Poems by Isabel Fraire
Translation and Introduction by Thomas Hoeksema
Mundus Artium Press, Athens, Ohio, 1975. $7
Translated by Gloria Waldman
It is not easy to sitúate the poetry of Isabel Fraire within the present-day panorama of Mexican Poetry. It is not easy for two reasons: 1) Isabel Fraire has always written— in a manner of speaking—with a silent voice; and, as Hoeksema notes in his introduction, she has only published her books —a third will soon appear—at the insistence of her friends, principally Tomás Segovia and Juan García Ponce; 2] Isabel Fraire's poetry is in many ways unique: it does not correspond to any school or generation.
Do we have to discover in her poems the influence of José Gorostiza—the original title of Sólo esta luz (Only This Light) comes from Gorostiza—or of Octavio Paz, as the translator notes in the introduction? Pos-sibly. Perhaps. Even probably. But in her case the influences are so deeply integrated into a personal obra that it is difficult to isolate them. And is there an influence from the North American poets whom Isabel Fraire has translated so well into Spanish? That is equally possible and even probable —especially if you think of the Imagists. But the search for influences is, by and
RAMÓN XIRAU, the editor of Diniogos, was visiting professor at Columbia University and the City University of New York during the fall, 1975.
large, a merely academic quest, which, rather than bringing us closer to this poetry, distances us from it. One has to see the poems of Isabel Fraire and especially those of this second book in their own light: "only this light."
I have said that the poetic world of Isabel Fraire is unique. Her poems, sensitive with a vigilant and intelligent sensitivity, are poems for the eyes, for looking at and admiring. In them you discover the poet aston-ished by the world, by the kaleidoscope of images, the signs, the puré and transparent lines of a world constructed with a kind of puré and hidden light—the light of a suspicion: the suspicion of the Human Being.
Each of her poems is an indissoluble whole, an imago mundi, but this image—the image of light and above all of the source of light—is not always the image of a perfect world. In fact, the world of Isabel Fraire is filled with "labyrinths," "solitudes," movements (poetry in movement and movement of the poetic image within each poem), of a time that passes minute by minute, of "devouring nights," of a "wounded dove," of death more hinted at than explicitly named. In addition, there is passing, fleetingness, metamorphosis and traces that are erased in the very moment that they seem to become fixed. But there is also permanence. Follow-ing every road in this plural universe, Isabel Fraire arrives at unanimity—the single soul of the world: the light is every light, the poem is every poem:
El agua transparente brota por fin
idéntica a sí misma.
[Transparent water fully gushes
identical to itself.]
Apparently simple, Isabel Fraire's poetry is complex and rich in changes and variations, semantic as well as sonorous. Hers is poetry that weaves words and silences, verses and pauses, fullness and empty spaces, images that cross and intertwine only to re-emerge crossed, references to other poets (also to other worlds and to other "stories") that do not become readily apparent on a first reading.
We all know that criticism does not take the place of actual reading. The critic only hopes to make the reader actually read the revised work and such is my hope here. Let the reader himself fínd in these poems works as wounding as live fire, clarities like those of the unclouded sun, words and pauses—word and song—like the waters, which along with the light, make up the imaginative universe of this poetry.
The English versión by Thomas Hoeksema should be read. In this case, the translator knew how to see and understand the poet thoroughly, and succeeded in converting the poetry of Isabel Fraire into poetry in English without sacrificing the sense or the meaning of the original. The reader should also examine his introduction to this book, which previously appeared in Review 73, Fall, as "Isabel Fraire: The Startled Eye." This introduction is a model of careful and exact analysis and undoubtedly constitutes the best and most complete criticism yet writ-ten about the poetry of Isabel Fraire.
A final comment: all translated poetry should appear in a bilingual versión because the best way to appreciate a translation fully is to compare it with the original. In the case of these poems that is also the best way for those who know only a little Span-ish to be able to read Isabel Fraire with the ease as well as the accuracy that Hoeksema's translation offers—the accuracy that this distinctive, constant and unanimous "light" deserves.