April 12, 2023

Saúl Yurkievich (Argentina / lived in France) 1931-2005

Saúl Yurkievich (Argentina / lived in France)

Saúl Yurkievich was born on November 27, 1931 in La Plata, Argentina, where he was educationd and began his literary and academic career. The son of newly-arrived European immigrants, he grew up in a city that was plyglot and a rich cultural mix. Yurkievich has said that in his childhood he heard almost every language of the world spoken.
     In the 1950s he joined in the avant-garde movements in Buenos Aires, a city Yurkievich remembers as then "prosperous, accustomed to international exchanges, refuge for European intellectuals and artists, a center, and relatively up-to-date...where everything was still to be made."
     His early interest and study of French language and literature led him to Paris in 1962 to complete preparatory studies for a doctoral thesis (published in 1968 as Modernidad de Apollinaire). That first visits resulted in him meeting Julio Cortázar, with whom he established a close friendship. That close association lasted through Cortázar's lifetime (he died in 1984); Yurkievich served as Cortázar's literary executor.
     In the mid 1960s Yurkievich was appointed professor of Latin American literature at the Université de Paris VIII (Vincennes), a post he still occupies. He has taught and lectured extensively throughout Europe, Latin America, and the United States. In addition to his volumes of poetry, he has published some dozen books of creative prose, literary criticism, and essays, and he is acknowledge internationally as a major figure in the field of contemporary Latin American literature.
     For Yurkievich the poet is "a conniver with words, [an] artful trickster," and he sees poetry as something that "unfolds, duplicates, multiplies." Yurkievich died in Paris in 2005.


Volanda linda lumbre (Buenos Aires: Altamar, 1961); Cuerpos (Vienna: Universitäts-buchdrucker, 1965); Circulea de Loculira (La Plata: Asterisco, 1965); Berenjenal y merodeo (La Plata: Asterisco, 1966); Fricciones (México City: Siglo XXI Editores, 1969); Retener sin detener (Bacelona: Ocnos, 1973); Rimbomba (Madrid: Ediciones Peralta, 1978); Acaso acoso (Valencia: Editorial Pre-Textos, 1982); De plenos y de vanos (México City: Artífice, 1984); El Trasver (México City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1988); A la larga: antología poética (Buenos Aires: Ediciones de Tierra Firme, 1993); Vaivén (México City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1996); El Sentimiento del sentido (2000); El huesped perplejo (2001); El perfil de la magnolia (2003)


Background Noise, trans. by Cola Franzen (Catbird Press, 2003)


among the thousands of crickets crying in unison
one sings to you among the clouds of dragonflies
beating their humming elytrons
one whispers something to you
among the stirring of butterflies
one flutters in seach of you
on its wings your sign is encoded
there is also
your crown your rat your bat
they surround you
are destine for you
and you don't recognize them

Translated from the Spanish by Cola Franzen

We Are and We Are Not

we are not on a visit
we are not stolling
along symmetrical pathways
of a garden with statues
contemplating the scene
we are in a box
there is no such thing
there is also no box
the continent changes

Translated from the Spanish by Cola Franzen


he rains down his wisdom
every day he changes the water
of the maxims
after falling asleep he erases everything
darkens his wife and his friends
turns off his children loosens his relatives
unbottons the clocks
kicks off his duties
takes off his fears
slicks down his taxes
curtains the house the street the things
turns down the books closes the neighbors
who knows where he will go
thus astride
where will he wander
what will he touch with his open hand
what will be there before his eyes
who knows what a hodgepodge
what trains and what doors
what seas and what breasts
what clouds and what mouths
how does he take off and how sit down
how does he move and how stay
who calls him what does he answer
how does he go and how does he come back

Translated from the Spanish by Cola Franzen


he furnished his house with ferrets
carrionhawks armadillos and chinchillas
hung up panthers lit up lizards
he served wardrobes to his guests
one wore mahogony the other rosewood
they all had so much fun dancing the sideboard
they didn't want to leave
in the middle of the party they were locked up
nailed down very happily until dawn
then each one carried away
a scarab as remembrance

-Translated from the Spanish by Cola Franzen


English language copyright ©2008 by Cola Franzen. Reprinted by permission of Cola Franzen.

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