Toward a poetry and poetics of the Americas (38)

A paradise of poets (transcreations after Nahuatl by Javier Taboada)



In 1460, several cuicapihqui (= Nahuatl forgers of songs, i.e. poets) were gathered in Huexotzinco (near the present-day city of Puebla, in Mexico) by the lord and poet Tecayehuatzin to discuss the nature of poetry, its origins & the fate of its poets & poems. The result of that historical meeting was a long poem, here excerpted, transcreated, and lineated by Javier Taboada. The names of the participating poets are given in brackets. 




            Where do you dwell, poet?


It is true

            he has just descended to the stage

                        of sacred drums


That's the life of the poet:

                        to unfetter like the quetzal’s feathers

            to spread out the Life-Givers songs


For within Heaven

            from there the delightful poems

            the delightful songs



Our desire deforms them.

            Invention spoils them.





            We have come in vain

in vain we have sprung on earth.


            Shall I die

as a flower dies?


                        My fame will be nothing someday?


Nothing my name on Earth?



            Just poetry. Just songs.



How could I persuade myself?


            We dwell here in the Land of Poetry.


In here no one will ever stop our poetry

                        no one will ever stop our songs.



Or have we not come here

just to know ourselves

            on Earth?





Intoxicating poetry …


                                    with poetry we linger


for the words of God



                        Such is your house    



Just listen to Him —


            He descended here from Heaven



            & He comes here singing

& His flutes are beating






Are men true?


            If they are not

our song will not be truth.





                        Where am I singing?


Sad poems     sad songs.

All turns into hate here.


                        We all live in The House of Creation.


Sad poems     sad songs.

All turns into hate here.





Who am I?


                        I go on flying

& I compose



            I sing my poems

butterflies of song



I come from what’s above us.



quetzal of springtime

I have come to Earth.



            Now I spread out my wings

over the stage of sacred-drums

                                    & here my song arises

            comes from Earth

                                                & springs!



That is how I sow my poems & songs.






My house

            that house my painted-books

                        make bright

it is yours



My fellow poets:

            Listen to the words of dreams


In spring they make us live.


Their shining ears of corn

            cause us to see.


As a red-heron bird

            their rosy-colored cobs

                        give us the sequence.


Now we know.