What I’ve come to expect of the Bitter Oleander is work that is unusual. Not odd or inaccessible or experimental, but unusual — poetry with unusual diction or an unusual tone and stories with unusual perspectives. This issue is no exception. I liked, in particular, poems by Shawn Fawson, George Kalamaras, and Kenneth Frost, and an amazing piece of short fiction by Michael Roberts, “Found in the Wreckage,” in which a man contemplates his own death in prose that is both chilling and lyrical. All of the fiction, in fact, is sharp, disturbing, and unforgettable. This issue’s special feature is a long interview with poet Martín Camps, conducted via email in English, and a terrific selection of his poems, translated from the Spanish by Anthony Seidman. (Camps was born and raised in Mexico; he studied in California where he now resides.)
Camps is successful, I think, in his desire for the work, “to communicate my internal world, instead of the ‘small talk’” — here’s an excerpt from “Niagara”:
His words on the page imitated the waterfall,
like the torrent of thunder
as if the earth were to clear its throat to
tell us something terrifying.
His work tends toward the lyrical, and like the Latin American poets who inspired him, he is interested in the metaphysical as it is reflected in the natural world. Anyone familiar with the work of Octavio Paz, for example, cannot help but hear echoes of his earthy lyricism in the poems of Martín Camps. Seidman’s translations are strong and fluid, but I longed to compare them with the originals. Seidman’s translation of two poems by Estrella del Valle also appear in this issue, alongside the original Spanish, and there are two original poems by Alberto Blanco, with English translations by John Oliver Simon in this issue, as well. [The Bitter Oleander Press, 4983 Tall Oaks Drive, Fayetteville, NY 13066-9776. Single issue $8. www.bitteroleander.com] –Sima Rabinowitz