Translator’s Note

Jesse Lee Kercheval

Javier Etchevarren was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1979. I first encountered Javier’s poetry in 2013 when I was in Montevideo looking for poets to include in América invertida: An Anthology of Emerging Uruguayan Poets (University of New Mexico Press, 2016). I went to hear Javier read his poetry in a bar in the Parque Rodó neighborhood of Montevideo. Javier is a frequent reader at such events. In an interview for the Uruguayan art and culture website, Cooltivarte, he said, “For me, poetry is a project in the long term, a pleasure in the short term, the opportunity to engage in artistic activity, a task of absolute solitude which, in the end, connects me to others.”

After hearing Javier, I knew I wanted his work in the anthology. The concept for América invertida was that each Uruguayan poet would be matched with a poet/translator based in the United States. Don Bogen, author of An Algebra (University of Chicago Press, 2009) and translator of Europa: Selected Poems by Julio Martinez Mesanza (Diálogos Books, 2015), translated poems from Desidia for the anthology. He did a wonderful job.

A year later, when I was living in Montevideo, I read the manuscript of Javier’s new book, fábula de un hombre desconsolado from first poem to last in a single sitting and knew I wanted to translate it. Javier’s poetry in fable of an inconsolable man is brutally honest. Every word is carefully chosen. He uses language that is blunt and often deceptively simple to create a lyricism that slows down experience to let the reader absorb each line, each image or event. These three poems are typical of the poems in fable of an inconsolable man/ fábula de un hombre desconsolado which will be published soon in the U.S. by Action Books. They show how seamlessly Javier braids his experiences as a child together with a clear-eyed assessment of his adult self, shaped, even damaged, by those childhood experiences. I love how he captures specific moments with photographic clarity while keeping a deep sense of the value of all earthly things, and that makes the poems remarkable and deeply moving.

about the author