What you have before you is an anthology of Cuban poetry from the past
eight decades. The oldest poets were born in 1902 and are still known for
poems written in the 1930s. The youngest was born in 1981 and is now at
a high point of creativity. There are fifty-six in all, with one long or several
shorter poems each.
All translations are mine. Translation is a complex endeavor, and poetry
translation, in particular, is often a balancing act between attending to the
integrity of the original and producing something that is artistically effective.
A version that is too literal fails to become a poem; one that goes too far in
the other direction may be a poem but at some point ceases to be a transla-
tion. Great poetry has often been destroyed by poor translation and mediocre
poetry falsely enhanced by translation that “improves” it.
As a poet myself, I had to resist the temptation to impose my voice on oth-
ers. But because I am a poet, because I know or knew many of these authors
personally and have followed their work over many years, and because I lived
in Cuba for more than a decade, becoming familiar with that nation’s unique
take on the Spanish language, I knew I could do the work justice. When it
came to some of the more traditional forms or internal rhyme schemes, I paid
more attention to style and rhythm than to trying to render that which in one
language cannot be fully duplicated in another that plays by such different
rules. In every instance I have prioritized the poet’s voice while retaining his
or her texture and meaning.
I chose work I feel is representative of each poet but also of Cuba’s poetic
history and culture, in periods preceding and following the Revolution, times
both exhilarating and difficult. These poets are women and men, black and
white and every shade in between, of several sexual identities, from every cor-
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