Uruguyan Poet of the Day: Eduardo Milán (courtesy of Hotel Lautréamont)

by on Feb.08, 2012

It is only fitting that we Montevidayans immerse ourselves in the writings of our brilliant semblables, our Uruguayan brothers and sisters, and to our very good luck Shearsman has recently published Hotel Lautréamont, a volume of contemporary Uruguayan poets edited by Kent Johnson and Robert Echavarren. I’m thrilled by this work and plan to write a few features on poets from this volume to help get the word out.I’ll start with Eduardo Milán, a poet I’ve wanted to know more about for a long time.

I became a fan of Eduardo Milán (a Uruguayan living in political exile in Mexico City since 1979) from the selection in his work in the most excellent anthology Reversible Monuments: Contemporary Mexican Poets, edited by Monica de la Torre and Michael Weigers. I found his brief, untitled lyrics irresistable, tensile, snare-like, poised to plummet through a jewelescent slim channel into the abyssal whiteness of the page.  I am so grateful to discover the selection of his work in Hotel Lautréamont, translated by John Oliver Simon.


As a miserable and very repentant Anglophone, I can’t read Spanish, but even I can hear the heartstopping, heartsnaring rhythms and rhyme that impel the untitled poem (are all of Milán’s poems untitled?) which begins:


Alegría gustería

ahora, necessaria, incluida

en todo, entera, hímnica,

de los grandes momentos con esferas

celestiales, dale al alma.  […]


Simon’s translation reads “Joy would be nice,/ now, necessary, included/in everything, entire, without beings/that special grace, hymn to/those great moments with celestial/spheres, give it to the soul.” I am grateful for the translation, but I am equally grateful for the pulsing musicality of the Spanish, the words which seem to rock sonically forwards, to rock just slightly back on their commas and thrust forward again like an electrifiying current.  Another great passage in this short poem reads


[…] Ruiseñores con, cántaros con,

ausencia con, aun carencia, omnipresente

en el mundo, en la palabra, alegría.


[…]Nightgales with, pouring-out with,

absence with, even lacking, omnipresent

in the world, in the word, joy.

Again, I am ravished by this rocking motion through which, in both Milán’s Spanish and in John Oliver Simon’s English, a noun rocks upwards (or forwards) towards a preposition, so a noun is always rocking into contact or connection, a contact or connection which the comma marks as just missed, or maybe the comma is a kind of synapse over which a thought can leap. The little exhilarated hyperventilating stroke of this poem makes me swoon.


Here’s another passage froma poem (untitled, of course) which I love


[…]-no me atrevo al techo-de-lata-leche-escasa

del postigo viento fustigado—ganado

la historia del permiso, de la ganadería, monstruo

que no deja ganar—estoy diciendo liso, llano verbal, pradera

adentro, la que entra al alma, la domina

samba que le da un ajuste al cuerpo, al almoa

lo correntino, lo entrerriano, ahí va

miren el río […]


[…]I won’t go up on the roof made of milk tins

whipped by a tail wind, if we gained the history

of permission, to herd cattle, to hunt monsters

which can’t be brought down—I’m just saying

smooth, verbal stream, meadow within, gaining

entrance to the soul, taking over, samba

adjusting spine and soul

out of Corrientes, from Entre Ríos, yeah

watch the river flow […]


I love the whipping, shark’s tail pacing of these phrases, the way the enjambment flips and delivers the line, as the speaker chooses to participate in time not in its historical manifestation as negotiation, power takeovers, and war, but as the smoothness and riverine power of samba itself, an art-history, a river-history, a tropical/Tropicalia history, perhaps.  The music of the poem, concluding with its rolling rivery ‘r’s, certainly does its rhetorical work.


There are 14 pages of Eduardo Milán poems in this volume, as well as many other amazing writers which I hope to profile here. Many thanks are due to Kent Johnson and Roberto Echavarren for putting this volume together, and to Shearsman for publishing it; the Internet tells me that Shearsman will publish a volume of Milán poems this Spring.




5 comments for this entry:
  1. Steve Halle

    Hotel Lautréamont is also excerpted by Kent Johnson in Mandorla 14 for a dossier of Uruguayan poets. Three of Milán’s poems appear in Mandorla.

    You can preview the contents of Mandorla 14 here.

    This includes a free pdf of two poems by Uruguayan poet Idea Vilariño, translated by Anna Deeny.

    Too, Mandorla will have a reading at AWP Chicago on Friday, March 2 at 8 pm at the Chicago Cultural Center. Edwin Torres and many others will be readers. Follow Mandorla’s FB for more info: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mandorla-magazine/98210117483

  2. Lucas de Lima

    This translingual review is so hot, Joyelle. I have big ganas to check out Milán.


  3. Kent Johnson

    I’m just seeing this post!

    Thank you so much, Joyelle, from Roberto and me and everyone else involved in Hotel Lautreamont.

    Yes, Milan is terrific, a revelation. And as you say, so are many others in the anthology– grandes poetas, todavia desconocidos en ingles…

    Thank you so very much for posting on the book. Its first public notice, I’m pretty sure.


  4. Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

    MALDOROR “Who is opening the door of my funeral chamber? I had said that none should enter. Whoever you are, keep away. But if you do discern some mark of fear or sorrow on my hyena’s face (I use this metaphor although the hyena is handsomer than I, and more pleasant to look upon)—be undeceived. Approach . . .”

    Inscribed on a bronze plaque at the entry to Lautreamont/Ducasse’s tortured stair on Faubourg Montmartre in Paris, his invocation/execration magisterially binds this entire page. Several years ago the poet Ariana Reines and I made our devout, if sick and twisted pilgrimage to the final cursed abode of that “man with lips of jasper”, “the man who could not smile.”

    De Profundis,
    Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

  5. John Oliver Simon

    Thanks for the shout-out on Milán, Joyelle. I recently hung out with the wonderful Mexican poet Pura López Colomé. When I told her I was translating Milán, she said, “Eduardo Milán is the finest poet now writing in the Spanish language.”