Poetry News

Tracing Memory in Víctor Rodríguez Núñez's tasks

By Harriet Staff
Victor Rodriguez Nunez

Daniel E. Pritchard wrote about Cuban poet Víctor Rodríguez Núñez's award-winning collection, tasks (co-im-press, 2017), translated into English by Katherine M. Hedeen. Núñez, who teaches at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, "finds intimacy in the distance and familiarity in the gradual, inescapable forgetting." More, from Medium:

The poems in Rodríguez Núñez’s award-winning volume tasks invite the reader to a Cuba of recollection, of disjointed, misremembered encounters and vague impressions challenged by his later visits back to Cuba. This mindscape exists for the poet to trace the imperfections of his own memory as if tracking a lost cat through the old neighborhood only to find that, no, there never was a cat. The poems are dense and reflexive until his verse breaks open to reveal a lucid scene, as in the opening lines of “[indisciplines]:”

“Here for the first time Rodríguez Núñez eliminates uppercase letters as a marker for units of meaning,” Hedeen writes in her translator’s introduction. “This change in form has profound implications for content, a radical move toward a new form the author calls ‘edgeless poetry.’ No limits to sense, no point where an idea or image begins or ends, the greatest fluidity of thought possible. And so, it’s not just verses, stanzas, or poems that are enjambed, it is meaning itself.”

This may be a slight overstatement. Many if not most of the lines stand as discrete semantic units that build one upon the next into a difficult but mostly accessible coherence. The verse is evocative and at time overtly political: “a squirrel’s more mindful than a government minister,” he writes. “you give it a nut it saves it asks for another / and it’ll eat even when it’s full / the tropics are naturally socialist”.

Find the full essay at Medium.

Originally Published: December 7th, 2017