"Cecilia Pavón’s poems are pure happiness, although they aren’t always about happiness, or about happy things. Living and working in Buenos Aires, she writes poems that are at once subtle, direct, and uncanny. Sometimes emotion erupts, but she keeps her eyes moving, scan-ning the room and the sidewalks, the faces of friends. Poetically, she seems a close cousin of Dorothea Lasky. Her poems in A Hotel with My Name (Scrambler Books) are like beach balls: primary colors in bright plastic strips, driven by winds and always aloft. Pavón founded the legendary Belleza y Felicidad storefront cultural center, small press, and gallery with her friend and sometime collaborator Fernanda Laguna in 1999, and these poems, written between 1998 and 2001, reflect that era’s intense alternative scene of artists and intellectuals marooned by the economic crisis, without losing their singularity. The book’s translator, Jacob Steinberg, recalls hearing Pavón read in Buenos Aires when he was nineteen. As he writes in his introduction, “Something in my soul stirred; I felt less alone.” Steinberg’s done a fabulous job of rendering her simple and feminine—not feminized—Spanish into compulsively readable English. The poems draw you in. As her friend the writer César Aira has noted, Pavón’s triumph is one of creating “a dream, just like reality.”
-CHRIS KRAUS IS A WRITER AND CRITIC BASED IN LOS ANGELES, from ARTFORUM December 2015
"I owe more than I can express to Cecilia. Her vision of the world and the brave way in which she can open up and share that vision—revealing both vulnerabilities and moments of selfishness, extreme doubts followed by the strength to take extreme risks—have taught me what it means to be human. What it means to incorporate the experiences of life in a meaningful way and grow from them. What it means to be hurt and heal and return to the world and try again. What it means to fall in love." —from the Translator's Preface by Jacob Steinberg
*Cecilia Pavón was born in Mendoza, Argentina, in 1973. She has lived in Buenos Aires since 1992. She holds a B.A. in Literature from the University of Buenos Aires. In 2012, she published her collected poetry in Un hotel con mi nombre (A Hotel With My Name). Her other publications include 27 poemas con nombres de persona (2010), the ebook Once Sur (2012), and the short-story collection Los sueños no tienen copyright (2010).
Jacob Steinberg was born in Stony Brook, New York, in 1989. He has published the full-length poetry collections Magulladón (2012), Ante ti se arrodilla mi silencio (2013), and Before You Kneels My Silence (2014). As a translator he has worked with Cecilia Pavón, CAConrad, and Mario Bellatin, among others. He currently lives in New York.
I am fat, and my body is full of
a food that I didn’t eat
when I have the kid I’ll give it
to an orphanage
or I’ll put it in an urn
or it’ll be a morning in Paris, or in Guatemala,
or I’ll have it among cactuses and it’ll go off
on its own, until it turns rabid
I don’t care about the blood or the haze
its room will be a bucket of feathers,
and its clothes will be embroidered
Later my girlfriends will come over and we’ll drink
tea on a marble table
Some thicket, some path drove me
toward the middle of the plates and
(to where the father was eating)
I was carrying some pink sheets of paper and I wrote him
“Let’s get outta here,
I want the waiter to bring me
butterflies in the stomach”
(He can’t feel bad because he is not
a plant, which blooms)
And me, I’ll have an abortion and I want to worship
the pine floor.
In Cuba, the children are obligated to be born,
If they read my mind
they’ll send me over there
and I resent it.
(Soon it will be Christmas, there will be fake trees)
I feel drawn toward the dead animals on the menu,
birds, cows, seafood,
hamburgers: I am eating dinner at the House of Pancakes,
where the walls are bland like pillows,
and I can kill the kid without even leaving my seat.
Now yes, I’m going to explode, and I’m sober
(Happiness is perhaps something that you don’t let show,
not even through your skirt)
All the country is a desert:
I am going to kill it eating lemon: it’s so
sour that the waves can
reach it and make it blond,
or I’ll eat rabbit terrine
We’re gonna be parents!
The next morning, the birds
in the yard eat the crumbs
of our croissants.
I’m going out because I need to.
Be as it may,
whatever the price.
I’m walking on tiptoes to go write my best poem
It’s the time for freedom
as I fervently wait for the sex that never gets here
when will I work myself up to taking that step toward hurling myself at strangers?
I’ve seen it in movies, and it built up my hopes:
sex at parties,
sex with professors, etc.
This state of being lost at night and spending half the days searching.
I know I should wait a little longer before going back,
wondrous things can still happen
(for example, that here, on this avenue, dawn might
As the love continuum breaks
it highlights the monstrous side of things
It’s as if a border of smoke had drawn itself over my life
At least if I were a geisha or a gardener…!
It’s the moment of personal salvation
when the summer and fall overlap,
and the leaves that fall on the asphalt look like lifeless animals.