if you make them spin orange LEMON cherrysome over others LEMON cherry LEMONthe invisible pieces cherry LEMON LEMONif they coincide cherry LEMON LEMONthe segments LEMON orange LEMONthat a framework fixes orange LEMON LEMONif once they stop LEMON cherry LEMONsome over the others orange LEMON LEMONthe invisible pieces orange LEMON LEMONtheir lines carry on after a dry thud LEMON LEMON LEMON cascade of coins You will have built a body
si las haces girar naranja LIMÓN cerezaunas sobre otras LIMÓN cereza LIMÓNlas piezas invisibles cereza LIMÓN LIMÓNsi coinciden cereza LIMÓN LIMÓNlos segmentos LIMÓN naranja LIMÓNque un adamiaje fija naranja LIMÓN LIMÓNsi al detenerse LIMÓN cereza LIMÓNunas sobre otras naranja LIMÓN LIMÓNlas invisibles piezas naranja LIMÓN LIMÓNse continúan sus líneas despúes de un golpe seco LIMÓN LIMÓN LIMÓN cascada de monedas Habrás armado un cuerpo
“Seguidillas” from FOOTWORK: by Severo Sarduy, translated by David Francis.
Published by Circumference BooksJanuary 2021.
Copyright © 2021 by David Francis.
Copyright © Severo Sarduy, 1974 and Heirs of Severo Sarduy
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Novelist, poet, painter, and literary theorist, Severo Sarduy was one of the most groundbreaking Latin American writers of the twentieth century. Born in Camagüey, Cuba in 1937, he moved to Havana in 1956 to study medicine, but soon gave up his scientific pursuits for the arts.
Often homoerotic and imbued with allusions to art, the absent or decaying body, the history of science, jazz and folk music, and the author’s Spanish, African, and Chinese heritage, Sarduy’s poetry has rarely appeared in translation, but his literary oeuvre was vast. Gabriel García Márquez once called Sarduy the best writer in the Spanish language. Richard Howard hailed Sarduy as a writer who “has everything…so brilliant, so funny, and so bewilderingly apt in his borrowings, his derivations, as well as in his inventions.”
Sarduy’s neo-baroque style influenced such Spanish-language novelists as Mario Vargas Llosa, Juan Goytisolo, and Carlos Fuentes. From 1960 until the time of his death, the poet lived in Paris where he worked with Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva, and many others, on the literary magazine Tel Quel. Sarduy died due to complications with AIDS in 1993.
David Francis serves as Dean of Grace Hopper College at Yale University, where he also teaches in the Program in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration. He has received a Fulbright fellowship to translate into English poems by the Colombian writer José Asunción Silva. His translations or poems have appeared in Inventory, The FSG Book of 20th-Century Latin American Poetry, Guernica, Exchanges, The Brooklyn Rail, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and elsewhere. He has an M.F.A. in poetry writing from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures from Harvard University. He taught previously at Tufts, Harvard, and the University of Virginia.
Cuban writer Severo Sarduy was one of the most groundbreaking Latin American literary figures of the 20th century. His poems are acrobatic in content and form, innovative, and also part of a deep lineage and web of connection. David Francis translated the poems into English. He writes, Footwork is "a body of work that sings on its own, that celebrates the carnal life, the sensual experiences of dance, of painting, food, music, and sexual pleasure, but that also recognizes—in these pleasures—the imminence of one's passing."