After long, dark months reading pandemic poems earlier this year, I was keen to pick a focus for the summer issue which would give me and our readers pleasure. The idea of a Focus on Mexico has been in my mind for a while – Mexico is one of my favourite countries, and over the last few years I have been lucky to publish many great Mexican poets, from Jimena González to Martha Mega; Hubert Matiúwàa to Claudia Berrueto. I sensed that a Mexican Focus would have my submission box overbrimming with spectacular poets, and so it has been. What a delight, to discover figures like Nahui Olin, widely known for her ‘large green eyes and fiery spirit’ in Mexico City in the 1920s and 30s – whose extraordinary poems, as translator Claire Mullen explains, cover everything from Einstein’s theory of relativity to the discovery of black holes, ‘sexuality, feminism, and Mexican nationality’. Or Pita Amor, who would turn up for her sittings as an artist’s model for Diego Riviera ‘nude beneath her mink coat’, and whose poems were so original she became known as ‘the 11th Muse of Mexico’.
There are some powerful poems by men in this focus, but it is the sheer number of brilliant women writing poetry in Mexico right now that has struck me, from the Zapotec poet Natalia Toledo’s empathy with the turtle, weeping as she lays her eggs, to Mikeas Sanchez celebrating ‘all the Zoque women’s wisdom in my spit’, to Elena Poniatowska declaring – in Cynthia Steele’s memorable translation – that ‘Sanctity is some incomprehensible shit’. Our cover, by Mexican illustrator Sofia Rosales, represents Coyolxauhqui, goddess of the moon, and is inspired by the poetry of Jeannee L Clariond’s sequence The Goddesses of Water (soon to be published by Shearsman, translated by Samantha Schnee), where Coyolxauhqui’s dismemberment by her brother, the sun, ‘symbolises the successive phases of the Moon in endless darkness’. It tells of a journey out of chaos and violence towards light.
Many thanks, as ever, to our many friends who helped spread the word and gave me guidance, with a particular shout out to Amanda Hopkinson for all her help, Nathalie Teitler and Leo Boix of Nuevo Sol, and to James Byrne and the editors of the forthcoming Temporary Archives: Latin American Women Poets (Arc/EHUP), which will be essential reading. I hope you will all enjoy this focus as much as I do, along with the issue’s many other pleasures – including poems in response to CK Norwid’s centenary, a new translation of Jacques Brel’s ‘Amsterdam’, and ‘Butterfly Valley’, a truly gorgeous sonnet redoublé by Inger Christensen, translated by David Broadbridge. It is poetry for warmer days, and to bring us back to ourselves: ‘They are rising up, the earth’s butterflies’.
– Clare Pollard