Sunday, June 10, 2012

Carlos Oquendo de Amat, 5 Metros de Poemas, Brooklyn: Ugly Duckling Press, 2010






Published as part of Ugly Duckling Press' "Lost Literature Series," this poem was originally published in Peru in 1927. This new version is double-sided with the original Spanish on one side and an English translation on the other. Individual pages 9.25"x 8.75", the 27 pages fully extended measure 19' x 8.75". The text below is taken from the Ugly Duckling Press' description and history of the publication. Visit them at: Ugly Duckling Presse

"Carlos Oquendo de Amat's 5 Metros de Poemas was written in the period between 1923 to 1925 and published in a very small edition in December 1927. Oquendo de Amat died at the age of 32 shortly after the publication. Carlos Oquendo de Amat’s only book of poems, it bears the stamp of the influence of European avant gardes, and Futurism in particular. At the same time, it is clearly a corner-stone for what would later become Concrete Poetry. A facsimile edition of the unusually shaped accordion-fold book was published in 1980 in Lima by Editorial Ausonia Tallares Graficos. A translation of the poem (without the original Spanish) was published in the United States by Turkey Press in the early 1990s, in a very limited fine-press edition. Published in a bi-lingual edition, UDP's new version of 5 Meters of Poems recreates the peculiar physical format of the book, and it is the first edition of this historic poem to be made widely available in the United States.

Carlos Oquendo de Amat was part of an extensive and urgent vanguardist poetry world in Lima, Peru in the second two decades of the 20th century. Oquendo de Amat’s only book of poems, 5 Metros de Poemas, is simultaneously one of the most celebrated and unknown examples of the diversity of the poetry of this cultural moment. He was the son of a Sorbonne-educated progressive newspaper publisher, who was both a prominent member of the elite of Puno, a highland provincial capital on the shores of Lake Titicaca, and an irascible enemy of Peru’s Catholic-conservative establishment. Upon the death of his father in 1918, the teenage Oquendo de Amat and his mother moved from provincial genteel comfort to Lima where they lived in poverty. He was often lucky to have enough money for just one meal a day. Friends say he would regularly skip that one meal to have enough to go to the cinema, a guiding obsession evidenced in his work. Lima in this moment was in a state of rapid, at times violent, growth and transformation as it filled with the members of the new working and professional classes. All social relations were being torn apart and rebuilt and the poets of this strange new old city turned to the works of the various European vanguards for guidance in how to respond to this sudden outbreak of modernity. Oquendo de Amat embodied many of the contradictions of this vanguard. After being imprisoned a number of times, during various crackdowns on dissent, he emphatically embraced Marxism and renounced poetry. During one of his stints in prison he contracted tuberculosis, which worsened rapidly during subsequent prison terms. Released from his last prison term in his homeland, he was deported to Panama from where he barely managed to reach Republican Spain in time to expire at the age of 32."

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