The Desire to Be Oneself

Homero Aridjis
Translated from the Spanish by George McWhirter

(After Kafka)

If you could be a horseman riding
bareback through the winds and rains
on a transparent horse
constantly buffeted
by the velocity of your mount
if you could ride hard
until your clothes were cast off far behind you
because there is no need of clothes
until reins were done with
because there is no need of reins
until your shadow was cast far behind you
because there's no need of a shadow
and then you might see countryside not as countryside
but a fistful of air
if only you could cast the horse far behind you
and ride on, on yourself

El Deseo de Ser Uno Mismo

(Desde Kafka)

Si uno pudiera ser un jinete cabalgando
a pelo sobre un caballo transparente
a través de vientos y de lluvias
constantemente sacudido
por la velocidad de la cabalgadura
si uno pudiera cabalgar intensamente
hasta arrojar lejos de sí las ropas
porque no hacen falta las ropas
hasta deshacerse de las riendas
porque no hacen falta las riendas
hasta arrojar lejos de sí la sombra
porque no hace falta la sombra
y así viera que el campo no es campo
sino puñado de aire
si uno pudiera arrojar lejos de si el caballo
y cabalgar solo sobre sí mismo

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One of Latin America’s foremost literary figures, Homero Aridjis was born in Contepec, Michoacán, Mexico. He has written fifty-one books of poetry and prose and won many important literary prizes. Formerly the Mexican ambassador to Switzerland, the Netherlands, and UNESCO, he is the president emeritus of PEN International. He is founder and president of the Group of 100, an environmentalist association of writers, artists, and scientists.

George McWhirter shared the first Commonwealth Poetry Prize with Chinua Achebe in 1972 for Catalan Poems (Oberon Press). His own poetry is anthologized in The Penguin Book Of Canadian Verse And Irish Writing In The Twentieth Century (Cork University Press). He has translated and published prose by Marco Denevi, Carlos Fuentes and Mario Arregui, and the following books from the Spanish: The Selected Poems Of José Emilio Pachecho (New Directions), which won the F.R. Scott Prize for Translation; Eyes To See Otherwise: The Selected Poems Of Homero Aridjis (Carcanet and New Directions), Solar Poems by Homero Aridjis (City Lights) and A Time Of Angels (Fondo de Cultura Económica and City Lights, 2012). An anthology of contemporary Mexican poetry, Where Words Like Monarchs Fly, which he edited, appeared from Anvil Press in 2000; his version of Hecuba by Euripides was produced by Blackbird Theatre at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre in 2009, one of his projects as Vancouver’s Inaugural Poet Laureate from 2007 – 2009.

Cover of Self-Portrait in the Zone of Silence

New York, New York

"In his vast oeuvre, Aridjis has produced many works that confront apocalyptic times."
— Carlos Fonseca, LA Review of Books

"Homero Aridjis’s poems open a door into the light."
— Seamus Heaney

"Aridjis is a poet of great vitality and originality."
— W. S. Merwin

"A great flame passes through the words, the poetry, of Homero Aridjis, who sets reality alight in images that at once illuminate and consume it, making life a sister of dream. Homero is a great poet; our century has great need of him."
— Yves Bonnefoy

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