5 Meters of Poems
5 Meters of Poems

Carlos Oquendo de Amat

translated by Joshua Beckman, Alejandro de Acosta

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"A joy to read." — Urayoán Noel

Carlos Oquendo de Amat's 5 Metros de Poemas was written in the period between 1923 to 1925 and published in a very small edition in December 1927. Oquendo de Amat died at the age of 32 shortly after the publication. Carlos Oquendo de Amat’s only book of poems, it bears the stamp of the influence of European avant gardes, and Futurism in particular. At the same time, it is clearly a corner-stone for what would later become Concrete Poetry. A facsimile edition of the unusually shaped accordion-fold book was published in 1980 in Lima by Editorial Ausonia Tallares Graficos. A translation of the poem (without the original Spanish) was published in the United States by Turkey Press in the early 1990s, in a very limited fine-press edition. Published in a bi-lingual edition, UDP's new version of 5 Meters of Poems recreates the peculiar physical format of the book, and it is the first edition of this historic poem to be made widely available in the United States.

Excerpt ˇ

Excerpt

Your kindness painted the birds' song

 

and the sea came full in your words

a pure star opens itself as a magpie

and the swallows of your eyebrows will fly no more

wind moving the sails like flowers

I know that behind the rain you wait for me

and you are more than your apron and grammar book

you are a perennial surprise

 

INSIDE THE ROSE OF THE DAY

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About the Author

Carlos Oquendo de Amat
Carlos Oquendo de Amat was part of an extensive and urgent vanguardist poetry world in Lima, Peru in the second two decades of the 20th century. Oquendo de Amat’s only book of poems, 5 Metros de Poemas, is simultaneously one of the most celebrated and unknown examples of the diversity of the poetry of this cultural moment. He was the son of a Sorbonne-educated progressive newspaper publisher, who was both a prominent member of the elite of Puno, a highland provincial capital on the shores of Lake Titicaca, and an irascible enemy of Peru’s Catholic-conservative establishment. Upon the death of his father in 1918, the teenage Oquendo de Amat and his mother moved from provincial genteel comfort to Lima where they lived in poverty. He was often lucky to have enough money for just one meal a day. Friends say he would regularly skip that one meal to have enough to go to the cinema, a guiding obsession evidenced in his work. Lima in this moment was in a state of rapid, at times violent, growth and transformation as it filled with the members of the new working and professional classes. All social relations were being torn apart and rebuilt and the poets of this strange new old city turned to the works of the various European vanguards for guidance in how to respond to this sudden outbreak of modernity. Oquendo de Amat embodied many of the contradictions of this vanguard. After being imprisoned a number of times, during various crackdowns on dissent, he emphatically embraced Marxism and renounced poetry. During one of his stints in prison he contracted tuberculosis, which worsened rapidly during subsequent prison terms. Released from his last prison term in his homeland, he was deported to Panama from where he barely managed to reach Republican Spain in time to expire at the age of 32.

About the Translator

Joshua Beckman is the author of five books of poetry, including Things Are Happening, which was the APR Honickman First Book Prize. His work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies including Harper's, The Pushcart Prize, and Best American Poetry. He has translated numerous books of poetry, including Poker (Ugly Duckling Presse), which was a finalist for the PEN America Poetry in Translation Award. He presently works as an editor for WAVE Books and splits his time between Seattle and New York.
Alejandro de Acosta writes on anarchist philosophy and aesthetics. Since moving to Austin, Texas seven years ago, he has launched the micropress mufa::poema, publishing and freely distributing eight booklets of poetry and philosophy. He is currently composing a book of fifteen "amoral" essays inspired by Montaigne and Hume.

Advance Praise

5 Meters of Poems is a joy to read, and a significant contribution to our understanding of Latin American vanguard poetry beyond such canonical figures as Neruda and Vallejo. Here’s hoping for many more meters! —URAYOÁN NOEL, bomblog