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Solar Poems
by Homero Aridjis translated by George McWhirter

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by Homero Aridjis
translated by George McWhirter

At the top of the steps
in the metro stop
a lout armed with a steel
faced with the death-dealing
flashes from my knife of light
beat a retreat

City Lights Books,

The publication by City Lights of Homero Aridjis, translated by George McWhirter is an event. This Mexican poet is not well known in English, but his work stands with that of Octavio Paz as one of the great poetries of Mexico. I read it with delight and was going to review it, but Laura took it and fell in love with it. She read it every night, a poem at the time, and said that she’d give to everyone for Christmas. Great, except she kept it with her books, and I didn’t retrieve it until I got the message below from Stacey Lewis at City Lights Books, the publisher:

With the recent announcement that Mexico will dismantle its delegation to UNESCO--the United Nations branch dedicated to preserving cultural heritage and human rights--due to budget shortages, and daily reports of violence plaguing the country’s reputation, Homero Aridjis’s newest collection of poetry, Solar Poems, comes at a vital time.
 An activist, poet, and Mexico’s former Ambassador to UNESCO, Aridjis explores political consciousness as well as the psychological unconscious in Solar Poems, transcending the boundary between life and death as he explores his own past and Mexico's cultural heritage.

“The closure of the offices of Mexico to UNESCO is a regrettable extent, a blow to the Mexican culture and the international leadership role that the country should play in Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa,” Aridjis told the Mexican newspaper Reforma. “This affects the country's image, especially at a time when there is a chronic spread of violence.”
During his diplomatic tenure, Aridjis and his team added three new sites to the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites--including the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, which was critical to the survival of the species--and oversaw safeguarding the traditions of the Otomí-Chichimecas people of Tolimán and other indigenous populations. With the closing of Mexico’s UNESCO office, many similar projects will be cancelled. Despite the discontinuation of his post, Aridjis continues his legacy of activism with the publication of Solar Poems, the first English translation of a single volume of his poems. He sees the task of the poet “to tell this planet's stories--and to articulate an ecological cosmology that does not separate nature from humanity.” A poet of worldwide renown, HOMERO ARIDJIS was born in Contepec, Michoacan, Mexico. He is the author of 36 books of poetry, fiction, drama, and children’s stories, many translated into a dozen languages. Aridjis has received two Guggenheim Fellowships and numerous awards, including the Global 500 Award from the United Nations Environment Program in 1987, and the Prix Roger Caillois from France for poetry and fiction in 1997. President Emeritus of International PEN and former Ambassador to the Netherlands and Switzerland, Aridjis was until recently Mexico's Ambassador to UNESCO.

That is all very sad, but the chief reason why we urge you to read this book is because the poems are great and the translation terrific. Publication date is March 2010, so we aren’t that late.

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