Laura Solórzano, Lip Wolf, Trans. by Jen Hofer, Action Books, 2007.
Readers beware. You are about to go into the lion’s den. […]There’s no room for nonsense: Solórzano seems to have no interest in dazzling the reader with her prodigious linguistic performance or her defiance of challenging self-imposed constraints. Her diction is unerringly original yet it is also continues the often forgotten legacy of some of the masters of the Latin American historical avant-garde such as Oliverio Girondo, from Argentina, and the Mexican Xavier Villaurritia. How fortunate is she to have her poems be in the hands of Jen Hofer, as judicious a translator as anyone would ever hope for. Her account of the never-ending process of translation evinces just how much thought goes into every one of her choices. And how fortunate are we: she’s been brave and generous enough to venture into the lion’s den just for the sake of sharing this striking work with English-language readers.– Mónica de la Torre
“wolf speaks for the wound, the wound is a mouth. the mouth a memory–wolf has lips of the future. the page is its steppe–wolf of bifid tongue that enlivens two languages–world in two voices: it stalks in one, sniggs, tracks in the other. once again licks the lip of the wound–wolf among ruins of words, between landslides and remnants of words–nomad, vandal wolf–indefatigable predator wolf–wolf of future lip: laura and jen invent it as they name it.”– Jorge Esquinea
In her first collection available to English-language readers, rising Mexican poet Laura Solórzano explores the risks and obstacles of communication through startling juxtapositions of images, dizzying word play and a masterful command of direct language. As the literal translation of the Spanish title suggests, Solórzano journeys into the wolf's mouth, where communication is risky and difficult. Written in the first person, these poems make demands of their addressees and engage in complex verbal stunts: Serve yourself when you sense or say lilies in the city./ Lilies I've fixed to you, fireflies of lacteal lips. Body parts, including lips, cornea, tongue, molar and tendon, appear throughout and often perform the impossible (to oppress the melody in the musician's molar). The tightly constructed 12-part sequence that opensthe book deals with food, tasting and cooking: dough lifts the debt, fornication continues until the saucepan shatters and nibbles have motives. These layered, playful and sorrowful poems reward repeated readings. - Publishers Weekly
Laura Solórzano (Guadalajara, 1961) leads a discreet life in her native Guadalajara, where she offers writing workshops at a local school. The publication of Lip Wolf, aptly translated by Jen Hofer for Action Books in 2007, unveiled what few knew: that her demeanor might be quiet, but her inner life is tumultuous, brimming with excitement about the materiality—the fleshiness—of words and their multiple connections with human and non-human life altogether. Under her gaze, the mere act of feeding a child with a wooden spoon appears as a threatening choreography of angst and love. As poet Mónica de la Torre asserts, Solórzano´s poems “provide us with stunning soundings of that which resists remaining still in the form of images.” - Cristina Rivera Garza
“I’m entering time, taking the time of the terrain, entering the tempest of the broken temblor in its strip of sundowns and I enter, torpid turf of pasture, stubborn stair with its child’s opening that accelerates feet,” the first sentence of “(entrance)” encapsulates the chemistry of Lip Wolf; Solórzano’s is an insular sound-driven poetry full of deeply embedded and arresting images and imperative language which bewilders and rewards in the same breath.
Solórzano has written three books of poetry, most recently Boca perdida in 2005. She was trained as a psychologist, and is a visual artist as well as a writing teacher. The poems are clearly mined from the poet’s personal life. The concrete and the abstract fuse in colliding associative sequences. A domestic sediment filters into the language, with gestures towards child-bearing, home-making, and the tensions in close relationships. However, the poems are neither anecdotal nor confessional, but rather a transliteration of experience, an effort to accurately say what it is to live.
The forty-nine pieces are titled by numbers, asterisks, or by words in parentheses, furthering the interiority. The collection is so cohesive there isn’t even a table of contents, as if it were all just one poem, one long exhalation. The particularly incisive and useful introduction by Dolores Dorantes on Solórzano’s position within Mexican poetry and the forces at work in the collection, as well as Hofer’s discussion on the difficulties and strategies for this translation, are key to gaining a foothold in the poems.
Hofer has written and edited several books of poetry, including Sin puertas visibles: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by Mexican Women, which was a finalist for the 2004 PEN Award for poetry in translation. Her athletic translation fully engages the original but acknowledges that in a work where so much of the meaning and impact is tied up in sound and double entendre, merely parroting the lines in English would be dishonest. In “(trivial text)” she translates “Me voy metiendo al mundo” as “I go on winching my way inside the world.” Maintaining the alliteration of the original, the delight is in the leap of “winching.” Though not a literal translation, it is faithful to the mechanics and spirit of the oeuvre in general.
Unconcerned with conventional contemporary poetry, this work stands apart with its obsessive and intoxicating project, burrowing into the reader’s mind. It seems to access language at the elemental, the words reaching back toward an original level of meaning. It is difficult poetry which demanded much of its writer and translator. It will not suffer a lazy reader, but the cunning and diligent will be well repaid by what is held in the wolf’s mouth. - www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/lip-wolf/
Laura Solórzano was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco in 1961. She currently runs a small independent business as a textiles artisan in Guadalajara. Her poems have been published in various Mexican literary journals, most recently in Hoja Frugal (available free of cost from the editor, Dolores Dorantes, at email@example.com); her most recent books are lobo de labio (chapbook, Serie poesía, Cuadernos de filodecaballos, Guadalajara: 2001) and Semilla de Ficus (Ediciones Rimbaud, Tlaxcala: 1999).