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When North Americans ask me what I do and I say, “I’m a poet,” their followup question is usually, “But what do you do?”

When I tell Latin Americans, “Soy poeta,” their deeply respectful followup is usually something like, “Así que Usted es poeta… ¡como Pablo Neruda!”

Glimpsing my poetic vocation from the age of fourteen, and doubling my bets by dropping out of grad school at twenty-four because all the academic poets truly sucked, I’ve made a living, more or less, for nearly forty years by teaching poetry to children, for many years with California Poets In The Schools and for the last decade with Poetry Inside Out.

And for the last nearly thirty years I’ve been translating contemporary Latin American poets from Spanish to English. Translation is a deep idea, immensely generative with children, at the very roots where poetry and language begin; it has also brought me lifelong friendships. In 1995-96 I spent a year traveling down through Latin America, looking for poetry and poets; I came back with a 131-piece sequence of eight-line stanzas, each with an explanatory or ironic comentario in prose. After sending the manuscript out to 87 presses and contests, it was published in 2002 by Creative Arts Book Company, which promptly went bankrupt. Gary Snyder blurbed Caminante as “a major poem,” and you’ll find it serialized here.

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  1. Xavier Cuadra Vargas / Jan 5 2011 11:11 pm

    Hi.

    My name is Xavier Cuadra and I saw a post you made named “Nicaragua: Poets and Watercolors”

    I greatly appreciate I could read about this somewhere and get me informed of what you can tell from my last name, is my family’s past. My grandfather is called Jose Joaquín Cuadra Cardenal which is Pablo Antonio’s brother.

    He always tells me these stories which are just an infinite travel in Nicaraguan culture and legacy. There’s nothing else in the world that I enjoy more than listening to him, but unfortunately I get to see him once or twice a year since I live in Costa Rica. Hopefully one day I’ll have my place in Granada.

    Anyway I just wanted to let you know how this made my day and I’m following your blog from now on.

    Thank you.

    • johnoliversimon / Jan 9 2011 3:15 pm

      Tuve el privilegio de conocer al maestro Pablo Antonio Cuadra en el 87 en un congreso de literatura centroamericana en San José, Costa Rica. Resistente siempre a los Somoza, también se opuso a los Sandinistas y al exteriorismo oficial de Padre Ernesto Cardenal, y por eso no era el santo de la devoción de la izquierdista. No obstante Pablo Antonio también tiene su lado exteriorista, su conciencia social, algo muy güegüense. En contraste, la poesía mexicana es plenamente interiorista, llena de vagas nostalgias de la muerte.

  2. Margaret Cuddihy / Jun 30 2011 5:20 pm

    Dear johnoliversimon,

    Just finished reading Ed Smith’s poem to his daughter and wept. You see, Ted was/is my big brother. He and I were both born in Foochow, province of Fukien, to missionary parents. His untimely death was devastating. Although I’ve read many of the poems he’s written, this one was new to me. Thank you for posting it on your blog.
    Margaret Cuddihy

  3. Chris / Jan 9 2013 5:32 pm

    John,
    Very pleased to come across your blog. I live in Caracas, Venezuela; I have run a small press for a number of years and am currently seeking poets in Venezuela and Colombia.
    Please email me at your earliest if you are interested in further discussion.
    Best,
    C.

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