Puerto Rican Day Parade, Inspiration for Poetry

New Yorker Giannina Braschi finds inspiration in the Puerto Rican Day Parade on 5th Avenue, one of the largest parades in New York City with nearly 3 million spectators annually. The parade is the subject of Braschi’s classic poetry collection “El imperio de los sueños”, which was recently re-released by AmazonCrossing for World Literature in Translation in Spanish and English editions, in paperback and Kindle.

In this postmodern trilogy of the late 1980s, shepherds from the countryside invade, conquer, and colonize New York City on the Puerto Rican Day Parade, ringing the bells of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and overtaking the top floor of the Empire State Building where they sing and dance. This comic bucolic revolution evokes the longstanding Spanish tradition of pastoral poetry while conjuring the modern day images of New York City with all its energy and euphoria on the day of the parade.

In Braschi’s latest book, “United States of Banana”, that same revolutionary energy explodes in the resorts of San Juan, Puerto Rico–the author’s hometown–and runs south throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

Braschi first published “El imperio de los sueños” in Spanish in 1988, the tour de force novel “Yo-Yo Boing!” in Spanglish in the 1998, and the dramatic new work of fiction “United States of Banana” in English in 2011. With these three books in three languages, the poet explores the linguistic and cultural journey of 50 million Hispanic-Americans living in the United States and debates the three political options of Puerto Rico—nation, colony, or state—as wishy, wishy-washy, or washy.

The Puerto Rican Day Parade celebrates the cultural heritage of 4 million Puerto Rican islanders and millions more on the mainland. In “United States of Banana”, Braschi discusses what it means to be a Puerto Rican writer: “Soy boricua. In spite of my family and in spite of my country, I’m writing the process of the Puerto Rican mind—taking it out of context—as a native and a foreigner—expressing it through Spanish, Spanglish, and English—Independencia, Estado Libre Asociado, and Estadidad—from the position of a nation, a colony, and a state—Wishy, Wishy-Washy, and Washy—not as one political party that is parted into piddley parts and partied out…”

Giannina Braschi’s titles are available from AmazonCrossing which makes award-winning and bestselling foreign languages authors accessible to English language readers for the first time. President of the Nobel committee for literature, Per Wästberg stated, “I have seen how recent laureates–Elfriede Jelinek…Le Clézio, Herta Müller–were virtually unknown and unprinted in England and the U.S. and only after the Nobel Prize were they able to find readers in English… AmazonCrossing deserves praise. Such translation and distribution of good literature…can only stimulate our cultures and inspire writers to widen their horizons.” AmazoncCrossing assesses awards, reviews, customer sales data, and other information from amazon sites around the world to identify, then acquire the rights, commission translations, and introduce compelling voices to the English-speaking market through multiple channels and formats, such as the amazon books store, amazon kindle store, and other national and independent booksellers. Giannina Braschi is the first Puerto Rican author to be launched globally by Amazon.

A poem from “Pastoral; or the Inquisition of Memories” in “Empire of Dreams”

Translation by Tess O’Dwyer

On the top floor of the Empire State a shepherd has stood up to sing and dance. What a wonderful thing. That New York City has been invaded by so many shepherds. That work has stopped and there is only singing and dancing. And that the newspapers—the New York Times, in headlines, and the Daily News—call out: New York. New York. New York. Listen to it. Hear it on the radio. And on television. Listen to the loudspeakers. Listen to it. The buffoons have died. And the little lead soldier. Shepherds have invaded New York. They have conquered New York. They have colonized New York. The special of the day in New York’s most expensive restaurant is golden acorn. It’s an egg. It’s an apple. It’s a bird. Fish. Melody. Poetry. And epigram. Now there is only song. Now there is only dance. Now we do whatever we please. Whatever we please. Whatever we damn well please.

HISPANIC NEW YORK: http://hispanicnewyorkproject.blogspot.com/2012/06/puerto-rican-day-parade-prose-poem-by.html?spref=tw


La pastoral; o la inquisición de los recuerdos

Yo hago la afirmación. Yo hago la exclamación. Yo soy la inquisición de los recuerdos. Y me aburren los puntos y las comas. Me aburre la duda. Y sobre todo la memoria. Me aburren los recuerdos y he llegado a la cima del mundo para quemarlos. En este libro están mis recuerdos. Escúchenme damas y caballeros. Éste es el funeral de los recuerdos. Éste es su cementerio. Y éstas son sus honras fúnebres. No los adoro ni les tengo ningún respeto. No le pertenecen a nadie. No le pertenecen a la tumba. Y ni siquiera le pertenecen al recuerdo. Ya todos han visto las quimeras rojas y las quimeras negras. Han visto las borracheras y los banquetes. Y después ha llegado la resaca del recuerdo y ha arrasado con la vida. La muerte se llama recuerdo. Y el tiempo también. Y también los malditos recogedores de basura. Me refiero a los pastores del recuerdo. Y los recuerdos son sombra. Y los recuerdos son muerte. Yo no soy un recuerdo. Yo no soy un arsenal de epítetos ni de metáforas. Yo soy la estrella y la estrella alumbra. Soy afirmación. Y no quiero conceptos. No quiero abstracciones. No, No, No, y No. No soy punto y coma. Quiero punto y aparte. Quiero acabarlo todo de una vez. Sin arrepentimientos. Sin recuerdos.


Escúchenme damas y caballeros. Escuchen el sermón de los recuerdos y de las lamentaciones. Escuchen el infierno. Por qué no hice lo que debí haber hecho. Estoy arrepentido. He pecado. Tengo recuerdos. Y tormentos. Me estoy quemando en el fuego de los recuerdos. Por qué no me habré quedado quieto. Por qué habré hecho aquello. Yo me arrepiento mil veces. Por qué te traicioné y por qué te recuerdo. Ay, y cuánto dolor y cuánta pena. Ay, y te dejé plantado en la calle. Escúchen a los recuerdos. Escúchenlos de nuevo. Por qué te tracioné. Por qué te fuiste y me olvidaste. Y me lamento y te recuerdo. Escuchen la telenovela de las seis y escuchen al recuerdo. Ay, y ahora qué me queda. Me quedan los apartes y los monólogos y los recuerdos. Me quedan las sombras. Me quedan las memorias. Yo no quiero monólogos ni lamentos ni apartes. Yo soy un pájaro que canta. Yo soy un niño. Yo soy el ruiseñor. Qué saben el invierno o el otoño o la primavera o el verano del recuerdo. No saben nada del recuerdo. Saben que pasan y que vuelven. Saben que son estaciones. Saben que son el tiempo. Y saben afirmarse. Y saben imponerse. Y saben sostenerse. Qué sabe el otoño del verano. Qué lamentaciones tienen las estaciones. Ninguna odia. Ninguna ama. Y pasan. 

(El imperio de los sueños)

Pastoral; or the Inquisition of Memories

I make the affirmation. I make the exclamation. I am the inquisition of memories. And I am bored by semicolons. I am bored by doubt. And above all, by memory. I am bored by memories and have reached the top of the world to burn them. My memories are in this book. Listen to me, ladies and gentlemen. This is the funeral of memories. This is their cemetery. This is their service. I don’t worship them or respect them in any way. They belong to no one. They don’t belong to the grave. They don’t even belong to memory. You’ve all seen the red chimeras and the black chimeras. And you’ve seen the drunkenness and the banquets. And then the remains of memories came and cleared away life. Death is called memory. And so is time. And so are the damned garbage collectors. I mean the shepherds of memory. And memories are shadows. And memories are death. I am not a memory. I am not an arsenal of epithets or metaphors. I am the star, and the star shines. I am affirmation. And I do not want concepts. I do not want abstractions. No, no, no, and no. I am not a semicolon. I want a period and a paragraph. I want to end it all, once and for all. Without any regrets. Without memory.

Listen to me, ladies and gentlemen. Listen to the sermon of memories and sorrows. Listen to hell. Why didn’t I do what I should have done. I repent. I have sinned. I have memories. And torments. I am burning in the flames of memories. Why didn’t I keep quiet? Why did I do that? I repent a thousand times. Why did I betray you, and why do I remember you? Oh woe, woe’s me! Oh, and I left you standing in the street. Listen to memories. Listen to them again. Why did I betray you? Why did you leave and forget me? And I grieve and remember you. And the worst were my tears. And the worst was remembering you. Listen to the soap opera and listen to memory. Oh! Now what’s left for me! Just monologues, soliloquies, and memories. I’m left with shadows. I’m left with memories. I don’t want monologues or sorrows or soliloquies. I am a singing bird. I am a child. I am the nightingale. What does winter or autumn or spring or summer know of memory? They know nothing of memory. They know that seasons pass and return. They know that they are seasons. That they are time. And they know how to affirm themselves. And they know how to impose themselves. And they know how to maintain themselves. What does autumn know of summer? What sorrows do seasons have? None hate. None love. They just pass.

(Empire of Dreams)