PHOTO by Frédérique Longrée

MERCEDES ROFFÉ is one of Argentina’s foremost poets, a distinguished translator, and a small press publisher. Her work has been very influential in the Spanish-speaking world. During her long and fruitful career she has published ten poetry books.


Her poetry collection, La ópera fantasma (Madrid/México, Vaso Roto, 2012) was chosen one of the best books of 2012 by two major Mexican newspapers. In 2016, her Definiciones mayas (New York, Pen Press, 1999, 2000) was selected by Babelia, the Literary Supplement of El País (Spain) as one of the best one hundred books published in Spanish in the last 25 years.


Some of her books have been translated and published in Italy, Quebec, England, Romania, France and the United States. Selections of her work have also appeared in renowned publications in Latin America, Spain, United States, France, Belgium, Canada, Italy, and Morocco. Roffé’s poetry is well known worldwide. She has been guest reader at manifold international events. Plenty of critical work has been written on her oeuvre. In 2001 she was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry and in 2012 a fellowship from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation (NY/Italy)


Her translations from the French include Una historia incomprensible y otros relatos, a selection of narratives by the French Symbolist painter Odilon Redon (Madrid/México, Vaso Roto, 2016), and the plaquette El amor de los objetos, by Quebecois poet Martine Audet (NY, Pen Press, 2009).  From the English, she has translated the poetry of Anne Waldman, Jerome Rothenberg, Leonard Schwartz, as well as Cántico de la noche y otros poemas, an anthology of Native-North American poetry, forthcoming this year in Santiago de Chile by Red Internacional del Libro.


She is the founding editor of Ediciones Pen Press (, a New York-based independent Spanish-language press dedicated to the publication of contemporary poetry from around the world. Roffé holds a diploma in Modern Languages from the University of Buenos Aires, and a Ph.D. from New York University. She lives in NYC and is frequently invited to read from her work at international poetry festivals and academic settings.


Among other distinctions, Mercedes Roffé was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (2001) and a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship (2012).



Five poems from

Ghost Opera

(Illinois, co-im-press, 2017)

Translated into English byJUDITH FILC





invite people. invite them all. to a party. a big party.

and if the sick one doesn’t want to leave his bed, let him; he shouldn’t.

and have music and dance, and song and cake.

and if the sick one doesn’t want to dance, let him; he shouldn’t.

and if the sick one doesn’t want to sing, let him; he shouldn’t.

and if the sick one doesn’t want to eat, let him; he shouldn’t.

but have noise in the house, and lots of people.

and have them tell stories and memories, and fables and riddles

and if the sick one cannot or will not say anything, let him

—he shouldn’t talk,    or laugh,   or remember.

but bring people to the house, to the backyard, to the inn, to the town

there must be noise, lots of noise in the house. lots and lots of people.



and once the party ends, two or three days later women must

throw all the feast leftovers in the hollow of a sheet

big, embroidered sheets. preferably white, very white.

preferably embroidered.

throw there the cakes, almonds, figs, walnuts, chestnuts,

the mulberries and petit fours, the pastries and breads, the juice andthe wine

six, four must take them to the river

the sheet must be taken to the river with its goods, its fruits, its cakes

down the avenue they must go the four, the six to the river, several times,

and throw it all into the current, the feast leftovers, the  wine, the water, the juice

the almonds, the figs

and throw it all into the river, into the current






(Tan Dun)




kettledrum roll and





in the bosom / hollow of




vibration expanding

into the mirror / hollow / kettledrum of






Then Shakespeare

and Bach come

and talk

sitting face to face

before the hollow / kettledrum / of water

and light

like two solemn


they talk

and Shakespeare says: “We are such stuff / as dreams are made on.”

“Fugue / Death fugue,” says Bach.



(Arvo Pärt)



like a dawn?

like a serene and pink and slow and clear dawn,

like opening?

like a light that opens and opens you,

that “breaks”?

that breaks, yes,

like the day

like a journey



and the bells?

blue plain

and yellow and white and brass small tower

and in the middle, under the arch

a swaying sky,


tolling, yes,

like the tolling mauve


like a tunnel

like a cloister




(Remedios Varo)



I double           I am                 my double

I am     what is double in me    my fire


in pursuit of moons

night escapes me


I am doomed by terror             —that urgency—

to the sleepless

the void                       mute               deaf in me






(Remedios Varo)



with my breasts

with my eyes


I will drink that sleepless



that mirroring moon

in the grail