poem index

The Academy Offices June 24, 2003 From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico, Mónica de la Torre came to the United States in 1993 on a Fulbright Scholarship to study at Columbia University in New York City.

Her first book of original poetry in English, Talk Shows, was published in 2007 by Switchback Books, followed by Public Domain (Roof Books) in 2008.

She coedited, with Michael Wiegers, the collection Reversible Monuments: Contemporary Mexican Poetry (Copper Canyon Press, 2002) and is also the coauthor of the book Appendices, Illustrations, & Notes (Smart Art Press, 2000) with artist Terence Gower. She edited and translated the volume Poems by Gerardo Deniz, and has translated numerous other Spanish-language poets.

About her work, the poet Mary Jo Bang has written: "Rather than relying on false certainties and pat recollections, de la Torre offers up a fine-tuned sense of the ridiculous, a world of tomfool capers with a hint of the macabre."

She has served as the poetry editor of The Brooklyn Rail and lives in New York City, where she works as a senior editor of BOMB magazine.

On Translation

Mónica de la Torre
Not to search for meaning, but to reedify a gesture, an intent.

As a translator, one grows attached to originals. Seldom are choices 
   so purposeful.

At midday, the translator meets with the poet at a café at the intersection 
   where for decades whores and cross-dressers have lined up at 
   night for passers-by to peruse.  

Not a monologue, but an implied conversation. The translator's 
   response is delayed. 

The translator asks, the poet answers unrestrictedly. Someone 
   watches the hand movements that punctuate the flow of an 
   incomprehensible dialogue.

They're speaking about the poet's disillusionment with Freud. 

One after another, vivid descriptions of the poet's dreams begin to 
   pour out of his mouth. There's no signal of irony in his voice. 
   Nor a hint of astonishment, nor a suggestion of hidden meanings,
   rather a belief in the detritus theory.

"Se me aparece un gato fosforescente. Lo sostengo en mis brazos 
   sabiendo que no volveré a ser el mismo." 

"Estoy en una fiesta. De pronto veo que el diablo está sentado frente 
   a mí. Viste de negro, lleva una barba puntiaguda y un tridente en 
   la mano izquierda. Es tan amable que nadie se da cuenta de que 
   no es un invitado como los otros." 

"Anuncian en el radio que Octavio Paz leerá su poema más reciente:
   'Vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . . vaca . . .'"

"Entro a un laboratorio y percibo aromas inusitados. Aún los recuerdo." 


The translator knows that nothing the poet has ever said or written 
   reveals as much about him as the expression on his face when he 
   was asked to pose for a picture. He greets posterity with a devilish 
   grin. To the translator's delight, he's forced to repeat the gesture at 
   least three or four times. The camera has no film. 

Reprinted from American Poet, Fall 2002. Copyright © 2002 by Mónica de la Torre. Reprinted by permission of the poet. All rights reserved.

Mónica de la Torre

Mónica de la Torre

Born and raised in Mexico City, Mónica de la Torre is co-editor, with Michael Wiegers, of the collection Reversible Monuments: Contemporary Mexican Poetry

by this poet

poem
I.
You thought this would be 
a dance lesson,
things were easier then.
No marimbas, no clarinets;
only a longing for the fun
to begin.
Rain came down.
Nothing seems as remote
as the days you didn't 
have to think about it:
always already there,
gushing out. Control
was required to stop ideas 
from overflowing.
poem
Victor got a real sense of power
from making his own raisins. He’d buy
pounds and pounds of grapes
and leave them to dry 
on the kitchen table.


Theresa didn’t want to hear about 
her ex-husband’s cancer. Not on Father’s Day.
She took a train all night 
to have breakfast with her cousin. 
All Sunday she rode
poem
I. Before Breakfast


When the sun turns gray and I become tired
of looking at your many-colored shoes


I will give you balloons for all the holes
we speak too much to fill. Who believes


in air, nowadays? Or do you prefer tea
with the dried fruit I will have to throw out


the window of your room? Because I