, and their inspired translation communicates the terrible intensity of Saenz's images and his fascinating with death."--D.L. Heyck

"Published two years before the Bolivian poet Jaime Saenz's death in 1984, The Night redefines what it means to be illuminated by anatomizing the experience of being enveloped in darkness...Exquisitely produced, this edition advances Saenz's ultimate mission for The Night: to reveal a vision of the body connected with its soul, 'inhabiting' it, passing through a life full of danger, fear, and humiliation, constructing a holistic view of existence, a unified conception of life and death."--Aaron Belz

"American readers will find that The Night diverges from much contemporary American poetry, particularly in its elaborate symbolism and ethereal atmosphere. The Night is best read as a complete piece, preferably in one sitting, and probably more than once. Readers will find their time well spent."--Lisa Butts       

"The continuing Gander/Johnson excavation of Jaime Saenz is by far the most interesting project of Spanish poetry translation in many years. They have taken a poet who was completely unknown in the U.S. and put him on the map as someone who must be read. The Night, this hallucinated journey into the hell of the self, may be Saenz's greatest work, and it may well be that the most original version of the poem is its English translation."--Eliot Weinberger

"The Bolivian poet Jaime Saenz's last major poem is a strange, delicate, anguished work of great emotional power and rich literary value. Expertly translated here, it is a paean to the irreducible sadness and unpredictability which lie at the heart of all the best parts of life. . . and of poetry."--Nicholas Jenkins, Stanford University

There is a house whose people sit in darkness; dust is their food and clay their meat. They are clothed like birds with wings for covering, they see no light, they sit in darkness…
– from The Epic of Gilgamesh ( translated by N.K. Sanders)
One of my favorite passages from The Epic of Gilgamesh is the scene where Gilgamesh’s rival/friend/possible lover Enkidu has a nightmare about a house of darkness shortly before he dies. In the house is a goddess reading from the book of the dead, and rulers and princes have lost all power, and now act as servants. What I find interesting in the passage is how bleak this vision of the afterlife is, circa 2500-1500 B.C. No wonder Gilgamesh goes through a violent existential crisis after Enkidu’s death. This is death at its most material: dust, clay, feathers, and darkness. No light, no air, no Platonic salvation, nothing ethereal.
Thousands of years later, Beckett would use similar imagery to convey dissolution. His characters sit in darkness, or are sometimes only mouths speaking from out of an immense darkness. It’s another example of the way Art is an installation piece playing on a constant loop, feverishly re-imagining its own dreams and nightmares, despite the wishes of certain avant-gardists for it to march gloriously into some freeze-dried future.
I bring this up as a roundabout way to approach Jaime Saenz’s The Night, a book that reminds me a great deal of Enkidu’s dream. (I should mention Kent Johnson was the one who recommended the book to me. He and Forrest Gander did a translation of The Night that came out in 2007.) In this book, Saenz takes us through another dream of darkness, a place where night and body inhabit one another without becoming entirely merged, and where self and darkness inhabit one another, with only the thinnest line of distinction between them. In one of my favorite passages, he writes:
 What is the nature of night’s other side?
                     To put it bluntly, it is the nature of the night’s other side
                     To sink into your spine and colonize your eyes, to see
                      Through them what it can’t see on its own.
The night, or rather the night’s other side, invades us, possesses us, and looks through our eyes to see the human world, the world it would otherwise not be able to see. But of course in the process we are infected by this other night. If it can see through our eyes, can it taste with our tongue? Can it feel with our fingertips?
I also like how the gaze here is double. We look through our eyes but so is the night. Whatever attracts our eyes will attract the night’s eyes. And the eye itself takes on a monstrous element here: what would somebody staring into our eyes at that moment see? Would they sense the night’s presence in our gaze? Would they be aware that the night was staring at them too?
The passage reminds me of other disturbing images of The Eye: the eyeball that is slit in Un Chien Andalou, and Bataille’s obsession with the eye rolling upward in orgasmic ecstasy or in death. And the eyes in 2001 that looks out at the edges of the universe but also into the darkened theater, at us.
What is the other side of the night? Saenz writes:
  the other side of night is a night without night, without
                        earth, without shelter, without rooms, without furniture,
A few lines later he adds about the night:
      —it’s the dock at the very side of your body
                                         and, at the same time, it’s inconceivably remote.
As with much mystical writing, and in a manner reminiscent of Vallejo too, Saenz likes to define things (an event, a sensation, a feeling, a time/place) through negation and paradox. The night is the dock near your body, yet remote, even “inconceivably” so, as if this night is a far away country that existed thousands of years before you were born. Also, the other side of night is not day, but instead this “night without night.”
“A night without night”: it suggests an inhuman night, a night that no longer keeps human time, and a night that no longer adheres to any human definition of night. Not the Platonic Form of night (which would be humanly intelligible), but rather “night” without form. Night beyond the first night and last night.
In section three, Saenz goes into more detail about “night’s other side.” He writes:
Not anyone can pass to the other side of the night;
 The other side of the night is a forbidden dominion, and
                                    Only the condemned enter there.
He goes on to describe these condemned as being alcoholics. (Kent and Forrest Gander mention that Saenz was a massive drinker in their introduction.) He tells us the night’s other side will be revealed only to “those whose eyes go white at the thought of being / blown apart by alcohol. // With those. // Only on those will alcohol confer the grace of everlasting / baptism on the other side of the night.”
These lines remind me of several things: the Christian ritual of turning wine into sacred blood (“the grace of everlasting / baptism on the other side of the night”), Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano with its exploration of the dark sublime achieved through the means of alcoholic excess (“blown apart by alcohol”), and Deleuze’s discussion of alcohol in The Logic of Sense, where he compares it to madness, saying that in both we see the dissolution of the ego in favor of a split between the about-to-be and the already-was, that paradoxical no-space where “I” is already someone and somewhere else (though he also says there were other less drastic roads toward that end, and that he means his examples of madness and drink to be descriptive not proscriptive).
Night, drink, the self, the invasion of the night into the self, into our eyes, the night that looks through our eyes, the alcohol that blows us apart, the other side of the night.
In Poe, there is a recurring scenario: a charater, or a group of characters, sit in the dark, thinking. The curtains are closed against the sun. No lamps are lit. But something about this artificial night allows them to think in ways that would be impossible in the daylight. And once night arrives, they open the door, and they go out into the street. In other words, night never leaves them. Night becomes not a moment in time, but a condition. - James Pate

Those who do and say things without feeling them, I condemn them a million times. --Jaime Saenz
The "Boom" of Latin American literature in the 1960s brought a renewed interest In the literature south of the Rio Grande: the fiction of Borges, Fuentes, García Márquez, Vargas Llosa, Rulfo, Donoso, and Cortázar, as well as the poetry of Neruda. The aftermath of this "Boom" has expanded the universe of writers available in English translation. Forrest Gander, a remarkable poet, with the assistance of Kent Johnson on Saenz, has brought into English for the first time a significant long poem by the Bolivian poet Jaime Saenz and a selection of poems from the Mexican poet Coral Bracho. Idiosyncratic and philosophical, these poets nonetheless conjure powerful visions.
The Night is the second work of Saenz to be translated by Gander and Johnson. An earlier collection, Immanent Visitor, was a selection of Saenz's oeuvre from the 1950s to 1970s. The themes of these poems--"self and other, mind and world, . . . the living and the dead"--are also present in The Night, Saenz's last major poem before his death in 1986. The Night
is composed of four sections or movements, and themes of alcoholic addiction (Saenz, based on the biographical matter provided by Gander and Johnson, was an addictive personality, abusing cocaine and alcohol at various times in his life.), death, identity, and otherness are at play. In addition, the Bolivian capital of La Paz serves a central role in the poem (as in other poems by Saenz), in a manner, as Luis H. Antezana states in his insightful Afterword, akin to Joyce's creative use of Dublin.
The poem opens with night depicted as an insect or creature with "feelers"--of the shadows and damp places, scuttling from light. Then, night is locked in a box that has been swallowed by night (as Cronos swallows his children), which is located in a dresser (more darkness) "in the nook" (shadowed area) of a room. Thus, the poem begins with night to the fourth or fifth degree of darkness: a night whose darkness is magnified or deepened exponentially. (This stylistic extension of darkness is not unlike Twain's description of Pap's sickly white skin in Huck Finn.) Saenz pushes the image of darkness beyond easy convention; the image unsettles or uproots norms of description to take the reader into a world where everything is heightened.
Alcohol comes into play early in the poem. The night's source is "the dead who have died for / the sake of alcohol." This source, couple with the opening image, suggests that the alcoholic is only allowed the "nooks" of society; the alcoholic is kept in a dresser, out of sight of society's room--marginalized, outcast. Yet, Saenz extols these outcasts, those given to excess, those members of the night.
Whereas the day life is for conventional routines--"for hellos, . . . // the day of offices, of tell-me's and tell you's . . . // . . . and full-tilt races to see who / arrives first"--at night "things go back to being what they are" (genuine being), and alcohol provides "an authentic path to knowledge, perhaps the most / human of all" (at the price, of course, of society's rejection). Thus, to be fully human is to be fully outside society--an Emersonian notion.
Saenz condemns the technological world in
The Night
(as well as in poems in Immanent Visitor); technology and "human progress" seek to eradicate night, to banish "myth and the imaginary." Technological progress wishes to devise methods "so that people work harder and sleep less." Night is the time of mystery, of creativity and imagination, of art.
The theme of knowledge threads through the poem, a refrain. Drink provides knowledge and serves as a conduit to another (night) world. Drink takes one to the abyss, to the edge of life and death, though as Saenz writes, "learning to die is learning to live." Night, as Antezana suggests in his commentary on the poem, is the space for which death provides the knowledge.
Antezana compares
The Night to Crane's The Bridge or Eliot's Waste Land: long, "serial [poems], organized around a dominant spiritual or philosophical theme." Sections of Rimbaud's Illuminations
also come to mind, at least in terms of tone. Saenz's poetic "search for something concealed and beyond" is surely universal.
Bracho's poetry is both more sensuous and abstract than Saenz's. A generation younger than Saenz, she shares, nonetheless, similar surrealistic elements, especially how she, as does Saenz, plays with elements of space and time. Though death does figure in Bracho's work as well (in one poem, a "blink" separates death and sleep), there is an overflowing abundance of nature--gardens, waters--and the tactile eruptions of human desire. The magical realism of the "Boom" finds an extension in Bracho's poems' imagery.
Much of Barcho's early work, from the collection
Being Toward Death,
is filled with parenthetical asides. (Although a parenthesis seems to suggest to a reader that one need only read if one so wishes, Bracho's parenthetical asides mandate special notice.) These poems avoid closure; many lack ending punctuation. Images of moisture, mosses, algae, mud, and "ooze" abound; this liquid or tidal power suggests urges, longings, movements toward and away: the intimate personal abstracted into something more cosmic, some state larger or more universal than the individual. Perhaps these images are the primeval ooze for life's fecundity (fecund is a talismanic word Bracho uses as D. H. Lawrence invokes lambent in his early novels).
A poem like "In Time's Core" exemplifies Bracho's tendency to marry the concrete and abstract. There are several concrete images of time: an "autumn / of logs and leaf piles," colors of gold and fire, ending with "and a delicate moss, incandescent"--the decay or composting work of moss to fertilize the soil for the next round of life and decay. Time's core holds both (in a poem from a later collection titled That Space, That Garden, death and life are "rooted" in each other).
The poems from the collection titled
The Disposition of Amber
are filled with images of light and sun, stone and water. The section's opening poem, "The Room's Penumbra," begins with language itself: "Language enters." Into what space? What consciousness? Does this opening suggest the beginning of things, as in some kind of Eden? The poem continues, "The two approach the same objects." Shadow and light? Adam and Eve? God and Adam? Lovers? Understanding and mystery? Word and thing? Language and object? The meaning itself is "elusive."
The next poem, "From this Light," has imagery that echoes off penumbra. There are some marvelous images in this poem: "their very orchard / of sensation. Like discrete stones in a garden. Like pauses parsed / inside a temple." Hence, silences themselves (and perhaps the parenthetical pauses in Bracho's poems) need parsing. Things dominate this poem, yet an attraction tugs at them: "the things of the world / are magnetized." This notion of a magnetic quality repeats in many other poems: objects, humans--the pull (or repulsion) of things and desire, unwilled.
As cosmic as these poems may be, Bracho also grounds them: a butterfly's flight is depicted as "a spinning coin / threaded to the sun." The very form of the poem "Stone in the Pellucid Water" sends out ripples--long lines in each centered stanza. The formal, logical, objective language shifts suddenly at the poem's conclusion: "and find yourself reeling"--reeling from a sudden motion or emotion, a result of certainties shattered, pledges betrayed, balance lost by the gush of feeling.
The poems from the most recent collection included in this volume, titled
Hotel Room,
play again with space and time, labyrinths and plots. Hotel rooms are transient spaces: for lovers, travelers. The poem "It Was Merely a Sound" suggests any number of possible causes for the poem's "sound": pain, childbirth, orgasm. The image at the poem's end, of sound as something that "writhed inside" the poem's speaker, implies possession, an inhabitation, something outside (or inside) the (willed) self. "The Rooms Aren't What They Appear to Be" suggests the impermanence or constant alteration of rooms (space): a "drafting" that implies revision, tenuousness. (Hence, Bracho's use of water imagery: fluidity, liquid and permeable contours.)
Saenz and Bracho explore essential mysteries in their poems. Their poetry disdains convention, easy understandings. Whether the mysteries are inherent in drink or gardens or skin, these poets examine the shadowy margins and less defined boundaries in search for wisdom or beauty--and to evoke feeling. - Asheville Poetry Review

Enthusiastic overindulgence in drugs and/or alcohol has characterized the lifestyles of many artists of all persuasions, but not since De Quincy has a writer made what amounts to a religion of the pleasures and pains of intoxication. A lengthy introduction by the translators of this last book by Bolivia’s leading poet offers a panoramic view of the street life of La Paz, and the intimate surroundings in which Saenz lived and entertained his many admirers. Perhaps they felt this material was necessary, as the poem itself is concerned only with deeply personal matters referring to the author’s intimate inner life. As for his outer reputation, they offer this example of the poet’s quirky lifestyle: “On his wedding night Jaime Saenz bought and brought home a panther. It slept with the newlyweds until it grew too large and his wife finally said it was either her or the panther.”
The poem is composed of four titled sections and is heavily weighted with Saenz’s obsession with death and the body’s mysterious rites of passage. The most identifying aspect of his use of language is the capacity for condensing the essence of a profound emotional state into only the few words that will tell nothing but the bald facts—anomie, disorientation, cold terror. He hasn’t just read about these experiences in a book. He’s been there: “Strangely, the night of the city, the domestic night, the obscure night / the night that circles the world, the night that is slept, and dreamt, the night that is died into, the night that is seen; / has nothing whatever to do with the night. / Because the night only presents itself in the real, and not everyone can perceive it. / It’s a providential shiver of light that stuns you . . .”
This brusqueness might have posed an unanswerable challenge to his translators, but they have been inspired to reach for the appropriate harsh and narrow confines of language and imagery in order to reproduce the bald surrealism of the Spanish originals. They might have included some comments about how they went about the process of approaching a method for dealing with the material for translation, but perhaps because they are poets themselves they have left the analysis of their translation to the reader’s response to the work itself. However, the incisive afterword by Bolivian academic and literary critic Luis. H. Antezana, “Journey to the Center of The Night,” fills that gap. Bilingual readers will enjoy comparing their personal response to the work to that of a professional’s serious and informed analysis. - Foreward Magazine

Published two years before the Bolivian poet Jaime Saenz’s death in 1984, The Night redefines what it means to be illuminated by anatomizing the experience of being enveloped in darkness. In this visionary long poem, night cocoons the body, drugs it with alcohol, and “[sinks] itself into the shaft of the spine.” Drunks form its priesthood and come closest to understanding its secret; for them, “alcohol is light,” the most effective tool for penetrating the night’s “profundities.” Knowledge here is bodily, attained existentially: “It’s time to comprehend the incomprehensible; no one can explain it for you. / You have to apprehend your body. And your body, in turn, has to apprehend.” Saenz is not a straight-up existentialist, though; his writing is not terribly absurd, nor is it bleak. It is rich, sensuously detailed, intimately voiced, and its sense of humor is tempered with wisdom: “How should you learn to die? / —it must be a bitterly hard thing / .../ learning to die is learning to live.” Thoughts of holding on and letting go lead Saenz to catalog his favorite possessions, making no secret that he is also referring to himself and his friends: “Many things disappear or break, while others meet odd fates, as if they were human,” he writes. “They’re all sad pieces of junk, rickety wrecks, long out of style / —and, precisely for that reason, they are indivisible from life, and it’s murder to let them go.” Saenz’s sweetness comes through strongly in these lines, eloquently captured by Gander and Johnson. If the translation’s weakness lies in its occasionally pedantic diction and a penchant for the odd cognate (“cloacae” for sewers, “deracinating” for destroying, etc.), its greatest strength is its ability to represent in English the Spanish original’s complex tone. Exquisitely produced, this edition advances Saenz’s ultimate mission for The Night: to reveal a vision of the body connected with its soul, “inhabiting” it, passing through a life full of danger, fear, and humiliation, constructing a holistic view of existence, a unified conception of life and death. - Aaaron Belz

Stacks Image 251
Jaime Saenz, Immanent Visitor: Selected Poems of Jaime Saenz, A Bilingual Edition. Trans. by Kent Johnson, University of California Press, 2002.

read it at Google Books

Immanent Visitor is the first English-language translation of the work of Bolivia's greatest and most visionary twentieth-century poet. A poète maudit, Jaime Saenz rejected the conventions of polite society and became a monk in service of his own imagination. Apocalyptic and occult in his politics, a denizen of slum taverns, unashamedly bisexual, insistently nocturnal in his artistic affairs, and secretive in his leadership of a select group of writers, Saenz mixed the mystical and baroque with the fantastic, the psychological, and the symbolic. In masterly translations by two poet-translators, Kent Johnson and Forrest Gander, Saenz's strange, innovative, and wildly lyrical poems reveal a literary legacy of fierce compassion and solidarity with indigenous Bolivian cultures and with the destitute, the desperate, and the disenfranchised of that unreal city, La Paz.

In long lines, in odes that name desire, with Whitmanesque anaphora, in exclamations and repetitions, Saenz addresses the reader, the beloved, and death in one extended lyrical gesture. The poems are brazenly affecting. Their semantic innovation is notable in the odd heterogeneity of formal and tonal structures that careen unabashedly between modes and moods; now archly lyrical, now arcanely symbolic, now colloquial, now trancelike. As Saenz's reputation continues to grow throughout the world, these inspired translations and the accompanying Spanish texts faithfully convey the poet's unique vision and voice to English-speaking readers.

In addition to the darkly fantastic long poem "To Cross This Distance," this marvelous and unassuming book selects from the early and middle work of Bolivian poet and novelist Saenz (1921–1986). Poet-anthologists Johnson (A Nation of Poets) and Gander (Torn Awake), include the original Spanish versions of their long, sinuously precise renderings of the La Paz poet's lines, showing us that "in the dilated and hardened poles of the hymns is the pivotal chord that shocks you into seeing." - Publishers Weekly

Five poems from: As the Comet Passes

Some Days in the Life of The Night: Notes from Bolivia, June 20-30, 2004

Jaime Saenz: To Cross This Distance
     At the touch of the fleeting secret, of stopped time, of
self-consuming fire, and of ice, present and eternal,
     every eye, every image, will blaze up and burn.
     Every hollow within the earth, every darkness that falls,
will forever remain.
     (If you’re a sorcerer, laugh. But if not, hearing the devil’s
on your tail, don’t laugh.)
     With the passing of the years and the turning of these
worlds and the lights I’ve
gathered from contemplating the stars, I’ve become aware.
      In the torrential waters every soul dissolves into universalsoul.

     The immense malaise cast by shadows, the melancholic
visions surging from the night,
     everything terrifying, everything cruel, that without
reason, that without name,
     one has to take it, who knows why.

     If you have nothing to eat but garbage, don’t say a word.
     If the garbage makes you sick, don’t say a word.
     If they cut off your feet, if they boil your hands, if your
tongue rots, if your spine splits in two, if your soul fines
down to nothing, don’t say a word.
     If they poison you, don’t say a word, even if your bowels
slide from your mouth and your hair stands straight up; even
if your eyes well with blood, don’t say a word.
     If you feel good, don’t feel good. If you fall behind, don’t
fall behind. If you die, don’t die. If you’re sad, don’t be sad.
Don’t say a word.
     Living is hard; it’s hard work to not say a word.
     Putting up with people without saying a word is tough.
     It’s very hard—inasmuch as they expect to be understood
without saying a word—
     to understand people without saying a word.
     It’s terribly difficult yet very easy to be a decent person;
     the truly difficult thing is to not say a word.

     I feel the coming of a dark day, a closed space, an incom-
prehensible event, a night endless as immortality.
     What I feel has nothing to do with me, nor with you; it’s
nothing personal, nothing particular, this thing I feel;
but it has to do with I don’t know what
     —perhaps the world, or the kingdoms of the world, or the
mysterious enchantments of the world;
     across the waters a deep fissure comes into view.
     One can perceive, through the odor of things and through
the forms they assume, the exhaustion of things.
     In what grows, in what has ceased to grow, in what echoes,
in what stays, in what doesn’t stay, in the soundless air, in the
metamorphosis of the insect, in the murmuring of trees,
     one can sense the joy of a coming end.
     The devouring darkness, dying to devour—the allotment
extinguished, nothing shall be.
     Save perhaps a breeze, high above some place, maybe
deep inside some place,
     floating on the farthest waters.
     The gasping without end or beginning, ashroud for stillness,
     enshrouding the circular motions of the eternal return
     —I don’t know how to explain, I don’t know how to name
this feeling I feel

Translated by Forrest Gander and Kent Johnson.

File:Jaime Saenz Guzman.jpg

Jaime Saenz (1921-1986) is Bolivia’s leading writer of the 20th century. Prolific as poet, novelist, and non-fiction writer, his baroque, propulsive syntax and dedication to themes of death, alcoholism, and otherness make his poetry among the most idiosyncratic in the Spanish-speaking world.


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