[Heriberto Yépez is a well-known Mexican poet, novelist, translator, essayist, & provocateur, whose writing has been gaining recognition on both sides of the north-south divide. Working from a home base in Tijuana, B.C., he is the author of numerous books in Spanish, & some of his pieces in English have appeared in American magazines like Tripwire, Shark, XCP, & Chain, along with a controversial critique of Charles Olson, The Empire of Neomemory, in both English & Spanish. The essay that follows was written shortly after the appearance of María Sabina: Selections in the short-lived Poets for the Millennium series (University of California Press) & was first published by me in Ubuweb Ethnopoetics (on line). Its republication here brings it into the orbit of Poems and Poetics, where it can be read in conjunction, say, with Henry Munn’s “The Uniqueness of María Sabina” & related writings. Over the last several years Yépez & I have been planning a Technicians-sized anthology of “the poetry of the Americas” (both north & south and in multiple languages) in which María Sabina would surely be a central player. (J.R.)]
[Heriberto Yépez is a well-known Mexican poet, novelist, translator, essayist, & provocateur, whose writing has been gaining recognition on both sides of the north-south divide.
[No longer readily available, this section of A Seneca Journal was an early attempt of mine toward a poetry of minimal means — observations & off-the-cuff translations during my first viewing of the Seneca Indian Midwinter ceremonies at the Allegany Seneca reservation in western New York State. While I’ve intercalated much of A Seneca Journal in later gatherings of my poetry I was never able to provide an alternative place for these poems, though I still find them crucial to the work that was then unfolding for myself & others.
Flora Alejandra Pizarnik (1936–1972) was born to Russian Jewish parents in an immigrant district of Buenos Aires. During her short life, spent mostly between Buenos Aires and Paris, Pizarnik produced an astonishingly powerful body of work, including poetry, tales, paintings, drawings, translations, essays, and drama. Like Artaud, Pizarnik understood writing as an absolute demand, offering no concessions, forging its own terms, and requiring that life be lived entirely in its service. “Like every profoundly subversive act,” she wrote, “poetry avoids everything but its own freedom and its own truth.”
[In preparation for the final publication Summer-Autumn 2017]
Something happened to me, now a full half century in the past, that has shaped my ambition for poetry up until the very present. Not to focus too much on myself, it was a discovery shared with others around me, of the multiple hidden sources and the multiple presences of poetry both far and near. I don’t remember clearly where — or when — it started, but once it got under my skin — our skin, I mean to say — that which we could hope to know as poetry drew in whole worlds we hadn’t previously imagined. Nothing was too low — or high — to be considered, but the imagining mind and voice, once the doors of perception were opened or cleansed, were everywhere we looked.
I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to issue a manifesto like in the good old days, but any such assertion nowadays always seems to splinter into its ambiguities, leaving the motivating impulse unmanifest. The burden of poetic process is how easily it spoils even the finest dogma. However, if one located a principle that exists outside as well as inside art, stating it would not be a manifesto but a poignant observation.