After Rubén

After Rubén

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Author: Francisco Aragón

Publisher: Red Hen Press (2020)

After Rubén unfolds as a decades-long journey in poems and prose, braiding the personal, the political, and the historical, interspersing along the way English-language versions and riffs of a Spanish-language master: Rubén Darío. Whether it’s biting portraits of public figures, or nuanced sketches of his father, Francisco Aragón has assembled his most expansive collection to date, evoking his native San Francisco, but also imagining ancestral spaces in Nicaragua. Readers will encounter pieces that splice lines from literary forebearers, a moving elegy to a sibling, a surprising epistle from the grave. In short: a book that is both trajectory & mosaic, complicating the conversation surrounding poetry in the Americas—above all as it relates to Latinx and queer poetics.

"Marvel at Francisco’s new collection and translations of Darío—there are soft, almost sepia-blurry portraits of unnamed figures, episodes, eras, and families. The Bay Area appears and dissolves as we journey with Aragón—we amble shoulder to shoulder and listen to intimate, almost impossible short phrases and we stop on occasion and notice the silence, the separations, 'aflutter in the light.' The collaborations with the late Andrés Montoya and Carmen Calatayud, and verses inspired by Machado, Darío, Apollinaire, and Cendrars are stellar. This is a book made of books, cultures, and languages, a search made of searches—'I tried to invent new flowers, new tongues,' it says—and indeed Francisco has accomplished this task. Rare for its intimate, deep voices and expansive, chromatic treks."

–Juan Felipe Herrera

“'Consider all of this / an excursus on origins,' advises Francisco Aragón as he invites the reader into the queer Latinx literary lineage in After Rubén. Comprised of equal parts familial and scholarly figures and conflicts, the depiction of Rubén Darío’s poetic legacy in this collection reveals his lasting impact on Aragón, whose verse illuminates a range of complex and passionate lives. Aragón’s translations (the originals are reproduced in an appendix) and ekphrastic re-visions of ten of Darío’s poems are daring and, indeed, 'blasphemous.'”

–Carmen Giménez Smith

"Part imagined intimate diary of the poet Rubén Darío, part lyrical exploration of the rich inner life of poet Aragón, this pulsating book is an ode to the between-world of those who live a life dedicated to observation of words. Sonically charged lines that delve into solitude, travel, separation, grief, and the complex life of the outsider allow these poems to speak both to the individual Latinx experience and the universal desire to belong, to be heard."

–Ada Limón