Recommended Reading: Absolute Solitude by Dulce María Loynaz, translated by James O’Connor

Absolute Solitude

I’m so happy to have been introduced to the work of Dulce María Loynaz (1902-1997) through Absolute Solitude*, a selection of her prose poems translated by James O’Connor.

Though her early work was well received in her native Cuba and abroad (including by writers like Gabriela Mistral and Juan Ramón Jiménez), after the Cuban Revolution Loynaz stopped writing poetry (her books were banned for decades), leaving her work to be rediscovered by a new generation when she won the prestigious Premio Miguel de Cervantes in 1992. You can read more about the poet, her struggles, and her legacy in this piece by translator James O’Connor.

Most of Absolute Solitude is taken up with a large selection from Loynaz’s book Poems Without Names (Poemas sin nombre), originally published in Spain in 1953. These prose poems are brief; almost all are less than a page in length, and most are shorter than a paragraph. (The one-line poems are almost aphoristic.)  The Spanish originals and English translations appear on opposite pages.

The poems are intensely personal, and yet encompass universal themes: the agonies of love, the pleasures and terrors of solitude, wrestling with the divine. I was reminded, at different times, of Rumi, Emily Dickinson, Leonard Cohen, and Gabriela Mistral; while I often find contemporary prose poems difficult—too obscure, I suppose—these I found to be transporting.

Here are a few of my favorites.

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For me, the blank space on the page following each poem was an invitation to pause and think carefully about what I’d just read. I loved this jewel of a collection.

What poems are you reading this week?

* I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes, which did not affect the content of my review.