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Choreographed in Uniform Distress / Coreografiados en uniforme zozobra



ISAAC GOLDEMBERG nació en Chepén, Perú, en 1945 y reside en Nueva York desde 1964. Sus publicaciones mas recientes son Libro de reclamaciones (2018) y Philosophy and Other Fables (2016). En el 2001, su novela La vida a plazos de don Jacobo Lerner fue seleccionada por el Yiddish Book Center de Estados Unidos como una de las 100 obras más importantes de la literatura judía mundial de los últimos 150 años. Ha traducido la poesía de Donald Axinn, Stanley H. Barkan, Billy Collins, Peter Thabit Jones, Charles Simic y Aeronwy Thomas. De 1971 a 1986 fue catedrático de New York University y actualmente, es Profesor Distinguido de Humanidades en Hostos Community College de The City University of New York, donde dirige el Instituto de Escritores Latinoamericanos y la revista Hostos Review.

BOOK SUMMARY Sasha Reiter debuts with this bilingual poetry collection translated into Spanish by Isaac Goldemberg. Carlota Caulfield called his voice “attentive, open and sensuous.” Daniel Shapiro has called him “A promising young voice.” Sasha Reiter debuta con esta colección bilingüe traducida al español por Isaac Goldemberg. Carlota Caulfield dice que su voz es “alerta, abierta y sensual”. Daniel Shapiro lo ha llamado “Una joven y prometedora voz”.

Sasha Reiter. Choreographed in Uniform Distress/Coreografiados en uniforme zozobra. Trans. Isaac Goldemberg. New York: Artepoética Press, 2018.

By Stephen A. Sadow In his inaugural volume of poetry, Choreographed in Uniform Distress/Coreografiados en uniforme zozobra, Sasha Reiter is a writer of poems or better said, lyrics. His work is deeply rooted in the American tradition, but more that of its singers than its poets. He shares the feelings of despair and world-weariness of a Delta bluesman or a country and western singer. Reiter exposes his own self-doubt, his failings and his redemption through the love of a woman. His poems and ballad-like short-stories are reminiscent of the young Bob Dylan, the young B. B King and the young Johnny Cash. There is also a dose of the self-deprecation practiced by American Jewish comedians like Woody Allen and Rodney Dangerfield. In Isaac Goldemberg’s masterful translation, Reiter’s poems themes and sentiments ring true as well when set against Latin American poetry. There are resonances of Rubén Darío’s poem of desperation, “Nocturne” and César Vallejo’s “Espergesia,” that begins “I was born on a day/ when God was sick” and Octavio Paz’s line “In the dawn of quiet venoms.” There is even a touch of Pablo Neruda’s “Every day you play with the light of the universe.” The depth of Reiter’s understanding of the intricacies of life’s troubles fears and small successes is extraordinary for such a young a poet. He was born in 1996, the son of an Argentine father and a Peruvian mother, and he grew up in The Bronx. He holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Binghamton University. Reiter is both a Latino and a Jew; while not central to his vision, his Jewish identity occasionally breaks though with references to gefilte fish and shoveling dirt onto a coffin at a Jewish funeral. Reiter is very hard on himself. Many of his poems search for slight traces of self-worth, but only sometimes find them. “Solitary” asks “Was it my face?” and wonders “Or maybe, it was them.” “In “Man of War,” asks forgiveness for his failures: “I tried. I tried/ I try so hard. /I’m sorry. There are days when he cannot even get out of bed. In “Retrograde,” he recalls, “and I was just as obsessed with my sheets/ as I was with the sun.” Not only his hold on the present is problematic, but memory is even more so. The past is a mirage. The implication that the poet will not be remembered. “This is the Way the World Comes Back,” pronounces that the past disappears. Things and people, including the self, fade into oblivion. In “Memory,” “The dark wood closet/is filled with grimy boxes…Elapsed, sticky, rotten.” In “Alzheimer’s,” the twenty-something Reiter, bemoans, “Reclining against a wreathing pine, I try to remember. /Aged unlike fine wine and cheese, I cannot remember.” Like the blues singer, Reiter bewails the women who left him. The poet writes “To My Missing Wife,” “Sometimes I see you/Teetering over the expired garden. . .“ In “Dreams,“ he “knowing that Deborah knows that Debora won’t call back this time/And you won’t call her either.”; the split is permanent. “Take Everything,” he tells his ex, “Take everything/take the silence.” “Let it Die” sums things up: “Every day I dream the same dream/ ”We would both be better off/I’m sorry.” Most fortunately, redemption can be found—in romantic love. Reiter has his unnamed muse, the woman who pulls him back from the abyss, and stays with him despite his many failings. In “Birthday Party,” he gets drunk and runs to the toilet: “there the avocado vomit/began to sway over the side of the bowl/And splash onto the filthy tiles…” His girlfriend’s response? “t’s okay/she said. /And then her lips were pressed against my pizza-covered face/And that was the most romantic birthday I ever had.” “Goosebumps” recounts the growing relationship, “Then I left it, / as your blood warmed my core, / and goosebumps crawled over my skin. Her support for him is more fully expressed in the prose poem “Lost in Translation.” Returning from a day of bad grades and academic failure, he goes home to her: “I pull you in, pasting your cheek against my skin, pushing your lips between the buttons of my shirt. My head rests across your own. My heart sits in your lap.” Moreover, Sasha Reiter is a consummate story-teller. He can transfix his reader with a kind of anti-O’Henry short story, in which a man loses the false engagement ring that he bought for a woman who left him. Writing in the first person, he tells of a man trying and failing to befriend a distant older man, presumably his father. The poem “Funeral” relates the story of a friend’s adolescent brother being kicked out of a party because he was “too young, the boy’s subsequent suicide by overdose and his burial in a Jewish cemetery. Of all his strengths, Sasha Reiter’s virtuoso performance as a maker of images stands out. In his introduction to the volume, the poet and critic Luis Benítez writes,” that Reiter’s poetry is “Very concentrated in alternation, in allusion and elusion…”  Reiter has an uncanny ability to hold his reader by stringing along images, which often contain a disconcerting and even disturbing linguistic surprise. Many images have surrealistic overtones. The words may be simple, but the effect is not: “The morning egg slid/ off the pan/and I watched it spill/into the dark blue of the sky.” And, “It takes/72 hours/for the strings of your skin/to grab onto one another, /holding hands under your glass scab/until you are pieced together. In “Sunset,” Reiter uses a series of extreme images. This poem needs to be quoted in its entirety: Thick blood chokes my arteries. Wax tears reduce my vision to shadows in the dark. The harrowing sensation of detachment fills my tissue with pins and needles. I know it is done as my breath recedes and capillaries freeze my arms into morbid stark. I agree with the Cuban-American poet Carlota Caulfield, when she says that Sasha Reiter deserves a wide reading public. His work is finely crafted; It is harsh and yet endearing. His poems ask difficult questions and only sometimes are capable of answering them. Readers his own age and those considerably older will know exactly what his self-questioning feels like. Plus, they will also be reminded that there is more to life than that. With Choreographed in Uniform Distress/Coreografiados en uniforme zozobra, Sasha Rieter has found a fierce poetic voice. STEPHEN A. SADOW (PhD., Harvard University) is professor Emeritus of Latin American Literature and Jewish Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. He specializes in Jewish Latin American literature and art. Among his many books are King David’s Harp: Autobiographical Essays by Jewish Latin American Writers, winner of a National Jewish Book Award, his translation of Mestizo, a novel by Argentine writer Ricardo Feierstein and Unbroken: From Auschwitz to Buenos Aires, the autobiography of Holocaust survivor Charles Papiernik. Steve Sadow and his co-translator Jim Kates have translated into English poems by fourteen Latin American Jewish poets.  As online “OpenAs an online Open Source” publication, Sadow created the bilingual anthology: “A Voice Among the Multitudes Latin American Jewish Poetry”, a catalogue of a collection of handmade artist’s books and a trilingual anthology of Latin American Jewish literature.


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