Connecting Lines: New Poetry from Mexico and Líneas conectadas: Nueva poesía de los Estados Unidos (US/MEXICO)

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      An older, bearded and mustachioed man on the left sits facing a young dark-haired woman to his right. There is a table microphone between them

Luis Cortés Bargalló and April Lindner, editors of the two-volume bilingual poetry anthology Connecting Lines/Líneas conectadas at the book launch at the Cultural Institute of Mexico in Washington, DC. Photo by Liz Stark

In February 2006, Sarabande Books published Connecting Lines and Lineas Conectadas, a two volume bilingual anthology of work by poets from Mexico and the United States. The anthology resulted from the collaborative efforts of the National Endowment for the Arts, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Each volume contains the work of 50 poets from the postwar generation writing in diverse styles.

Poet April Lindner selected the work to be included in Líneas conectadas, the U.S. volume of the anthology. In the following short essay, Lindner talks about the task of choosing work for the anthology that best represents the current state of American poetry.

The opportunity to draw up a table of contents for Lineas Conectadas was not unlike the experience of putting together a mixed tape of favorite songs for a new friend. It provided me with a chance to share poems I admire with an audience for whom these poems might well be entirely new.

Just as a music lover chooses songs for a mixed tape with an ear toward expressing variations of mood, I hoped to choose poems that would provide a sense of the variety that may be found in the United States poetry scene, if one looks hard enough. Toward this end, I sought to include the narrative and the lyric, the traditional and the experimental. I aimed to include poets from a range of geographical regions and ethnic backgrounds. Within limited parameters—fifty poets represented by one or two poems apiece—I sought to present a small sampling as rich in voices and viewpoints as American poetry and American life itself.

As one does when one selects music to share with a friend, though, I hoped to do more than simply represent the abundance of choices. I hoped to communicate my enthusiasms by passing along a sampling of my personal favorites—in my opinion, some of the best contemporary American poetry has to offer. Of course notions of what constitute the best of anything are highly subjective, but one of the rewards of choosing poems for an anthology is the necessity of coming to terms with one’s own definition of the best. My preference turned out to be poems that were carefully crafted, memorable, and entertaining. I wanted to present poems that would give pleasure to a casual reader, but also that would reward the multiple readings of a poetry enthusiast. I hoped to include work with emotional power, intriguing wordplay, captivating music, and, in the case of narrative poems, a compelling story. Finally, I chose poems I imagined would travel well—that describe a thin slice of contemporary American life in the rich specificity that magically makes the local universal.

In part, of course, one shares poetry as one shares music, to see how one’s friend will react. That reaction reveals something about the friend, but also something about the song—or poem—itself. The chance to read poems that I love translated into Spanish—to see those poems in a completely new light, and to learn what the translators have discovered within them, has been one of the most poignant pleasures of working on Líneas conectadas. I’m honored to have had the chance to take part in a project that is, at its heart, about sharing and connection—about friends getting to know each other a little bit better.