What spirits lurk beneath the surface of Valdivia’s Calle-Calle River or loiter under the arches of the Pedro de Valdivia Bridge in southern Chile? Galo Ghigliotto’s Valdivia answers these questions and others by intertwining memories of disaster and tragedy—personal, political, and natural—to recreate and relive each anew in unforgettably vivid poetry. Set in a city rich with history and mythology, Valdivia reveals a Necropastoral Chile—by evoking the threatening natural environment that bore the devastation of the most powerful earthquake on record and the state-sponsored violence of recent Chilean political history. In his introduction to the translation, Ghigliotto, a student of the great Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, states, “Over time, I discovered that there are things in this book that I did not know were there, but there they are. I am there, yes. Valdivia is, too, but Chile is there as well, and the emblem of Chile is violence. […] It is a tragic country, where legends exist because there is always something dark and evil creating them somewhere.” With Ghigliotto’s Valdivia, Daniel Borzutzky continues the urgent and necessary work of translating contemporary Chilean poets as he deftly Englishes Ghiglotto’s verses, full of the shadowy figures and images of legend that plague the city and the psychological memoryscapes that haunt the poet.
From beneath the Calle-Calle River, from death, from the future, with the authority of a ghost, Galo Ghigliotto has created with his numerous, violent visions a place that already exists: Valdivia. Ghigliotto’s poem contradicts the very nature of the genre of the tragedy by multiplying its endings, expanding its elements to encapsulate what’s here and what’s beyond: the book, life, lives. The narrator, “the adult of his very own childhood,” focuses his lens on the murder of his mother, a mad father, a dentist dressed as Santa Claus, a brutal car accident: the totality of things that make up Valdivia, which is also his parents’ bed. Rather than writing this, Ghigliotto orginates it, and Borzutzky translates it as if he were the poet’s left hand allowing a star to fall from within the constellation of great Chilean poetry. Here a new pain shines, one which illuminates the possibilities of the impossible.
—Valerie Mejer Caso, author of This Blue Novel and Rain of the Future
Daniel Borzutzky, one of the most important poets and translators amongst us, opens another door to Chile’s dark history through Valdivia, in which poet Galo Ghigliotto recarves memories of his childhood home and weaves a surreal terrain of Chile’s patriarchal state violence, taking us down a river of blood and ghosts.
—Don Mee Choi, author of Hardly War, translator of Kim Hyesoon’s Poor Love Machine