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 (www.edicionespenpress.com), 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
(Illinois, co-im-press, 2017)
Translated into English byJUDITH FILC
SITUATION TO HEAL THE SICK
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.
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
kettledrum roll and
in the bosom / hollow of
into the mirror / hollow / kettledrum of
and Bach come
sitting face to face
before the hollow / kettledrum / of water
like two solemn
and Shakespeare says: “We are such stuff / as dreams are made on.”
“Fugue / Death fugue,” says Bach.
CANTUS IN MEMORIAM BENJAMIN BRITTEN
like a dawn?
like a serene and pink and slow and clear dawn,
like a light that opens and opens you,
that breaks, yes,
like the day
like a journey
and the bells?
and yellow and white and brass small tower
and in the middle, under the arch
a swaying sky,
like the tolling mauve
like a tunnel
like a cloister
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
with my breasts
with my eyes
I will drink that sleepless
that mirroring moon
in the grail