Río vertebral/Vertebral River
by Juan Armando Rojas Joo
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
And the translation by Jennifer Rathbun:Contemplation 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)