I’ve decided to focus on 2 poems today, They are short and remind me in some ways of the poems of Langston Hughes. Their author is woman who I had the pleasure of hearing once, a member of UNEAC(National Union of Artists and Writers, Cuba), and an inspiration herself, to a younger generation of Afro-Cuban women poets. Below, Wikipedia gives a succinct account of her career as a writer:
Georgina Herrera was born in Jovellanos, the capital of Matanzas Province, Cuba. She began writing when she was nine years old, and when she was 16 her first poems were published, in such Havana periodicals as El País and Diario de la Tarde. As Miriam DeCosta-Willis has noted, “Many of her later poems capture the pain and loneliness of her growing-up years”, during which she endured poverty, an absent father and the death of her mother when she was 14.
Aged 20, Herrera moved to Havana in 1956, and worked as a domestic; it was in the homes of her wealthy employers that she met writers, who encouraged her to publish. Early in the Cuban Revolution she became involved with the “Novación Literaria” movement, and began working as a scriptwriter at the Cuban Institute for Radio and Television.Wikipedia, Georgina Herrera
I’ve only read a couple of short poetry books by Georgina Herrera both in Spanish, and thought I would share 2 verses that I especially like. Her fame beyond Cuba has been limited until this century, when interest in Cuban Black culture and history has burgeoned in terms of literature, arts, and social sciences. If you are interested in more of her work you might check out the following bilingual collection below. In these current pieces, the English translations are my own.
A bi-lingual Spanish/English collection of Herrera’s work, entitled Always Rebellious/Cimarroneando: Selected Poems (published by Cubanabooks, a US-based non-profit company specialising in Cuban women’s literature), won the 2016 International Latino Book Award for Best Bilingual Poetry Book. Herrera has said of the collection, whose title references maroons, Africans who escaped from enslavement in the Americas: “The inspiration for the book was my life experiences, it is a definition of me.”Wikipedia.
Las Aguas Van Cogiendo Su Nivel Mis orishas y mis negras viejas no necesitan que en un rincon les pongan alimentos ni agua para la sed. Lo que les quema la garganta son ganas de justicia visto asi, los he puesto a viajar no en estos barcuchos, atenazados por traficantes. El viaje ahora es al reves. Puse alas a mis palabras y en las palabras estan ellos. Water Finds its Own Level (Trans. Kaushalya Bannerji) My orishas and my old black women don’t need a nook where they are given food and water for thirst. What burns their throats are desires for justice. Seeing them like this, I set them travelling No, not on those big boats, in the grips of traffickers. The journey now, is the reverse. I have put wings on my words And in my words, they are.
GRANDE ES EL TIEMPO Grande es el tiempo a transitar como un camino si de las penas partes, yendo hacia la dicha. Y llegas y te instalas, pero no permaneces, vuelves, irremediable, al primer sitio, cual si fuera el de tu origen, donde algo perdiste y buscas incansable pero no sabes qué. Georgina Herrera, de Grande es el tiempo, La Habana, UNEAC, 1989 Great is the Time (Trans. Kaushalya Bannerji) Great is the time We walk as though on a road of sorrowing parts, going toward happiness. And you arrive and you stay, but you don’t belong, you return, incurable, to the first site, as if it were that place of your origin, where you lost something and you look tirelessly but don’t know for what.