Son Peregrino.

Author:Mujica, Barbara

A distinguished critic whose ground-breaking work on Pablo Neruda and Octavio Paz has won praise throughout the Americas, Enrico Mario Santi makes his debut as a poet with Son peregrino. As a scholar and a student of the world's finest poetry - both Neruda and Paz are Nobel Prize winners - Santi has absorbed many lessons from his mentors and, in fact, evokes an array of writers in his works. Jorge Luis Borges, Jose Lezama Lima, Severo Sarduy, and Reinaldo Arenas are only a few of the luminaries who populate his pages. Yet, Santi's voice is very much his own - tender, nostalgic, sweetly melancholy.

Born in Cuba but raised in the United States, Santi captures with poignancy the perplexity and disorientation of the outsider. In "Exilio," the opening poem, he describes Cubans caught between two worlds, "permanent guests" who harbor dreams of returning to their island, yet know that they will not, "Jefes / de nuestras casas" (heads / of our households), these men are no longer in command; they are pawns of circumstance, tossed into an incomprehensible, foreign environment, where, together, yet irremediably and painfully alone, they will struggle to survive. They are "pendolas oscilantes / entre la arena y la nieve" (oscillating pendula / between the sand and the snow), learning to exist in the (metaphorically and literally) cold Anglo-American North, yet dreaming of warmer climes.

In "El pecado original," the poet laments: "No eran nuestros arboles. / Aquellas palmas floridanas / no podian lucirnos deliciosas." (They were not our trees. / Those Florida palms / just didn't make our mouths water). Apprehensively, the newcomers attempt their first words in English and eye their blond and redheaded neighbors, aware of their own strangeness, their foreignness. And yet, with time, they make their niche; they plant their own trees, which take root, as they have, in the new land. Still, the bonds with home remain strong. Just when the chilly...

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