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)

The Sky Over My Mother’s House

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 garden, her house, the kitchen, in order.
Now, as she sleeps,
I walk in her garden
immersed in the solitude of the moment.
I have forgotten the names
of many trees and flowers
and there used to be more pines
where orange trees flower now.
Tonight I think of all the skies
I have pondered and once loved.
Tonight the shadows around
the house are kind.
The sky is a camera obscura
projecting blurred images.
In my mother’s house
the twinkling stars
pierce me with nostalgia,
and each thread in the net that surrounds this world
is a wound that will not heal.


El cielo encima de la casa de mi madre

Es una noche de julio
perfumada de gardenias.
La luna y las estrellas brillan
sin revelar la esencia de la noche.
A través del anochecer
—con sus gradaciones cada vez más intensas de ónix,
y el resplandor dorado de los astros, de las sombras—
mi madre ha ido ordenando su casa, el jardín, la cocina.
Ahora, mientras ella duerme,
yo camino en su jardín,
inmerso en la soledad de esta hora.
Se me escapan los nombres
de muchos árboles y flores,
y había más pinos antes
donde los naranjos florecen ahora.
Esta noche pienso en todos los cielos
que he contemplado y que alguna vez amé.
Esta noche las sombras
alrededor de la casa son benignas.
El cielo es una cámara oscura
que proyecta imágenes borrosas.
En la casa de mi madre
los destellos de los astros
me perforan con nostalgia,
y cada hilo de la red que circunvala este universo
es una herida que no sana.

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.