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Recorded by Jaime Manrique, September 13, 2016.

About this poet

Jaime Manrique was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, in 1949. He began writing poetry in his teens, and at age seventeen he moved to Florida with his mother and sister. He received a BA from the University of South Florida in 1972.

In 1975 Manrique was awarded Colombia’s “Eduardo Cote Lamus” National Poetry Award for his debut poetry collection, Los adoradores de la luna (Instituto de Cultura y Bellas Artes, 1977). He is the author of several books of poetry, including El libro de los muertos: poemas selectos 1973–2015 (Artepoética Press, 2016), Tarzan, My Body, Christopher Columbus (Painted Leaf Press, 2001), and My Night with/Mi noche con Federico García Lorca (Painted Leaf Press, 1997).

The poet Alfred Corn writes, “Throughout Jaime Manrique’s poetry a faint overtone of humor runs, permanent and subtle as the scent of saffron in the air of a kitchen in Barranquilla.” Manrique, who writes poetry in Spanish and prose in English, says, “As a writer, I am trying to reflect the two cultures that have shaped me. What I want to do is explore the two countries, from the perspective of a gay Latino living in New York City.”

Manrique has also published several novels, including Our Lives Are the Rivers (HarperCollins, 2007), winner of the 2007 International Latino Book Award in historical fiction, as well as the essay collection Eminent Maricones: Arenas, Lorca, Puig, and Me (University of Wisconsin Press, 2002). With Joan Larkin, he translated Sor Juana’s Love Poems/Poemas de amor (University of Wisconsin Press, 2003) into English.

Manrique has received fellowships from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He currently teaches at the City College of New York and lives in New York City.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
El libro de los muertos: poemas selectos 1973–2015 (Artepoética Press, 2016)
Tarzan, My Body, Christopher Columbus (Painted Leaf Press, 2001)
Mi cuerpo y otros poemas (Ediciones Casa Silva, 1999)
My Night with/Mi noche con Federico García Lorca (Painted Leaf Press, 1997)
Scarecrow (The Groundwater Press, 1990)
Los adoradores de la luna (Instituto de Cultura y Bellas Artes, 1977)

Prose
Cervantes Street (Akashic Books, 2012)
Our Lives Are the Rivers (HarperCollins, 2007)
Latin Moon in Manhattan (University of Wisconsin Press, 2003)
Twilight at the Equator (University of Wisconsin Press, 2003)
Eminent Maricones: Arenas, Lorca, Puig, and Me (University of Wisconsin Press, 2002)
Colombian Gold: A Novel of Power and Corruption (Clarkson N. Potter, 1983)
El cadáver de papa (Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, 1978)

Images

translated by Edith Grossman

I’ve spent a whole afternoon looking at photographs.
I’ve accumulated so many in my life—
but there are two in particular that interest me.
Both are sepia by now, I don’t know where
they were taken, and I’m not in either of them.
The first is a classic composition
of nine people. My mother’s family.
My grandparents, two uncles, four aunts,
and a woman I don’t know or have forgotten.
The women sit on the ground,
the men stand behind them
except for my Aunt Aura, who holds onto
my grandfather with one hand and with the other
caresses my uncle’s shoulder.
Even in this photo of her when she was young—caramel skin,
dark eyes, dark hair, even more beautiful through the sepia,
and wearing a two-piece bathing suit:
the same as a bikini in the 1940s—
one could guess at her boldness.
They’re all in bathing suits and most
try their best smiles.
I don’t know who took this picture,
and studying their faces, I try to see
what they were thinking, what they hoped for from their lives.
My grandmother, despite her twelve children
(or perhaps because of them), smiles
from right to left, like a giant sunflower.
My grandfather seems to contemplate the infinite, as handsome
as a gray ox; and my Aunt Emilia in her braids
seems to sense the sadness of life.
I’m sure I wasn’t born yet.
But even if I were already an adult,
could I have helped them with what I know now
about their lives? Could I have predicted their successes,
their failures—could I have prophesied their deaths?
Their slender, healthy bodies.
the men with the look of swordsmen—
I feel nostalgia when I look at this photograph.
So much energy in their stance!
When did they stop boxing with life?
In which round did they concede defeat?
When did the sound of the bell make them sense the immutable?
There’s no way to take them out of the snapshot,
to know what they were thinking just then.
This is my past, these are my roots,
but as I look at it again on this rainy afternoon,
why can’t I arrange everything into a coherent scene?


Imágenes

He estado toda una tarde estudiando las fotos.
He acumulado tantas en mi vida—
pero hay dos particularmente que me interesan.
Ambas son ahora color sepia, y no sé dónde
fueron tomadas y yo no estoy en ninguna de ellas.
La primera foto es una composición clásica
de nueve personas. Esta es la familia de mi madre.
Mis abuelos, dos tíos, cuatro tías
y una mujer que desconozco o he olvidado.
Las mujeres están sentadas en el suelo,
los hombres de pies detrás de ellas
excepto por mi tía Aura, quien con una mano
agarra a mi abuelo y con la otra
acaricia el hombro de mi tío.
Ya en esta foto de juventud—piel color caramelo,
ojos y cabellos oscuros, más hermosos sobre el sepia—
(vestida con traje de baño de dos piezas:
el equivalente de un bikini en los años cuarenta)
uno podría deducir su naturaleza intrépida.
Todos están en trajes de baño y la mayoría
trata de sonreír de la mejor manera.
Yo no sé quién tomó esta foto,
y escrutando estos rostros, trato de averiguar
qué pensaban ellos, qué esperaban de sus existencias.
Mi abuela, a pesar de sus doce hijos
(o tal vez a causa de ello), sonríe
de derecha a izquierda, como un girasol gigante.
Mi abuelo parece escrutar al infinito, hermoso
como un buey gris; y mi tía Emilia, con sus trenzas,
parece intuir la tristeza de la vida.
Estoy seguro que para esa época yo no había nacido.
Pero aún si ya hubiera sido adulto,
¿podría ayudarlos con el conocimiento que ahora tengo
de sus vidas? ¿Podría haberlos prevenido de sus éxitos,
de sus fracasos—podría haber profetizado sus muertes?
De cuerpos esbeltos y sanos,
los hombres con sus figuras de esgrimistas—
siento nostalgia al mirar esta foto.
¡Cuánta energía irradia de sus poses!
¿En qué momento dejaron de boxear con la vida?
¿En qué asalto se dieron por vencidos;
en cuál campanada intuyeron lo inmutable?
No hay nada qué pueda hacer para sacarlos de esta foto,
ni para saber qué pensaban ellos en ese instante.
Éste es mi pasado, éstas mis raíces,
pero al revisarlo en esta tarde lluviosa
¿por qué no logro organizarlo en una escena coherente?

From My Night with / Mi noche con Federíco García Lorca by Jaime Manrique. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. © 2003 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved.

From My Night with / Mi noche con Federíco García Lorca by Jaime Manrique. Reprinted by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press. © 2003 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved.

Jaime Manrique

Jaime Manrique

Jaime Manrique is the author of several books of poetry, including El libro de los muertos: poemas selectos 1973–2015 (Artepoética Press, 2016) and My Night with/Mi noche con Federico García Lorca (Painted Leaf Press, 1997). He lives in New York City.

by this poet

poem

translated by Edith Grossman

It is a July night
scented with gardenias.
The moon and stars shine
hiding the essence of the night.
As darkness fell
—with its deepening onyx shadows
and the golden brilliance of the stars—
my mother put the

2
poem

(Skip to the original poem in Spanish)

translated by Edith Grossman

Against a topaz sky
and huge windows starry 
with delirious heartsease
and sensual red cayenne;
the sweet twilight breeze
fragrant with almond and Indian orange;
on the Moorish tiles,
wearing their
poem

translated by Eugene Richie

for Grace Schulman

Lounging in a beach chair
I am moved by the meekness of the ocean,
the distances it has traveled
to unfold in frothing ringlets by my feet.
At high

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