From 'A Book of Americas' (in progress)

The collective Amereida poem, translated by Javier Taboada, with commentaries attached

From the first “travesía,” voyage, made in 1965
From the first “travesía,” voyage, made in 1965

Various authors



the journey reaches its height

as the eyes


its traveled soil

wouldn’t it reveal in the flesh

a rhythm

to start off a language?

without a language

all the roads into our intimacy

though they lead us

are a distortion & a trick


a language?


this one?

the one who listens now the deaf ripples of the american sea

still beating after all imitation

& regret

which claims for a continent

& embraces us within its stars

to create lands?




where do we get the names

            of the american discovery?

in what void were they born?





the clear


                        is called


— & he answered

            that people from culua

                                    sent him to be sacrificed

& since he was a stutterer

                                    he mumbled


            & as our capt’n

                                                was there

& his name was juan

            & it was the day of san juan

                        we christened

                                                            that isle

san juan de ulúa

            which is now

a widely known harbor


— & when he was saying that

                                    in his own tongue

I recall’d he said

                                    conescotoch conescotoch

which means

            ye come to mine house

                                    & that is why we named

those lands

                        since then

punta de cotoche

                        & that is how it shows up on the nautical charts



                        farther they found

some men

                        they asked them about the name

of a big town

                        near around

                                    they said

téctetan téctetan


                                    which stands for

I don’t understand you

                        but the spaniards thought

that was its name


the word since then

                                    they called the place


            & that name’ll never fade away



                                                & he told

his own name



and he added

            & said


                                    he meant

if ye ask me for mine name

                                    my name is beru

but if ye ask me where I was

                                    I’ll say

I was on the river


                                                christians grasp what they wanted     thinking    

the native understood them & really meant his answer as if he & they were

actually speaking in spanish & since then     that was fifteen fifteen or fifteen

sixteen they named peru that rich & vast empire     corrupting both names

as the spaniards corrupt almost every word taken from the Indigenous languages




                        so america burst and came into a transition

that’s its origin — to be in transition

in transition     not from the past to the present     not from barbarity to

civilization     but in a present transition

present is just what has a destiny

destiny is just fidelity to the origin

america has only a destiny when its bursting & upwelling are both present




& so

            said mourão

                                    mello mourão


as the gospel’s rebukes

                                                                        charitas christi

                                                            urge us

love of america



since the beginning of time

                                                the poet

                                                                        was credited

with the gift

            to foresee things

                                                                                                no one

                                                as the poet



                        essence of human history

                                                                        in which

destinies are made

                        & that’s why we feel here

that now

a new era of history


                                                            with the

epiphany of america





everything relies on the comprehension of this line of Hölderlin —


            was bleibet aber stiften die dichter


what does stiften mean?

it’s not to found & yet it is    to give a chance     stiften is the giver

whose gifts or talents allow us to come to an end

the poet is the giver



                        stiften is not to found   damnit! it is

                        to tune our dwelling in its own rhythm

                        to give the frame then the starting

                        shot giving money is a

                        way of founding —


what will the amerodyssey give?


the road isn’t the road


Translated from Spanish by Javier Taboada




(1) Travesía was the name of a sea journey made by architects, philosophers, poets & visual artists — Latin-American and European — such as Edison Simons, Jonathan Boulting, Alberto Cruz, Fabio Cruz, Michel Deguy, François Fédier, Claudio Girola, Godofredo Iommi, Gerardo Mello Mourão, Jorge Pérez Román, and Henri Tronquoy — whose main goal was to found an “American Poetical Capital” in Santa Cruz de la Paz, Bolivia. The journey shipped off from Tierra del Fuego, in 1965. During the trip, the crew members landed at different points in South America and there they performed artistic actions, none of them premeditated. They couldn’t, however, reach Santa Cruz: they were stopped by the Bolivian Army and were forced to quit. In 1967, the members of Travesía reunited and created Amereida (translated here as Amerodyssey) — a collective long poem without any evident authorship or capital letters — that reenacts and goes deep into their experience. Other Travesías followed up to the present time. While the “Poetical Capital” was never established, their idea shaped the foundation (in 1971) of Ciudad Abierta [Open City] in Chile, an architecturally revolutionary and experimentally designed city, supported by the Catholic University of Valparaíso


(2) The route sketched here moves from southernmost Tierra del Fuego (shown on top) to Santa Cruz in Bolivia (at bottom). Of this inverted route they write: “it’s america seen from earth! / from below or otherwise / where dante comes from & the dead are.”


(3) The preceding will appear next year in A Book of Americas: Toward a Poetry & Poetics of the Americas, from Origins to Present, coedited with Javier Taboada and published by University of California Press.