Jaime Sabines is a national treasure in Mexico. He is considered by Octavio Paz to be instrumental to the genesis of modern Latin American poetry and “one of the best poets” of the Spanish language. Toward the end of his life, he had published for over fifty years and brought in crowds of more than 3,000 to a readings in his native country. Coined the “Sniper of Literature” by Cuban poet Roberto Fernández Retamar, Sabines brought poetry to the streets. His vernacular, authentic poems are accessible: meant not for other poets, or the established or elite, but for himself and for the people.
In this translation of his fourth book, Tarumba, we find ourselves stepping into Sabines’ streets, brothels, hospitals, and cantinas; the most bittersweet details are told in a way that reaffirms: “Life bursts from you, like scarlet fever, without warning.” Eloquently co-translated by Philip Levine and the late Ernesto Trejo, this bilingual edition is a classic for Spanish- and English-speaking readers alike. Secretive, wild, and searching, these poems are rife with such intensity you’ll feel “heaven is sucking you up through the roof.”
Jaime Sabines was born on March 25, 1926 in Chiapas, Mexico. In 1945, he relocated to Mexico City where he studied Medicine for three years before turning his attention to Philosophy and Literature at the University of Mexico. He wrote eight books of poetry, including Horal (1950), Tarumba (1956), and Maltiempo (1972), for which he received the Xavier Villaurrutia Award. In 1959, Sabines was granted the Chiapas Prize and, in 1983, the National Literature Award. In addition to his literary career, Sabines served as a congressman for Chiapas. Jaime Sabines died in 1999; he remains one of Mexico’s most respected poets.
Philip Levine (translator) was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1928. He is the author of sixteen books of poetry, most recently Breath (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004). His other poetry collections include The Mercy (1999); The Simple Truth (1994), which won the Pulitzer Prize; What Work Is (1991), which won the National Book Award; New Selected Poems (1991); Ashes: Poems New and Old (1979), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the first American Book Award for Poetry; 7 Years From Somewhere (1979), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award; and The Names of the Lost (1975), which won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. He has received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize from Poetry, the Frank O'Hara Prize, and two Guggenheim Foundation fellowships. Philip Levine lives in New York City and Fresno, California, and teaches at New York University.