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Drawing on comic books, cartoons, Hollywood movies, slang, urban culture, Cuenca's poems address happy and unhappy loves, fantasies and nightmares, the lineaments of big-city life.
As one of Spain’s most celebrated and influential poets, Luis Alberto de Cuenca has won a wide international following. His poems have been translated into several languages, among them French, German and Italian, but thus far his appearances in English have been rare.
As a self-described “pop poet,” he writes accessible, elegant and witty poems, by turns upbeat and forlorn, that look at reality from refreshingly quirky angles. Drawing on comic books, cartoons, Hollywood movies, slang, urban culture, his poems address happy and unhappy loves, fantasies and nightmares, the lineaments of big-city life. Some of them, like “Breakfast” and “Unhappily Married,” have transcended literary circles to become part of the general culture. Translated by the Cuban-American writer Gustavo Pérez Firmat, MY FAVORITE MONSTER which gathers poems that span the whole of his career, is the first full-length collection of Cuenca’s poetry in English.
Poetry. Hybrid. History. Art. Family & Relationships. Latinx Studies.
“I loved this wonderful collection of Luis Alberto de Cuenca’s poetry. Deftly translated by poet-essayist Gustavo Pérez Firmat, these poems are a feast of wit and melancholy, illuminated with 'the light of the real' but at once fantastic and funny. Start with 'Breakfast,' slowly imbibe the 'cocktail of fears and desires,' and be sure to check out the witches’ brew at the intergalactic pub as well!”
—Noël Valis, author of Lorca After Life
“Two erudite and witty poet/scholars converge in this collection, Luis Alberto de Cuenca and his translator, Gustavo Pérez Firmat. The well-balanced dance of civilized scrutiny and quotidian emotions of the originals are brought to rare life in translations that capture the humor, depth, and myriad tonalities of de Cuenca’s poems. A triumph, and a most entertaining read.”
—Ricardo Pau-Llosa, author of Fleeing Actium
“Luis Alberto de Cuenca’s voice is unmistakably singular, ironically because it isn’t characteristically singular. In this collection our ears (and hearts and minds) feast on a plethora of mused voices speaking all once in harmony and cacophony: the tenor of a philosopher deliberating existence alongside the wit of the comedic, the scholar of mythology alongside the aficionado of pop. All melded together by the economy and urgency that is song, that is poetry at its best.”
—Richard Blanco, 2013 Presidential Inaugural Poet
“Masterfully translated from the Spanish by Gustavo Pérez Firmat, Luis Alberto de Cuenca’s poems, relaxed, airy, and daydream-like, lead the reader away from humdrum daily routines into a world of distinctive, impactful images. Poems such as 'Genetic Rubbish' or 'The Breeze Outside' (be not deceived by its innocent title!) grab your attention and shake up your safe, cozy thoughts. I urge you to sample a few lines—in either language or, preferably, in both!”
—Emilio Bernal, North American Academy of the Spanish Language
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Trained in classical philology, Luis Alberto de Cuenca received his doctorate from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Until his retirement, he was research professor at the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. He is best known for a large body of accessible, elegant and witty poems. Borrowing a term from Franco-Belgian cartoonists, he describes his poetry as "poesía de línea clara" (poetry with a clear line). His initial poetry collection, Los retratos (Portraits), appeared in 1971. Since then he has published more than a dozen other collections, most recently Después del paraíso (After Paradise). He has gathered his poems in the omnibus volume, Los mundos y los días (Worlds and Days), whose most recent edition dates from 2019.
From 1996 to 2000 Cuenca was the Director of Spain's national library. From 2000 to 2004, he was Secretary of Culture. He is a member of the Spain's Royal Academy of History. In 1989 he received the National Translation Prize for his translation of the Cantar de Valtario, a tenth-century Latin poem. In 2015 he received the National Poetry Prize for Cuaderno de vacaciones (Vacation Notebook). In 2021 he won the prestigious Federico García Lorca International Poetry Prize.
Cuban-born Gustavo Pérez Firmat's imaginative writing has been published in The Paris Review, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Baltimore Review, The Birmingham Poetry Review and other journals. He has also published books of literary and cultural criticism, including Saber de ausencia, A Cuban in Mayberry, The Havana Habit, Tongue Ties and Life on the Hyphen, a study of Cuban-American culture that was awarded the Eugene M. Kayden University Press National Book Award for 1994. He is also the author of a memoir, Next Year in Cuba, as well as several poetry collections in Spanish and English, among them Sin lengua, deslenguado, Bilingual Blues and Viejo Verde.
In 2004 Pérez Firmat was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1995, Pérez Firmat was named Duke University Scholar/Teacher of the Year, Duke University's highest award for undergraduate teaching. In 1997 Newsweek included him among "100 Americans to Watch for the 21st Century" and Hispanic Business Magazine selected him as one of the "100 Most Influential Hispanics" in the United States. In 2004 Pérez Firmat was named one of New York's thirty "Outstanding Latinos" by El Diario La Prensa.