Geography Poems: Jorge Carrera Andrade’s Micrograms

andrade-colorJorge Carrera Andrade (1902-1978) was an Ecuadorian poet who worked as a journalist and editor before holding diplomatic positions in Peru, France, The Netherlands, Japan, and the United States (among many others).  It’s from this worldly perspective that Carrera Andrade cultivated one of his most enduring contributions to global literature: the microgram.  Loosely defined as a short poem that examines the natural world, the microgram is an amalgamation of such concise predecessors as the epigram, the proverb, the song, the saeta, the riddle, and the haiku.  It was Carrera Andrade’s goal to unite these forms in a boundless and borderless tradition.  In his collection, Micrograms — which is equal parts essay, anthology, and original poetry — he writes:

I try to testify to an ordinary man’s orbit in time.  At first he feels as a stranger in the midst of a changing world but later receives the visit of love and discovers deep within himself a feeling of solidarity with all men of the planet.  In this sense I have traversed new countries in different latitudes and have returned to others already known, in a pilgrimmage as passionate observer rather than as curious traveler.

Published below are five Micrograms by Jorge Carrera Andrade, translated by Joshua Beckman and Alejandro De Acosta.

What The Snail Is

Snail:
tiny measuring tape
with which God measures the field.

The Earthworm

Constantly tracing in dirt
the long inconclusive stroke
of a mysterious letter.

Fish

Living pink tube,
the fish writes glass zeros
in the fishbowl.

Lizard

Lizard:
silver amulet
or little devil with goiter,
creature of dawn.

Memory of ruins,
fleeting animated mine,
shudder of field,
misanthropic lizard.

Palm Reader

Atop the lines of a leaf
the slow finger of the caterpillar
deciphers good fortune.

Poems from Micrograms by Jorge Carrera Andrade, translated by Alejandro de Acosta and Joshua Beckman. Copyright 2011. Reprinted with permission of Wave Books and the translators.

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