Jaime Saenz: Five strange poems, and more ...

Forrest Gander and Kent Johnson, Jacket 8 and Jacket 25

Bolivian poet Jaime Saenz (1921–1986) dressed in a beggar’s jacket.
Bolivian poet Jaime Saenz (1921–1986) dressed in a beggar’s jacket.

Jaime Saenz (1921–1986) is Bolivia’s leading writer of the 20th century. Prolific as poet, novelist, and non-fiction writer, his baroque, propulsive syntax and dedication to themes of death, alcoholism, and otherness make his poetry among the most idiosyncratic in the Spanish-speaking world.

[»»] Jaime Saenz: Five poems from: As the Comet Passes, translated by Kent Johnson and Forrest Gander

[»»] Jaime Saenz: excerpts from: Immanent Visitor, translated by Kent Johnson and Forrest Gander

[»»] Forrest Gander and Kent Johnson: Jaime Saenz — Some Days in the Life of The Night: Notes from Bolivia, June 20–30, 2004

“It was with a human leg that Jaime Saenz, Bolivia’s visionary and most influential poet, came home from the university. Still living with his mother. Death, his constant companion.

In his strange, late poems, visualizing the body as an abode of unfathomable space, an otherness we carry with us, one that will carry us away into itself, Saenz meditated on death. Channeling its plutonic voice, he came to write, ‘I am the body who inhabits you, and I am here in the darkness, and I suffer you, and live you, and die you. / But I am not your body. I am the night.’

But that is later. First, the young poet had to bear, through one singular night, for who knows what manner of study, the pilfered limb of a cadaver. And in the morning, he punctually presented himself at his clerk’s job with the United States Information Service at the US Embassy.”