Incantatory Prophet: Raúl Zurita / Norma Cole and Forrest Gander in conversation
January 15, 2019 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Norma Cole and Forrest Gander discuss and read from the work of one of Latin America’s most celebrated and controversial poets, Raúl Zurita
celebrating the release of
by Raúl Zurita, translated by William Rowe, forward by Norma Cole
published by New York Review Books
In 2001, the president of Chile publicly acknowledged that many of the bodies of the people who had disappeared under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet would never be recovered. The victims had been flown up in planes and, after having their eyes gouged out, were ejected over the mountains and deserts of Chile or the Pacific Ocean. Raúl Zurita’s INRI (these are of course the letters nailed to the cross on which Jesus was crucified, identifying him as Jesus Christ, King of the Jews) is a visionary, prescient response to this atrocity, an agonized and deeply moving elegy for the dead in which the whole of Chile, with its snow-covered cordilleras, fields of wild flowers, empty spaces, and the sparkling sea beyond, is simultaneously transformed into the grave of its lost children and their living and risen body. This incantatory, prophetic work—prophetic in the same way that Jeremiah and Isaiah are prophetic, which is to say unapologetically political— is one of the great poems of our new century.
Raúl Zurita is one of Latin America’s most celebrated and controversial poets. After Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 military coup, Zurita’s poetry sought to register the violence and atrocities committed against the Chilean people and the corruption of the Spanish language. During Pinochet’s dictatorship, Zurita published a trilogy of books (Purgatory, Anteparadise, and The New Life), and helped to form the Colectivo de Accion de Art.
Norma Cole is a poet, translator, and visual artist. Her books of poetry include Actualities, Where Shadows Will, and Win These Poster and Other Unrelated Prizes Inside. To Be At Music: Essays & Talks appeared in 2010. Her visual work has been shown at 2nd floor projects in San Francisco and the Berkeley Art Museum. Born in Toronto, Canada, Cole lives in the sanctuary city of San Francisco.
Forrest Gander was born in the Mojave Desert and grew up, for the most part, in Virginia. Trenchant periods of his life were spent in San Francisco, Dolores Hidalgo (Mexico), and Eureka Springs, Arkansas. With degrees in both geology and English literature, Gander is the author of numerous books of poetry, translation, fiction, and essays. He’s the A.K. Seaver Professor of Literary Arts and Comparative Literature at Brown University. A U.S. Artists Rockefeller fellow, Gander has been recipient of grants from the NEA, the Guggenheim, Howard, Witter Bynner and Whiting foundations. His 2011 collection Core Samples from the World was an NBCC and Pulitzer Prize finalist for poetry.
Praise for the work of Raúl Zurita
Because redemption is not possible in this world as it is, the murderers unconsciously betray themselves: in brutal opposition to the pouring of libations into the earth for future good harvests, Pinochet’s regime harvests humans and dumps them into the holes of the earth: the oceans & volcanoes. These deaths cannot be understood and this poem is not for understanding. Zurita’s INRI asks without asking: what forms may avenge our avalanche of unjust deaths.