Flocks / Rebaños

Author: Zurelys López Amaya
Translator(s): Jeffrey C. Barnett
ISBN: 978-1-944176-08-2

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Book Cover: Flocks/Rebaños

About the Book

A resident of the Cerro Municipality in Havana, Cuba, Zurelys López Amaya offers us a dismaying portrait of her surroundings and perspective in a startling new bilingual volume of poetry. 

These verses and prose poems offer difficult, hermetic verbal snapshots of Cuba—ironic and anguished but not without hope. 

This collection of verse takes us to a pasture of the absurd, where the individual--required to submit completely--resists. This is a solitary testimonial of the flock's mute rebellion, their apparent unanimity, their inertia in the face of an undeniable voice that commands them to walk in circles--from their corral to the fields they forage to the butcher.

Dr. Jeffrey C. Barnett, translator extraordinaire, has worked miracles with the difficult, hermetic verbal snapshots included in the collection. Barnett offers tis insight into López Amara's poetry:

"As she portrays a society amassed in a pasture hopelessly waiting for an absent shepherd, her poems always lead our eye back to the flock, or rather the Cuban people.  In doing so, she puts forth a complex and ambivalent view, one that is an instinctual lament but also one which finds solace in poetry.  

Despite the work’s poignant socio-political insight, López Amaya’s poetry is not limited to social thesis.  Instead, she offers a rich and complex view of her world, all the while embracing simplicity and pondering aesthetic wonder.  Throughout her poems we find a wide array of emotion, including empathy, loneliness, nostalgia, remorse, longing, and love.  In short, whether posing disturbing images about her socio-political milieu or celebrating the mundane, Flocks/Rebañosprovides the reader with a gestalt view of the poet’s daily life, a vision that on the one hand is inextricably tied to Cuba, while on the other a vision that extends beyond the island to summon the universal."

Advance Praise for Flocks/Rebaños

"With Flocks/Rebaños Zurleys López-Amaya ignites a string of bonfires that illuminate some of the most difficult contradictions and paradoxes of human experience. Here we are “shadows” and “emptiness” while also being “light” and “music”; we are “alone and blind” while also “welcomed on the Island that we meticulously create;” and we understand how the “blood of Cain is everywhere,” but so, too, is “the splendor of nature because it exists.” The touch of the translator, Jeffrey C. Barnett, is as delicate as it is deft, gifting readers access to López-Amaya’s virtuosic verse in an exquisitely scorched new tongue."

--Seth Michelson, Washington and Lee University

    "One of the many voices of Fernando Pessoa presides over and gives title to this collection of poems by Zurelys López Amaya (Havana, 1967). In contrast with the diverse heteronyms of the illustrious Portuguese, one unique voice governs here, which is identifiable from the first lines to the last by virtue of its gendered nature, its blurred face that can just almost be made out, observing the bridges, the walls, the displacements, and the mass exoduses.

    Some phrases and images, serving as chorus, not only in the prose poems (the predominant structure of the volume) but also in the poems in verse, reaffirm the possibility of finding in ourselves the strength necessary to vanquish our inertia and find “the right path toward the sun.” This can be summed up as the pleasure of being free and authentic, just as in the loving plenitude of knowing that somebody awaits us. At the end of each one of the seventy texts, brief and without formal arabesques that overcomplicate their reading, this is what inspired in us a special silence: that which is inescapable after a deep reflection upon good poetry."

--Vitalina Alfonso, editor and critic, Havana

   “It is not easy to find an excellent contemporary poet that really startles you, but I can say that Flocks/Rebaños has had that effect on me. Zurelys López Amaya in Flocks/Rebaños masterfully uses the dominant image of the sheep flocks to express philosophical concerns about liberty, sheepish behavior of the masses, and the negative power of the control exercised by slogans. But what makes this collection particularly poetic is the original images, and the often shocking impact that those images produce in the reader. The English translation of the poems is also very successful and creative.”

--Emilio Bejel, poet, writer and scholar, University of California, Davis

   "In this provocative book, Zurelys López Amaya examines with lucid tenderness the collective existence of the flock. Encircled by the unknown, flanked by fear, the flock survives in cautious monotony but is not hopeless. Detached from tiresome political discourses, la libertad, freedom, is evasive yet constantly possible. In Flocks/Rebaños the reader experiences la libertad as an object just barely out of sight—like that bus taking forever to arrive. The English translation is full of felicitous resolutions. While the book is a courageous insight into Cuban reality, it will give pasture for thought to readers around the world."  

--Pilar Cabrera Fonte, Augustana University

   "This bilingual edition of Flocks/Rebaños allows English-language readers to enter the variegated literary world of the Cuban poet Zurelys López Amaya. The volume opens with fragments of prose in which a sheep is overheard ruminating on the quotidian existence of herd animals. This sly exercise in allegory is followed by texts that focus attention on everyday items and activities in and of themselves. The collection showcases López Amaya’s dexterity in both free verse and prose miniatures, while Jeffrey C. Barnett manages the difficult feat of translating misleadingly simple language. This volume, edited by Nancy Alonso and Katherine Hedeen, is clearly a labor of love and a wonderful addition to the growing body of Cuban literature in English translation."

--Naomi Lindstrom, University of Texas at Austin

   "The bilingual prose poems of Flocks/Rebaños, by the Cuban poet Zurelys López Amaya, beautifully translated into English by Jeffrey C. Barnett, vividly dramatize emotions ranging from despair to celebration of survival (albeit at a price). The poems examine the often sinister power of collective identities (the flock) that a shared society imposes upon us all and the fears and limitations that burden all living beings."

--Mary G. Berg, Brandeis University

   "Zurelys López Amaya’s beautiful prosoemas speak in a voice that is at once individual and collective, political and surreal. Their deceptively lucid style renovates a familiar Cuban imaginary and a universal symbolic language to lend the collection a resonant urgency. Jeffrey Barnett’s considered translations allow the reader to understand these poems in conversation and in chorus with each other—to approach them not just individually, but, as it were, to join their flock."

--Janet Hendrickson, translator

Read Reviews in Spanish of Flocks/ Rebaños