What is This?

Some years ago, the Colombian writer Alberto Zalamea gave me a book that his father, Jorge, had written very few years before his death. I have treasured this old, dusty book ever since.

The book is titled La poesía ignorada y olvidada (Ignored and Forgotten Poetry). The version that I have is the original edition, published in 1965 as the Casa de las Américas award winner.

The book is, essentially, a poetry anthology that follows the thesis that “there are no underdeveloped peoples in poetry.” It is a compendium of poetry — individual and communal, epic and lyrical, mournful and celebratory — from places and civilizations that are not usually included in poetry anthologies.

And although the poems here are fascinating — sometimes awe-inspiring, sometimes subtly silent — , Zalamea orders his book by themes, instead of by traditions, chronology, or geography, blurring the context in which each piece was written. Also, each poem is written in the original Spanish of the book, with few clues as to which was the original language, or the original words used.

So, as a small homage to this book that I love, and in hopes that more people can read its beautiful content, I plan to go through the poems in the book, try to find their original version, and provide an English translation.

Zalamea says in the book that it took him 50 years of reading to be able to create this book (and he provides only a brief bibliography), so I know that my plan is no easy task. But I’ll try my best.

Please feel free to comment or contact me if you have any tips, clues, or better translation ideas for the poems I’ll be listing here.

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