Río vertebral/Vertebral River

by Juan Armando Rojas Joo

ISBN: 978-1-931247-60-3


ABOUT Juan Armando Rojas Joo

Poet and literary critic, Rojas Joo has published Lluvia de lunas, (1999), Río vertebral (2002), Santuarios desierto mar (2004)

and Ceremonial de viento / Ceremonial of Wind (2006). He is coeditor of the anthology of poetry Canto a una ciudad en el

desierto (2004) and teaches Spanish and Latin American literature at Ohio Wesleyan University. During 2002 – 2004 he was the

Andrew W. Mellon Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor at Amherst College, Massachusetts.


Pecan Grove Press

Rojas’ poetry vividly captures the U.S.-Mexican trans-border essence. The writing in this bilingual edition is excellent; Juan Armando Rojas Joo is without a doubt a masterful transfronterizo poet. Vertebral River/Río vertebral has assured him a memorable place in contemporary Border Literature.

—Lanin A. Gyurko
Professor of Latin American Literature and Film Studies at the University of Arizona

Jennifer Rathbun’s translations of Vertebral River build a luminous bridge across the U.S.-Mexican border, where not only hopes are dashed but the tongue is twisted. Her rendition of Juan Armando Rojas’ impressionistic poetry is a lesson in craftsmanship.

—Ilan Stavans
Essayist and Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College

Vertebral River/Río vertebral — is organized as a vertebral column, as if it was the book’s own allegory, axis and mainstay of a human tree, flexible as the river and alive as its waters. With this internal metaphor, Juan Armando Rojas Joo does not propose a mere referential artifice but an organizational principle capable of creating a book that has no beginning and no ending, in the pure course of its language through the Bravo waters.

—Julio Ortega
Poet, playwright, novelist, and Professor of Hispanic Studies at Brown University

Jennifer Rathbun has chosen the precise vocabulary to render an admirable poetic translation that sustains the powerful images, the rhythm and the fluidity of Vertebral River. Our beloved Rio Bravo flows in the land of pure poetry. It opens and heals deep scars in a desert city, divided by its water, its mud, its blood. Juan Armando Rojas Joo navigates the language of violence and love, of geography and history, to write an extraordinary collection of daring, beautiful poems of the borderlands.

—Selfa Chew
writer and borderland historian, University of Texas, El Paso

And the translation by Jennifer Rathbun:


Of rain is the desert
Of rain the cities that inhabit it
	Rain for the drowned
		of bridges and borders

Return home
	It will also rain
		Returning home

It rains time
			it slowly rains
It rains backwards
			next to the one in front 
It rains on the surface
			of a drop of water
It rains in silence
			over the deep sea
	And it rains between the vertebras of the river

The rain on our clothes
	The rain in the sky
		The rain in the astrolabes
			It rains on the other side

It rains at the border of rain 

		During the day
			the chameleon will hide in the rain
		because at night
			it only rains dark cats
		    If it rains in the desert     
		    plain will be the rain

About Jennifer Rathbun: Translator of Río Vertebral:

Assistant Professor of Spanish at Ashland University, she currently specializes in US-Mexico 
border literature. Rathbun translated Juan Armando Rojas Joo’s poetry book Ceremonial de 
viento/ Ceremonial of Wind (2006) and her translations, articles and poetry appear in 
numerous international reviews and journals. She is coeditor of the anthology of poetry Canto 
a una ciudad en el desierto (2004)

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