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Weekend Gems

Arctic Poems, Vicente Huidobro, tr. Nathan Hoks (Toad Press) $5

Claremont, California-based Toad Press publishes the most consistently interesting contemporary chapbook series in America—to my knowledge—with their International Chapbook Series. It’s most recent addition is a selection of short lyrics by Huidobro (1893 – 1948), the Chilean-born avant-garde poet who wrote the book-length Altazor, most recently republished in Eliot Weinberger’s translation by Wesleyan University Press in 2004.

Though the chapbook’s brevity prohibits en-face translations, Nathan Hok’s poems work in English and sing with the enthusiasm of the poet’s Altazor (the namesake protagonist of Altazor), as in “Emigrant to America,” which also resembles the long poem in its special attention to spatial surroundings and travel:

Electric stars
Light up in the wind

OOOOOAnd some astrological signs
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOhave falled into the see

OOOOOThis singing emigrant
OOOOOWill leave tomorrow

To live
Tied to the ship
OOOOOOOOOlike a horoscope
Twenty days on the sea

Below the waters
Swim vegetable octopi

Behind the open horizon
OOOOOThe other port

Between the thicket
Plucked roses
OOOOOOOOOlight up the streets


Faces and Phases, Zanele Muholi (Prestel) $35

South African photographer Zanele Muholi has been taking black-and-white portraits of Black lesbians in the townships of her home country since early 2007, eventually expanding her series to include women from other countries, too.

Prestel’s compact, understated edition does raise the questions Muholi suggests her photographs might ask, in her introduction to the project:

what does an African lesbian look like? Is there a lesbian aesthetic or do we express our gendered, racialised and classed selves in rich and diverse ways? Is this lesbian more ‘authentic’ than that lesbian because she wears a tie and the other does not? Is this a man or a woman? Is this a transman? Can you identify a rape survivor by the clothes she wears?


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