The Poetry of Carlos Manuel Rivera: a translator’s view By Bradley Warren Davis

Proyecto performático en audio

Very few poets are able to navigate the treacherous waters of urban poetry and mysticism:  Francisco de Quevedo, Federico García Lorca, Ernesto Cardenal.  How does one go from the purity of Saint John of the Cross to the asperity of Miguel Piñero?  How does one careen through the retruécano of Saint Teresa of Avila and the street-smart attitude of Piri Thomas?  Carlos Manuel Rivera embarks in a poetry that skirrs through the classical winds of the Spanish Renaissance (Garcilaso de la Vega, Fray Luis de Leon, Gutierre de Cetina) and the impetuous winds of modern US Latino poetry (Pedro Pietri, Miguel Algarín, Tato Laviera, Pat Mora).  He does this with the awareness that traditional readers tend to take sides in preferences for such poets and traditions.  Unfortunately, academia has not always been able to examine or compare the verses of such supposedly different poets.  Purity versus “impurity”.  Tradition versus innovation.  The same old debates and preferences.  The poetry of Carlos Manuel Rivera in many ways represents the link between these so-called opposites.   His training as an actor has given him the tools to approach the immediacy of urban poetry.  His discipline as a Spanish scholar has enabled him to embrace and understand the traditions of classical Hispanic poetry.  And yes, the reader will be able to perceive the innovation of such a marriage:  neologisms, new syntax, daring verses.  His poetry represents a challenge for any translator.  But we willingly take this challenge because we know that the poet-sailor understands the compass of his poetry.  He is the spiritual son of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz and the accomplice in arms with Lorna Dee Cervantes.  His poetry will take us to tierra firme and there we will see the connections between the two worlds.