Songs, Spells and Images by Mayan Women
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As Ernesto Cardenal asserts in Incantations, poetry has a wider latitude for power in a culture where it is understood to be "the first speech." It proposes joyfully that what's read this afternoon at the Bowery Poetry Club shares a magical link to this book's poems by illiterate women in Chiapas. The urgency of such a connection (for them and for us) is what animates for me this inaccrochable collection of poems by Mayan women.
Some history, perhaps? In 1973 Ambar Past, an American woman in her twenties, traveled to Mexico to live in mud huts for thirty years collecting poems and stories in Tzotzil, a Mayan language spoken by indigenous people in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Over time she helped establish Taller Lenateros, the group that produced, in 2005, the original printing of Incantations (and by produced
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