Michelle Gil-Montero

Close storms, braille music.

Mud plucks the rain
like the gut

of a violin, warm in the palindrome
                                of arm
                                and chin—in-

tricate chit chat.
even as I write

                    a rocking chair unfurls a choir of
                    feral cats, and house

wrens, chiseled
maple, crackle

like real fire in the flue.

We too live in the neck of this hourglass,
in the downpour

of pause before the fickle
next note, the flicker in
a vein, a pulse

to feel in the figment, to feel for.

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Michelle Gil-Montero is a poet and translator of contemporary Latin American poetry, hybrid-genre work, and criticism. She has translated Poetry After the Invention of América: Don’t Light the Flower by Andrés Ajens (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); Mouth of Hell (Action Books, 2013), The Tango Lyrics (Quattro Books, 2013), Dark Museum (Action Books, 2015), The Annunciation (Action Books, 2019), and Berlin Interlude (Black Square Editions, coming in 2020) by María Negroni; as well as This Blue Novel (Action Books, 2016, National Translation Award semi-finalist) and Edinburgh Notebook (Action Books, coming in 2020) by Valerie Mejer Caso. She has been awarded fellowships from the NEA and Howard Foundation, as well as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant to Argentina, a PEN / Heim Translation Prize, a SUR Translation Support Grant, and an Academy of American Poets University Prize. She is the author of the chapbook Attached Houses (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2013). She has an M.F.A. in Poetry from The University of Iowa and a B.A. in English from Brown University. She lives in Pittsburgh and is Associate Professor of English at Saint Vincent College, where she directs the Minor in Literary Translation. She is the publisher of Eulalia Books (

"Poet and translator Michelle Gil-Montero’s language, chiseled by acute observations of her intimate and liminal surroundings, is a dazzling constellation of what Roland Barthes calls 'speckled with these sensitive points.' These 'so many points' poke and puncture our internalized rigidity and borders, giving us access to an alternative universe of tenderness as well as vulnerability. Gil-Montero is without doubt one of the rare, gifted and fierce poet-translators working today." 
—Don Mee Choi 

"Where did these poems come from, I wonder as I read them, and what are they. They are confessional if spider legs dance profanely. They are domestic if a mother is ether. A wasp nest 'chews down to a center room': they are architectural, then. And spare, like a scattering of rivets, or like hipbones. Michelle Gil-Montero turns words into objects, as did Niedecker and Stein, but the objects do witchy things. 'Sequence' sequins up a naked spine, closing a sundress. Clouds 'nudge nothing.' An arm and a chin, cradling a violin, become a visual palindrome. This poet’s voice is both ancient and intimate, mysteriously narrating how it is we all (as earthly creatures) live in searchlight and havoc, in stillness and floods and a fog that hugs us with 'odd fondness.' What is the quality of a gem-cutter that cuts just the right yellow topaz with just the right facets, and the jeweler that drops it just once, because she knows where and how, into just the right setting? That’s Gil-Montero’s quality of attention. Few poets writing now have it."
—Joy Katz

"With their paradoxical co-embodiment of impulse and exactitude, Michelle Gil-Montero’s lyrics remind me of Marosa Di Giorgio’s work, and of a neuron’s. Here poetics is physics: what’s linked in a few syllables of sound and association can have at once dazzling and coruscating effects— 'close storms, braille music' —depending on the scale or closeness with which it is perceived. Thus the lyric’s intimacy is both gorgeous and terrible, human fluency both a delicious and an unbearable double valence, an aptitude for being turned simultaneously both inside and out. As a multi-lingual poet and translator who has brought the most complex and lyric propositions into a reactive, dynamic English, Michelle Gil-Montero knows that virtuosity appears effortless because of the extreme pressure which fires it: it springs through a torqued synapse, puts the twist in the Mobius strip."
— Joyelle McSweeney


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