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Papasquiaro in Brief

adviceWave Press continues its exciting new series of poetry in translation with Mario Santiago Papasquiaro’s Advice from 1 Disciple of Marx to 1 Heidegger Fanatic, translated from the Spanish by Cole Heinowitz and Alexis Graman. Together with Roberto Bolaño, Papasquiaro formed the core of Mexico’s mid-1970s Infrarealists, whose motto was “to blow the brains out of official culture.” Papasquiaro, who like Bolaño authored his own Infrarealist manifesto, is vividly  depicted in Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives as Ulises Lima, a Mexican enfant terrible fueled by his politically radical aesthetics.

From its title forward, translators Heinowitz and Graman employ Papasquiaro’s rebellious “I” to represent the indefinite article “un”—or “a” in English. Though the decision might make sense to Spanish speakers, it often seems confusing in English, especially because of its possible confusion with the impersonal pronoun “uno.” This orthographic innovation, while not particularly noteworthy in and of itself, exemplifies the Infrarealist’s minor aesthetic rebellions, and works in Spanish to quicken the long poem’s pace. On first reading the frequent “I” is confusing, even to this Spanish speaker and Infrarealist manifesto translator, without the explanatory postscript, which would have been more useful if included in Heinowitz’s elucidating preface. Once understood the device works well, and exemplifies the translators’ successful attempt to retain the verve of the original.

The poem itself, which runs several hundred lines, employs the voracious cannibalization techniques of the manifesto to achieve a furious urgency, jumping within a eleven lines from Laurel and Hardy to Guido Cavalcanti, and in five from Hiroshima to Oscar Wilde. Papasquairo’s aesthetic agenda is insistently political—even his chosen pseudonym comes from the hometown of politically engaged Mexican poet José Revueltas. As Bolaño writes in his 1976 manifesto Leave Everything, Again: “Our ethic is Revolution, our aesthetic is Life: one-sole-thing.” Papasquiaro evidences the Marxist influence of the young Infrarealists throughout the long poem, as in this passage, which invokes his regular romanticization of the lumpen:

what’s the use if there are lives that are cars with no engines
000000desperately honking their horns
000000000000without being able to go

the life of the I who cures his Saturday hangover by rinsing his eyes
00000000000000at the edges of fountains
that of the high-class lady with her Chantilly cream & candy-cane hairdo
& her intolerable little voice when she says I smoke my own
000000that whole race of sanctimonious reactionaries
000000000000who feel offended
000000by the every day more frequent contact with the riff-raff
000000000000between the soot & the sullen sun of the cities
& the life of that vagabond (the I word has it isn’t missing)
whose lucidity is shattered / without his bicycle
000000having chased any light in the Sierra Tarahumara
like his homonym Antonin Artaud

In today’s MFA era of poetry, Mario Santiago Papasquiaro stands as an exciting example of the questioner who wears his wide range of influences on his sleeve, not as proclamatory badges but as departure points for a wider aesthetic conversation, blurring—refusing—the line between the low and high brow, claiming life itself as his poetry workshop. Heinowitz’s and Graman’s translation conveys the vigor of the original, no small task considering his gluttony of allusions, making this translation an indispensable book for practicing poets, Bolaño fans, and political radicals alike.

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