ALMOST OBSCENE is Gómez Jattin’s English-language debut. It includes work culled from his sporadic chapbooks, written from 1980-1997, showcasing a jaggedness of tone, approach, and mind space—precisely the unpredictability that made Gómez Jattin an uncomfortable presence within mainstream Colombian literary circles. Ranging widely in content and form, what unites these poems is the uninhibited expression of a marginalized poetic voice; a decolonizing queerness that challenges the heteronormative as it defies the West’s narrow definitions of queer poetics.
”You could not simply peer down from above, nor would you want to—to enter Raúl Gómez Jattin’s image world is to be on earth with your own bursting, breaking heart. Through this act of translation by Katherine M. Hedeen and Olivia Lott, new readers can encounter not only ‘loneliness and its causes,’ no, not only verses of exhaustion and devastation, but also, somehow, a ‘whole wonderful life.’ How sweet the sound. ALMOST OBSCENE assembles a queer companionship of rag doll children, papier-mâché lovers, the Sinú River, and most of all poetry itself, a “dangerous ceremony” Gómez Jattin chose to attend. I cannot wait to return over and over again to this open field, noisy with sorrow and joy, under constellations shaped by his divergent lines. ‘Poetry and love did this to me,’ he writes, and poetry and love could do this to you, too, if you let them. Part manifesto, part self-portrait, this is a book of amazing grace in a maddening world. Gómez Jattin’s poems from the margins shift the very center. I am sheltered in the body of this work.” —Oliver Baez Bendorf
“After 82 years of the institutionalization of art and writing by the MFA, it is unsurprising that poets like Raúl Gómez Jattin and artists like Lee Lozano—that is, mad, confrontational, libidinal, and ultimately resistant to becoming disciplined subjects of their respective cultural worlds—are being recovered. After all, such worlds now seem encompassing, total. But we should be careful not to narcissistically narrate their recoveries, as if they were some wild Dionysian strain—‘I WAS LIKE WEED but they didn’t smoke me’—brought in merely to refresh the sterile Apollonian greenhouse. On the contrary, they testify to economies and processes independent of the world and thus destabilize its tacit claims to omnipresence and omnipotence—‘when we see each other you shoot me a quick ‘how’s life...’ / As if I still had use for one’; ‘The city dressed in lights waits for him and calls / The nice outfit will be dirty and ragged by morning.’ ALMOST OBSCENE is an exciting addition to Colombian poetry in English and will help establish Gómez Jattin as an important voice in 20th-century poetry.” —Robert Fernandez
“Poetry does not make us well, but it can make us honest, so honest that it cannot be ignored. Raúl Gómez Jattin's new work in translation, ALMOST OBSCENE, is a timely reminder of this, that he was here, that systems of oppression can never fully extinguish. His poems turn our gaze back to the material reality of the disenfranchised, of the wretched, suggesting with their tender, rough music that in these conditions lay a certain creative liberation. Always to be at the edge, of the mind, of the imperialist project, makes writing, makes living, impossible, tragic, this we know. But it is also a raging against alienation, the opposite of it. Gómez Jattin’s poems are anything but alienated. They are completely aware in their madness, in their language of love, demanding we see what is happening. There is life in this, then, and we will all be closer to the truth of ourselves, we will all be better, for having read him.” —Vanessa Jimenez Gabb
Poetry. Latinx Studies. LGBTQ+ Studies.
Katherine M. Hedeen is a translator, literary critic, and essayist. A specialist in Latin American poetry, she has translated some of the most respected voices from the region. Her publications include book-length collections by Jorgenrique Adoum, Juan Bañuelos, Juan Calzadilla, Antonio Gamoneda, Juan Gelman, Fayad Jamís, Hugo Mujica, José Emilio Pacheco, Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, and Ida Vitale, among many others. Her work has been a finalist for both the Best Translated Book Award and the National Translation Award. She is a recipient of two NEA Translation grants in the US and a PEN Translates award in the UK. She is a Managing Editor for Action Books. She resides in Ohio, where she is Professor of Spanish at Kenyon College.
Olivia Lott is the translator of Lucía Estrada's KATABASIS (2020, Eulalia Books), which was a finalist for the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and the co- translator of Soleida Ríos's THE DIRTY TEXT (2018, Kenning Editions). She curates Poesía en acción on the Action Books blog and her writing on translation has appeared in Kenyon Review, Latin American Literature Today, Reading in Translation, and Words Without Borders. Her translation of Lauri García Dueñas's "0" was recently named a winner of the 2021 Academy of American Poets and Words Without Borders Poems in Translation Contest. She is a Marilyn Yarbrough Dissertation Fellow in Spanish at Kenyon College and a Ph.D. Candidate in Hispanic Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.
Raúl Gómez Jattin (Cartagena, 1945- 1997) was one of Colombia's most outstanding poets-and one of the country's most controversial literary figures. He spent most of his adult life between psychiatric hospitals, jails, and living as a homeless person. Through it all, he never stopped writing poetry or reciting it on street corners; his instantly-famous public readings drew hundreds of listeners. As a queer man of Syrian descent writing in a way that broke with his country's tradition, his rightful place at the forefront of Colombian poetry has long been denied. In 1997, he was tragically killed by a bus.