Monday, July 17, 2017

Keiselim A. Montás and the Art of the Haiku

March 3, 2017

NHPR's The Bookshelf: with Peter Biello
 Keiselim Montás and the Art of the Haiku

"The Bookshelf from NHPR is New Hampshire Public Radio's series on authors and books with ties to the Granite State. All Things Considered host Peter Biello features authors, covers literary events and publishing trends, and gets recommendations from each guest on what books listeners might want to add to their own bookshelves. If you have an author or book you think we should profile on The Bookshelf, send us an email. The address is

This week, The Bookshelf features poet Keiselim Montás of Lebanon, New Hampshire. When you’re talking about form poetry, the rules for the Japanese haiku are pretty simple. In a traditional haiku, you’ve got seventeen syllables—a line of five, a line of seven, and then a line of five. Usually the haiku hones in on details of the natural world and does so with a light touch. In his new book, Like Water, Montás offers us Japanese haiku he wrote in his native Spanish that have now been translated into English. Scroll down to read his top five reading recommendations and the transcript of his conversation with NHPR's Peter Biello."

For the entire interview visit the New Hampshire Public Radio Website:

Friday, May 5, 2017

Poetics of Poetry - Poetry of Poetics: Introducing José Kozer & Enrique Martínez Celaya

The Montgomery Fellows Program at Dartmouth College
May 2, 2017
Sanborn, The Wren Room

Poetics of Poetry - Poetry of Poetics

Introducing José Kozer

Enrique Martínez Celaya

Good afternoon!  ¡Buenas tardes! Welcome all! ¡Bienvenidos sean todos! My name is Keysi Montás, and I am the Associate Director of Safety & Security here at Dartmouth College: I am indeed the Associate Director of Safety & Security, but I am also what a friend from grad school would call “an independent scholar”.

For our program today, I want to start by thanking and acknowledging a number of people who have made this event possible:
-Prof. Raúl Bueno Chávez, form the Spanish Department and Prof. Lisa Baldez from the Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies Program for sponsoring José Kozer’s candidacy to the Montgomery Fellows Program. Thank you both!
-Prof. Klaus Milich, Director of the Montgomery Fellows Program, and Ellen Henderson, Program Coordinator.  Thank you!
-I want to thank Danielle Hussey, Josué Ruiz, Dennise Hernández, Jay Raju and Judith Hertog who will be reading the English versions of some of the poems which will be read today.
-And, finally, I want to thank each and every one of you, for being here with us!

Let me begin by providing a brief biography of our poets Enrique Martínez Celaya and José Kozer; then I will say a few words to mark the occasion, followed by a few words and poetic reading by Enrique; a reading in Spanish by José, with accompanying translations by our guest readers, and then, hopefully, we will have time for a brief Q&A session.

Enrique Martínez Celaya: (Palos, Cuba, 1964) at age seven his family relocated to Madrid, Spain, and a few years later to Puerto Rico. He initiated his formal training as an apprentice to a painter at the age of 12. In 1986 he received a BS in Applied Physics and a minor in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University; in 1988 he received an MS with a specialization in Quantum Electronics from the University of California, Berkeley. While a graduate student, he conducted part of his research at Brookhaven National Laboratory where he also painted the Long Island landscape. He completed all course work for the Ph.D. and a significant part of his dissertation before abandoning physics for art in 1990. In 1994 he attended the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture and in the same year he earned a MFA with the department's highest distinction from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Martínez Celaya is an artist and author who during the early part of his career worked as a scientist. His work has been exhibited and collected by major institutions around the world and he is the author of books and papers in art, poetry, philosophy, and physics. He is a Montgomery Fellow who was in residence in the summer of 2014, and is currently the Roth Family Distinguished Visiting Scholar here at Dartmouth College. He has been named the Provost Professor of Humanities and Arts at the University of Southern California.

Having developed a practice influenced by and in dialog with literature and philosophy, Martínez Celaya has created projects and exhibitions from St. Petersburg and Berlin to Miami and New York. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C., among others.
Please give Enrique a warm round of applause!!

José Kozer: (Havana, Cuba, 1940) the son of Jewish parents who migrated to Cuba from Poland (father) and Czechoslovakia (mother). He studied law at the University of Havana, left Cuba in 1960, and moved to the Village in New York City. He attended New York University and received a BA in 1965, and later received an MA and a Ph.D. from Queens College of the City University of New York, where, for 32 years and until his retirement in 1997, he was a Prof. of Spanish and Latin American Literature, specializing in Poetry and that is where I first met him in 1989.

He is a prolific writer, and for the past twenty years has been publishing an average of three books a year, with over eighty-five (85) books of poetry to date, published throughout the world, to include a most recent volume published in Brazil (Dec. 2016) of his Complete Works 1966-2015, containing 10,250 poems. He is a leading voice within the Neo-Barroco (or Neobaroque) movement. His poetry has been partially translated into English, Portuguese, French, Hebrew, Greek, German and Italian. His poems, journals and essays have been published journals and magazines in North and South America and Europe.

Kozer has translated prose and poetry from English to Spanish, with six published translated books of authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lafcadio Hearn, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Delmore Schwartz, Natsume Soski, Saito Mokichi and the medieval monk poet Saigyo.
In 2002 he made a historic visit to his native Cuba for the 2002 International Book Fair (first time a living Cuban writer in exile gets officially published in Cuba). In 2013, he was recognized with one of the most important literary prizes awarded in the Spanish speaking world: The Premio Iberoamericano de Poesía Pablo Neruda.

It is my distinct honor to welcome José Kozer to Dartmouth College as a Montgomery Fellow.

Here we have two individuals, who are stand-alone figures in in today’s artistic world, who have come together under the rubric of “Poetics of Politics - Politics of Poetics.” One is a poet, for whom poetry alone has been art and artistic tool; the other is a painter, a philosopher and a poet, for whom poetry has been the artistic tool with which, at times, he has been best able to theorize of the bridge between philosophy and painting.

In Politics, Aristotle said:

“Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either above humanity, or below it; . . . he may be compared to a bird which flies alone.”

In an interview in February of this year, at Biola University, Enrique said: “Art is a terrible way to do politics.” And in an interview in January, 2011, at Middlebury College, José said: “No tengo una poética de la política, yo estoy comprometido con el acto de la escritura” meaning: “I don’t have a poetic of politics, I am committed to the act of writing.”

Aristotle has been telling us that we are “political animals” and that is because, as socials beings, we organize under states that are political. At times, we can be political actors within the state, or the state can act its politics upon us; hence, by choice or circumstance, we can’t but be political animals.

Here is Enrique Martínez Celaya and here is José Kozer, both born in Cuba, both exiled, but immigrants. Most importantly, and thus the reason they are here with us today, they are titans of the arts. Are they birds who fly alone (as Aristotle might have put it) for not being political actors within the state and for proclaiming alliance to poetry, to art, and not to politics?  I beg to differ, and instead I submit to you that they are living proof that Poetry can do just fine without politics, but politics cannot do without poetry; else, as it is becoming increasingly evident in today’s world, we risk disaster!

Thank you.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Like Water (A Haiku Collection)

¡Nueva publicación!

Con fecha de publicación del 6 de enero, 2017, sale al merado mi primer libro en inglés. Se trata de la traducción de Como el agua, mi colección de haikus.

Like Water
(A Haiku Collection)

Like Water is a collection of haiku (traditional style) originally written in Spanish and now translated into English. The book is divided into four sections: Water (水), Nature (自然), Life (人生) and Writing (書). It has forty-nine haiku accompanied by full color photographs, illustrations by Andy Castillo (; and Japanese calligraphy (Shodo) by Elena "Hikari", as well as a translated haiku (written in beautiful Japanese calligraphy) by Akiko Harimoto "Soja" from Shodo Creativo

El libro ya está disponible en el portal del Élitro Editorial del Proyecto Zompopos

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Poema en inglés publicado en: Multilingual Anthology: The Americas Poetry Festival of New York 2016

The shittiest apples in the world, which are pretty darn great!

Those who have apples would know that I have the shittiest apples in the world;
but for those who have none,
my apples might look pretty good.
And since I never had apples before,
for I grew up amongst guava, mango and avocado trees,
these apples I have now are not bad at all.

This morning around 10, the grass was wet,
the leaves were falling,
the trees were yellowish, some even red.
Between a fine rain and a light mist,
bucket in hand, in my mud boots up to the knees,
I walked around and under my apple trees.

The leaves were wet and poured on me.
And my apples really don’t look that great;
but, for someone who has no apples, my apples,
these apples might just be the best!

I don’t care that they are bitter,
that some even might have no taste.
I have picked them, I have washed them,
and I keep them for their smell: on my desk, at the office;
on my writing table, at home;
on the night stand, by my bed;
and all over my books, between shelves.
My apples, I keep them all over the place.

I know, I have been told: I have the shittiest apples in the world.
this morning I picked my own apples,
and for one who never had any before,
my apples are pretty darn great!

11:18 a.m.
October 3, 2009
Lebanon, NH

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ensayo "yo una mujer, Yo la Mujer: culinaria, literaria"

yo una mujer, Yo la Mujer: culinaria, literaria

            En Lección de cocina, de Rosario Castellanos, a primera vista, nos encontramos con un sujeto posicionado desde una narración en primera persona, un yo, a la vez que la voz narrativa se presenta como una ninguna/todas.  Para acercarme a la cuestión de cómo en el cuento Rosario Castellanos crea la posición del sujeto, y cómo la voz narrativa se representa a sí misma, me es menester proponer que Castellanos está haciendo primordialmente dos cosas: primero, denunciando la situación histórica de la mujer en la institución patriarcal del matrimonio, y; segundo, hablándonos de la cocina de la escritura (no de escritura de cocina).  La denuncia la hace mediante el uso de dos metáforas que se yuxtaponen: la carne como mujer y viceversa, y la historia de una mujer como la historia de La Mujer.  Lo de la cocina de la escritura lo hace a través de la metáfora implícita de cocinar por escribir (que en vez de una lección de cocina, lo que se nos ofrece es una lección de creación), y una evidente incursión autorial en la voz narrativa1.  Veamos.
            Al contar la historia de esta recién casada, el relato toma la forma de un libre correr de la conciencia que llega a abarcar la historia de la institución patriarcal del matrimonio, y la posición de la mujer en esa institución, conjugando una en todas las mujeres y todas las mujeres en una; o proponiendo a esta mujer como La Mujer, como he indicado.  Dice: “Mi lugar está aquí.  Desde el principio de los tiempos ha estado aquí.  En el proverbio alemán la mujer es sinónimo de Küche, Kinder, Kirche” (7).  También dice: “¿Cómo podría llevar a cabo labor tan ímproba sin la colaboración de la sociedad, de la historia entera” (7).  Y: “¿Qué me aconseja usted para la comida de hoy, experimentada ama de casa, inspiración de las madres ausentes y presentes, voz de la tradición, secreto a voces de los supermercados?" (8-9).  Está por otra parte el hecho de que no tenemos a un personaje determinado, tenemos por el contrario a un personaje anónimo —sin nombre, o sin nombre propio—, que puede ser a la vez esa voz de mujer que narra, o la voz universal de La Mujer que se mira como mujer en el contexto al cual la ha circunscrito históricamente el patriarcado: “Porque perdí mi antiguo nombre y aún no me acostumbro al nuevo, que tampoco es mío” (11).
            Continuando en este plano, podemos ver entonces cómo ese yo anónimo hace uso de la metáfora para exponer (denunciar) su situación, y la de la mujer en general, a través de la historia.  Basta leer el cuento para notar que es mediante una conexión mental que la narradora se transporta, por el color de la carne, al color de su espalda en su luna de miel, y es con esa metáfora que consigue el efecto claro del juego semántico entre carne y mujer: en el primer nivel, el pedazo de carne como la mujer; e en el segundo nivel, la mujer como un pedazo de carne.  Veamos la metaforización: comienza con la carne —la que descongela, sazona, cocina y que luego se quema—, y de ahí pasa a su propia carne quemada por el sol y dice: “Yo... La carne, bajo la rociadura de la sal, ha callado el escándalo de su rojez y ahora me resulta más tolerante, más familiar” (10).  En otra instancia, después de describir la carne en un estado “dorado y [que] exhala un aroma delicioso” (17), se plantea lo que pasaría si se vistiera y perfumara, y saliera a la calle; esto equivaldría a convertirse en un pedazo de carne dorado y de delicioso aroma, o en presa.  Por eso lo de: “A la mejor me abordaba un hombre maduro. . .  El único que a estas horas puede darse el lujo de andar de cacería” (18, el énfasis es mío).  En otro momento dice, “. . .aquí huele, no a carne humana, sino a mujer inútil” (19).  Por último dice (y bien podría decir mujer en vez de trozo de carne): “Recapitulemos.  Aparece, primero el trozo de carne con un color, una forma, un tamaño [una niña].  Luego cambia y se pone más bonita y se siente una muy contenta [una señorita].  Luego vuelve a cambiar y ya no está tan bonita [mujer casada o solterona].  Y sigue cambiando. . . [madre, jamona, o vieja, etc.]" (20).  Sin más, estos ejemplos textuales revelan esa metáfora paralela de: la mujer es a la carne como la carne es a la mujer (en notación aritmética sería mujer : carne :: carne : mujer).
            Pasemos a otro plano, al de la cocina de la escritura, porque en un nivel implícito, no es una lección de cocina lo que tenemos, sino una lección de escritura.  Aquí superficialmente presentaré la metáfora implícita de cocinar es escribir; para ello apuntaré (superficialmente) a lo que veo en el texto como incursiones autoriales (de Castellanos) en la voz narrativa.  En la voz narrativa, al referirse a la idea de preparar la carne asada que sería un plato fácil, se puede escuchar la voz autorial (refiriéndose a esa opción como cuento fácil), cuando dice: “Un plato sencillo y sano.  Como no representa la superación de ninguna antinomia ni el planteamiento de ninguna aporía, no se me antoja” (9, el énfasis es mío).  Este vocabulario no es culinario, ¡es literario!; está diciendo que eso del asado es un cuento fácil, pero que no le apetece, pues no se propone escribir una lección de cocina sobre cómo hacer un asado; sino, cómo escribir un cuento.
Cuando la voz narrativa habla de contarle a sus compañeras de colegio sobre su matrimonio dice: “Yo inventaría acrobacias, desfallecimientos sublimes, transportes como se les llama en Las mil y una noches, récords” (16); sabemos que en el otro nivel, Castellanos no nos está haciendo un cuento de hadas madrinas, ni príncipes azules, el cuento que cuenta es real.  Más adelante, cuando se plantea cómo enfrentar al marido por lo de la carne quemada dice: "Ah, no, no voy a caer en esa trampa: la del personaje inventado y el narrador inventado y la anécdota inventada” (20).  Nuevamente, este vocabulario es altamente literario, no culinario; es referente directo a la creación literaria.  Pues, qué decir: que lo dejo aquí, puesto que estas ínfimas apreciaciones so son sino una invitación (o provocación) para que esas obras se lean, se vuelvan a leer, se sigan leyendo.


                    1 Sobre este tema es imprescindible leer lo que dice Wayne Booth sobre las incursiones de la voz del autor en el texto, para apuntar el acto creativo.

Obras citadas y consultadas

 Booth, Wayne C.  “The Author’s Voice in Fiction.”  The Rhetoric of Fiction.  Chicago-London: The University of Chicago Press, 19??.  205-06.
Castellanos, Rosario.  “Lección de cocina.”  Álbum de familia.  México: Joaquín Mortiz, 1971.  7-22.

Este ensayo "yo una mujer, Yo la Mujer: culinaria, literaria" aparece en las pp. 77-80, de:
Ínfimas apreciaciones literarias (Desde Cervantes hasta Perlongher en vuelo de pájaro)
Premio de Ensayo Letras de Ultramar 2015
Editora Nacional, Santo Domingo, 2016.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Participación en la XIX Feria Internacional de Libro, Sto. Dgo.

En el marco de la XIX Feria Internacional de Libro santo Domingo 2016, que se celebra del 19 de septiembre al 2 de octubre, 2016, tomaré parte en las iguientes actividades:

MARTES 20 a las 3:00 pm, Pabellón de Autores Dominicanos, presentación de mi libro Como el agua (colección de Haikus).

JUEVES 22 a las 5:00 pm, Salón de Tertulias de la Biblioteca Nacional Pedro Henríquez Ureña: Tertulia sobre el tema "Escribir desde ultramar".

VIERNES 23 a las 4 pm, Pabellón de Autores Dominicanos, presentación de mi libro Ínfimas apreciaciones literarias (Desde Cervantes hasta Perlongher en vuelo de pájaro), Permio Letras de Ultramar 2015 (ensayo). Junto a Kianny N. Antigua y la presentación de su libro ElementosPermio Letras de Ultramar 2015 (literatura infantil).

SÁBADO 24, a las 2 pm, Espacio Joven: presentación de mi libro De la emigración al transtierro.


-a las 7 pm, Pabellón Talleres Literarios: Charla: "Emigración y transtierro".