What follows is my translation of Luna Miguel’s blog post “Soy feliz si me lames la cara”: tres aproximaciones a la Alt Lit en español y otras historias del posnoventismo. and response to Rebeca Yanke’s article La poesía posnoventista española en 15 voces [Post-90s Spanish Poetry in 15 Voices; translated by me here].
“I’m happy if you lick my face.”: Three Approaches to Alt Lit in Spanish and Other Post-90s Stories.
Last January I published an article about what was going on in Spain in regards to the flourishing of youth poetry on the Internet on this very blog. I talked briefly about how there was a clear regeneration of literature, fostered by the web and by projects on paper that emerged from it. US writer Jacob Steinberg was the first to baptize this new wave (especially in Argentina) as post-90s poetry, a term that encompassed nothing other than authors born in the last years of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s, who have been able to create their own communities, detached from those of the grand publishing houses. Beyond the English language examples that we’re already familiar with and that paved the way for the proliferation of the term Alt Lit (Illuminati Girl Gang, Alt Lit Gossip, CCM Press, The Scrambler, Pop Serial, HTML Giant, New Wave Vomit, etc.) in Spain we also have various platforms and zines that have served to spread those authors, from Tenían viente años y estaban locos to Sagrantes, Ciudades Esqueleto, Mil novecientos violeta (based on one of David Meza’s verses), Palpitatio Lauri, or La Bella Varsovia’s anthologies.
Something was happening. Something is happening. Something’s going to happen, we tell ourselves each time that we find before our eyes all of this movement and poetic tumult. What draws my attention, nevertheless, after having reread the selection of poets in La poesía posnoventista española en 15 voces multiple times was the complete stylistic detachment from what those crazy North Americans that I like to talk about so much were up to on the other side of the pond. For this reason, after having written the article Internet, Love, and Guts: The Future of Literature is in Canada for PlayGround, and having read an interesting post regarding new Swedish literature and its relation to Alt Lit on Marina L. Ruidoms’ blog, doubts began to pop into my head, as well as the idea to undertake a small search after what this new wave has been able to provide Spanish literature, not just in our country, but rather also (and more than anything) in Latin America.
A short review: We’ve got the publishing houses Triana and Dakota in Argentina, which have published books by Sam Pink, Tao Lin, and Megan Boyle. Also, since just last month we’ve got Interzona, with Lolita Copacabana and Hernámn Vanoil at the head, editors of the first anthology of North American youth fiction of this sort. In 2013 we published VOMIT in Spain, which was also the first anthology of North American youth poetry in a bilingual edition, and of course here we also include the incredible work of Alpha Decay, the publishing house without which the Spanish reader would never have been able to reach Tao Lin, Blake Butler, or Sheila Heti. Additionally we’ve got the generosity of good bloggers and translators, such as Montse Meneses, María Ramos, or José María Martínez who bring us translations of some of the essential poems from what’s going on over there. Again on the other side of the ocean, Ignacio Molina’s (of Disorder, Chile) work of dissemination has been critical. Not to mention Ana Carete, a nexus between Mexico and the US, or Didier Andrés Castro, and his blog La polifonía de la nada, or any of the things that I’ve forgotten to mention because there are so many, and every day there are more.
So, who could be the voices of Alt Lit in Spanish? When I ask myself this question a few names come to mind like those of Cecilia Pavón (Argentina), Ricardo Limassol (Mexico), Carlos Colmenares Gil (Venezuela) or the Didier Andrés Castro himself (Colombia), whose literature maintains a humor, a precision, a brevity, an intensity, and a delirium that mirrors that of some current North American authors. Nevertheless, they seem to me to be authors with their own identity, that have grown, written, and developed their works beyond this phenomenon, although they will most likely (and without a doubt in some cases) later have participated in it by translating, reading, or writing in relation to it. For this reason I’ve decided to select three new voices whose literary training betray a brutal permeation of North American alternative literature. Also internet addicts. Also present online, bilingual, addicted to sharing, to confessionals, to the generational, and to that which exceeds their own language. Also post-1990. Also little heroes to whom I express from here my admiration and my excitement to continue to discover them. Because there are no borders. Because as the wise say: Poetry Will Be Made By All!
1. Kevin Castro (Peru, 1993) Activist at the awesome C.A.C.A Publishing, where he published his first book of poems Los tiempos jurásicos whose front cover, no less, is an illustration of a dinosaur tripping on MDMA designed by Tao Lin. Kevin has participated from a very young age in anthologies and national and international magazines. You can read his work online here, because he’s also been published by the LUMA Foundation, in the 1000 books from 1000 poets project. Funny, critical, full of pop culture references, intelligent, likeable… and you gotta stop me, ‘cause I’ve only got good things to say about him.
2. Caterina Scicchitano (Argentina, 1992) She defines herself as half-jew, half celiac. She writes in English and Spanish and has a Tumblr where she narrates her most intimate confessions in a hilarious, but also delicate way. Poetry, prose, diary entries. “I’d like to ruin it all,” she sometimes says. Or: i look like an insecure boy on the street but in my own home uploading things to the internet. i look like an insecure boy on the street but in my own home uploading things to the internet.. i could conquer the soviet union or something like that, i feel euphoric on an uncontrollable level. If Gabby Bess or Megan Boyle were to speak Spanish, they’d definitely get along perfectly with Caterina. I’m more than hooked on everything she writes us.
3. Óscar García Sierra (Spain, 1994) Well. I could definitely tell you all that this entire text and part of this search are inspired by Óscar. A young guy who I met during the conference Alternative Literature or Alternatives to Literature put on by La Casa Encendida. Óscar began to feel more interested in literature after having read Tao Lin and Ben Brooks, and starting to better get to know all the authors of Alt Lit through Tumblr. In fact, on his own we’ll find his translations and many other interesting things. Today Óscar García Sierra published a poem on Tenían viente años y estaban locos, which I encourage you all to read here. I love him, and I hope that you all like him as well.
I’ll keep reading, researching, and informing. For the moment, I’d like to close this extensive post with a poem by Kevin Castro, titled Green. I make my leave with his tears (of emotion):
Ellen Kennedy and Tao Lin
(“Soy feliz si me lames la cara”: tres aproximaciones a la Alt Lit en español y otras historias del posnoventismo., Luna Miguel, 8 June 2014)
(Translation by Kevin Cole, 2014)
A special thanks to komurki for his careful editorial eye in catching some mistakes!
The following is my translation of an article written by Rebeca Yanke for the Crónica 2.0 supplement to the Spanish newspaper EL MUNDO.
Don’t think of flowers and kisses, nor of the poet as a bum that naps beneath a tree, awaiting inspiration. Think of the poet as a detective, someone who, more than discovering, is constantly on the trail. Madrid awakes today with a bookish desire, Sundays strolling El Retiro searching for famous novelists–or some TV character that’s written their memoir–at the Feria del Libro. You won’t find any of our picks there.
“Good poetry is communication,” maintains Luna Miguel, who in 2011 already outpaced that which, in the last three years, has turned into a boom, or a baby boom. In that year, this journalist who was born in 1990 coordinated an anthology of 27 poets under 27, which borrowed its title from a verse of Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño. Tenían 20 años y estaban locos [They were twenty years old and crazy] was published by La Bella Varsovia, a publishing house that manages another writer accustomed to the qualifier “young” when she is talked about in the media: Elena Medel, who a few months ago received the 26th Loewe Prize for Young Creation for her collection of poems Chatterton. Like Luna, as well as one of the poets you will come to know below, she put her name in ink before having turned 18; it was with Mi primer bikini [My First Bikini].
“There’s a danger here: the cult of the youthful. Years ago, a critic explained to me his yardstick: ‘To those who start, encouragement; to those who finish, respect; to those that are already on the way, yes for them, applause if they deserve it, but also a whipping if they so deserve.’ La Bella Varsovia began as a publishing house in which voice was given to poets that were starting out, prioritizing mostly first and second books, but we’ve been growing,” argues Medel, whose readers have also seen grow.
Medel and Miguel maintain a relationship beyond friendship; the former is the editor of the latter. La Bella Varsovia just released the third edition of Luna’s latest book, La tumba del marinero [The Sailor’s Grave], last April. “I accept that someone can either agree with Luna’s writing or not, that they can like it or not, but it seems to me that her work as a revitalizer and catalyst is beyond all doubt,” observes Medel. Patricia Úbeda thinks the same, one of the poets that Miguel highlights in a document that, for the moment, can only be found online: La poesía posnoventista Española en 15 voces [Spanish post-90s poetry in 15 voices], in which a phenomenon that’s set in the internet is described and whose protagonists interact via social networks, blogs, tumblrs, and Instagram.
“Thanks to Luna’s blog I’ve discovered poets that are more or less my age, like Yasmín C. Moreno, Belén Benito, Arturo Sánchez, Esther Aquirreche, Rosa Berbel… We’ve created strong bonds among ourselves, in terms of literature as well as friendship, and we watch one another excitedly and enthusiastically, each of us with our projects in small publishers, in fanzines, and in anthologies,” Úbeda explains for our supplement.
A creative process that can only be understood from the standpoint of generosity, because there’s a handful of young poets here that have decided to resist and uproot and bring poetry into the era they’ve wound up in. “Youth is an essential virtue, it implies discovery, energy, and brutality. It provides new worlds, previously impossible technologies. I want to understand everything that my generation communicates. That way, the future will be more comprehensible. The boom is here and it’s real, and you can see that on social networks. I’m confident,” culminates Luna.
In the 2.0 Section we’ve chosen six protagonists, but they could’ve been so many more. Why six? Because together they form a grand word: poets.
‘The internet offers me what ‘uni’ doesn’t’
Sara R. Gallardo (León. 24 years old)
(my flesh too)
is twenty years old
and is spoiled.
(Excerpt from ‘Epidermia’, El Gaviero Press, 2011)
With a placid look, Sara R. Gallardo carries within herself a woman of extremes who, in poetry, shows herself without complexes. With the same desire (to write, to communicate, in short, to give) she writes long form and short texts, often with a fondness for feminine subjects. Some of her verses are also composed out of desire. With a degree in Journalism from the University of Valladolid, she lived in Berlin for a year under an Erasmus scholarship where, at the age of 21, she published her first book Epidermia. Her professor Javier García Rodríguez, with whom she organized the Festival de La Palabra Versátil.es, recalls that Ana Santos, the recently passed editor of El Gaviero (and mother of Luna Miguel), signed her at that event. Sara now maintains a battle to get ahead work-wise, which in her case is also poetry-wise.
“What I want to do is to write. I’m good when I’m communicating, I love journalism, radio, social networks, organizing cultural events, I like to document myself, talk with people… But not finding work is frustrating because it makes you lose confidence in the world and in yourself. It’s as if the decision makers were sending you a negative message: ‘Get lost, you’re no use.’” She came to Madrid last year because the Ministry of Education granted her a €2,700 scholarship to complete a one-year Master’s program at a public institution. “They had just transferred me half of the money. I’ve lived off of 1,200 euros for six months. A magician couldn’t even pull that off.” Like her peers, the internet has allowed her to meet authors. “The internet has provided me with knowledge that the institute or university hasn’t in terms of literature.”
‘Poetry is sold at recitals’
Adriana Bañares (Logroño. 25 years old)
Woman looking out the window. Towards a countryside of cement and trees like decorative objects. Skinny and ugly trees that neither shelter nor give shade.
Those young and useless trees of the new neighborhoods. Those faraway neighborhoods that no one knows of. Those homes that don’t shelter.
(Excerpt from ‘Principio de frío’, unpublished)
Adriana Bañares says of Sara R. Gallardo, the previous poet in these pages, that “her texts speak crudely and nakedly.” Both formed a part of the literary collective Colmo, the origin of the Festival Versátil.es. One can confirm that Bañares speaks with her eyes, that her shyness awakes an interest in others and that she dedicates a good portion of her time making other poets visible. She’s the anthologist of Erosionados (Origami, 2013), a compendium of poems broken by Eros, and owner of the bookstore La Plaquette in Logroño (La Rioja). “When you’re unpublished, you feel like you’ve made it when you’ve got a book published, in whatever publishing house that it may be, and you don’t realize that no one buys a new, if not to say unknown, writer. Much less if their titles never make it to a single bookstore. Poetry is sold at recitals and if you make a good online campaign. Because there’s a lot of poetry published that’s written to be recited, and that doesn’t work very well as a written text, but there are authors that use the internet as a stage,” she reflects. She’s the example that, in spite of shyness, you can step into the ring. “In the last few years I’ve managed to face the audience without having a bad time, but the first few times were a nightmare. I got really nervous, I read really fast, and in truth, I preferred not to do it. But I realized that I had to defend my work in order to make myself known, and I took myself seriously.” Although she’s already published a lot, the publishers of her books have a small range. “I would’ve preferred to publish less, and better,” she admits.
Between Verses and Frida, Her Little Parrot
Carmen Juan (Alicante. 23 years old)
The girls were girls –shyness-woman-silence.
We sniffed the
of clean, new bloods.
Why the change, why
the closed lips. We
against our fingers, searching.
(Excerpt of the poem ‘Ser el bicho’ from ‘Amar la herida’, soon to be published by La Bella Varsovia)
A Humanities student, music teacher, and practically an ornithologist. “At an age at which others grope about and discover, she already writes soundly,” that’s how Elena Medel, in charge of the publishing house La Bella Varsovia, describes Carmen Juan, whose book will be published after the summer. She’s the winner of the 7th Pablo García Baena Young Poetry prize, for which Sara R. Gallardo was also a finalist. Medel tells that some members of the prize’s jury, while they were debating, guessed that it must have been “from an author closing in on thirty, the age limit for competing for the prize, given the experience that her collection of poems demonstrated.” Why was Carmen Juan selected for this prize above anyone else? “La Bella Varsovia is one of my favorite publishing houses and I’ve been following them for years, and the prize as well. I’ve got a special place in my heart for them because I admire the young poets that have won in previous calls for entries. I’m confident in the criteria of the publishing house, they firmly wager, without fear, on emerging voices and I know that they take good care of them. I don’t usually apply for prizes so, when I decided to give it a go with Amar la herida I thought, if it belongs anywhere, in any prize, it was in the Pablo García Baena. Nevertheless, I’ve got to be frank and say that I didn’t think I stood a single chance. And look, surprise.”
Fertile Son of the Gala Foundation
Javier Vicedo Alós (Castellón. 28 years old)
We’ll drown our voice in white days
and we won’t have said a thing.
Our force isn’t so much, the man is another.
There’s only agitation of lungs and hands
that change nothing, that build nothing
-But an energy persists,
a small euphoria in the ceiling of the air-.
There are birds that sing and set off in music
for the simple pleasure of hearing themselves;
us too, free from the eternal,
saying and shining just for us.
(Excerpt from an unpublished poem)
Javier, like other Spanish and even young poets, such as Gonzalo Escarpa and Ben Clark, forms a part of the privileged group that, since 2001, is chosen by the Antonio Gala Foundation for Young Creators each year. Almost 200 young people have passed through this residence that promotes free creation and, above all, what Gala calls “cross fertilization,” a kind of artistic cohabitation among musicians, poets, writers, and painters. It’s not chance, therefore, that Vicedo is an example of a cross-genre author. He came to Madrid to study philosophy and, after various poetry collections, he’s writing theater. The mere idea of seeing his texts taking shape sets up the innocence in his eyes. “I needed to regain the ingenuity that beginning readers and writers have, that is, to be free of formulas for judging and filtering texts. And because I consider constant reinvention of oneself to be to only way to survive. There’s more merit to surviving oneself than to surviving,” he reflects. Worried by labels, he affirms that, often, the internet encourages that “quantity work against attention.” “Perhaps we access more poets, but our readings also run the risk of becoming more and more superficial,” he reflects.
‘I didn’t rush myself publishing at 16’
David Leo García (Málaga. 24 years old)
How’s it going, conscious?
haven’t heard from you in a while,
remember me? do you remember a sum
of I’s repeated whose product is zero?
Thanks for giving me some clothes
to endlessly rehearse the final act.
(Excerpt from an unpublished poem)
David Leo García won the Hyperion Prize for Poetry when he was 17 years old, ex aequo with Ben Clark, with whom he also shares having been a resident of the Antonio Gala Foundation. That was in 2006. “Urbi et Orbi didn’t just lead to my first contact with the publishing world, but also with the world of poetry in general, because I hardly knew any poets or anything of the sort. I was alone in my room in the company of the classics,” Leo remembers. Five years later, at 22, he published his second book Dime qué, with DVD, an extinct publisher that specialized in poetry. “I began publishing very young, my first poem at 16 and an entire book at 17 and, truthfully, I didn’t feel like I was rushing myself, although my book was improvable. To publish permits you to be in contact with different people, which also makes for a more integrated and faster learning,” he maintains.
He lives in Barcelona with his girlfriend Laura Rosal, author of the poetry collection También mis ojos (Cangrejo Pistolero, 2010), who translated Una temporada en el infierno by Arthur Rimbaud alongside Luna Miguel in 2013. “It bothers me more to have more or less a rush to publish, independently of age, than to have published while young,” Rosal reflects. “My biggest worry, at the moment, is to live without worries. Which, giving what we’ve seen, is becoming more difficult,” Leo adds. Rosal just fears that there won’t be enough time to make all her interests compatible: “learning, work, poetry, photography, pleasure, friends, and rest.”
Not all the poetesses are dead
Luna Miguel (Alcalá de Henares, Madrid. 24 years old)
All the poetesses are dead, he said.
Little mirror, little mirror.
I be young?
I stink of death?
(‘Pensamientos estériles’, Cangrejo Pistolero Ediciones, 2011)
A week ago Luna Miguel remembered in Twitter her first interview. It was with EL MUNDO, it was 2006 and she was 15. At that moment she hadn’t even published what’s known as a chapbook, a short publication of various poems or stories, and today, she’s a very productive author. In those eight years she’s put out nine poetry collections, a short novel written by four hands with her boyfriend, the writer Antonio J. Rodríguez, three translations, and three poetry anthologies: Tenían 20 años y estaban locos (La Bella Varsovia, 2011), Sagrantes (Editorial Origami, 2013), and Vomit (El Gaviero Ediciones, 2013).
In that first interview Luna spoke of a childhood surrounded by poets, and how she rejected poetry until she was 13. Her parents are Ana Santos Paván and Pedro J. Miguel, responsible for the publishing house El Gaviero, which itself is responsible for many young poets having been able to see their work published much earlier than they could have imagined. Ana Santos passed away less than two months ago, but El Gaviero continues with Luna at the lead. “If everything goes well, we’ll continue publishing in 2015. There were books by Carmen Camacho, Hasier Larretxea, and David Meza left in the inkwell. David is 23 years old and one of our biggest bets. He’ll definitely come to Spain soon thanks to the help of the Mexican embassy. For me, he’s one of the most important voices of my generation and, when people read him, they’ll realize that I’m not making it up. He’s a true marvel. Oh! The anthology Serial will appear in June, the editing of which was done by Ana and myself,” she tells.
(Generación Luna Miguel: los poetas ‘posnoventistas’, Rebeca Yanke, 01/06/14)
(Translation: Kevin Cole, 2014)
And now you can smoke my poems <3
Thank you Cinque: http://alejandrocinque.tumblr.com/lunamiguel
(not necessarily in this order but probably pretty close)
Morocco by Kendra Grant Malone and Matthew Savoca (2014)
OHSO poetry by Mike Bushnell (2014)
An Anthology of Contemporary Brazilian Poetry
edited by Ana Guadalupe and Jeremy Spencer (2014)
takahē poetry by Stacey Teague (Summer,…
need that anthology of contemporary spanish poetry though
that’s why the color green scares you
that’s why you threw rocks at the fruit trees
and you love that which is yours because it’s only your own
and you love that silence which flesh has.
Over at The Scrambler today, Luna Miguel introduces Mexican poet David Meza and you can read his poem For the Generations to Come (A Manifesto) translated by Jacob Steinberg. If you like that, be on the lookout for a forthcoming chapbook in English (again translated by Jacob) to be published in association with Mellow Pages Library.
Cyber-sex, poetry, and virgin suicides - a generational will? The young female writer Trisha Low captures the modern woman’s obsessions in ‘The Compleat Purge’
Trisha Low committed suicide when she was 6 years old, and nevertheless she returned to tell about it. Trisha Low killed herself at 10, at 15, at 24, but she’s still here, successful and powerful, with her moving words and enviable purge. This poetess and performer with roots in Singapore, but settled in New York a while back, she’s spent her whole life in between the world of the living and dead, in a special and unique creative space, where cyber-sex, literature, teen angst and feminism pervaded.
A few months ago Low published her second book, “The Compleat Purge” (Kenning Editions), in which she covers precisely those subjects, from each of those ages. An extensive and precious volume that begins with the first suicide note and will that she wrote during her infancy, ending with an essay about women, narcissism, art, and new concepts of reality.
"I" as a new universe. Internet sex as a new, confessional poetry. The idea of suicide as a full stop, like a metaphor that leads to overcoming the worst moments of our lives. The question here isn’t why a little girl or an adolescent would want to die, but what is that causes her to survive?
Kenning Editions defines Trisha Low as “another feminist, confessional writer trying to find her literary parents.” We don’t know who her parents are, but perhaps we can make a guess as to who her sisters are in this fight towards a cross between pop culture and poetry and philosophy, and create a truthful portrait of the lives and aspirations of the women of this century. We find in Low the lyricism of Gabby Bess, the intelligence of Sheila Heti, the eroticism of Marie Calloway, and even the freshness of Lena Dunham.
The author Blake Butler published an interview with the author of ‘The Compleat Purge’ in Vice, in which he describes this strange artifact as something that could have come from the Brontës, were they to become familiar with the age of WiFi, or like a a kind of encyclopedia of wet dreams and self-destruction. Poetic heroine. Distant, punk cousin of the Lisbon sisters. An author interested in the regeneration of literature, as well as its fusion with the forms and styles emerging from the Internet.
This book by Trisha Low will be one of those that we, with difficulty, will find translated in our country, but which will turn out to be absolutely necessary in order to understand the dramatic comedy of our time.
Fortunately, Trisha’s alive. She’s very much alive. Lucky us.