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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Salute to Spanish Poetry
John Howard Reid, Translator & Compiler
ISBN: 978-0-557-26943-3

Originally reviewed by Joyce White for Amazon

I am enthralled at the discipline it must take to accurately and responsibly translate into English over 100 poems from Spain and Latin America. I imagine what we most want from such a translation is intelligence and honesty, sympathetically if possible, but accurately, too. To do this as eloquently as John Howard Reid does, I imagine it took a great love for the people, country and the arts.

The first Spanish author that caught my eye in Reid’s handy Index in the back of his book was Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1347-1616). He was the famed author of the popular Don Quixote as well as author of one of my favorite poems in this work, the Gypsy: When Preciosa beats her tambourine and her sweet music wounds the empty air, those are pearls that drop from her hands, flowers that float from her mouth…Her eyes are two suns with which she blinds yet sends light…Thus Love maintains his empire and thinks himself capable of performing even greater marvels.

Preciosa sounds very much like many artful compositions previously based on Greek mythology depicting tambourine-playing nymphs, maybe she is kin to Botticelli’s Venus or Picasso’s “Girl Playing the Tambourine.” Preciosa in Spanish means “to say that you are precious or beautiful.” It seems like Reid is on the same page as Cervantes when it comes to loving women, Greek Mythology, impressionism and poetry. The result is a scintillating look at how the forces of seduction and music can enrich and complicate life.

I also enjoyed the translation from the Spanish of Ruben Dario, in Ricardo Calvo’s poem, about Cervantes:

Worried and over-brimming with sorrow, I spend my hours of solitude in a dark and dismal mood, with the faithful Cervantes to sweeten my bitter moments and rest my aching head…An over-generous and loving Christian, Cervantes speaks with the clean, clear, burnished wisdom of a saint, that’s why I admire and love him…Thus the whole world rejoices in the immortal sadness of being divine.

So many of Reid’s words and images were like messages from the heart and would make a perfect gift for someone you love and a great learning tool for Spanish young people learning English.

I also enjoyed the poet and linguist, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s work, Charms of Little Women. (1807-1882)

I liked the lines…

If I was speaking in just, I’d say little women were as cold as snow and burn like fire. I’ll explain: They seem cold to all and sundry, but burn hot when they’re in love. In the bed of recreation, they are eager, jovial, pleasant and cheerful…In the house they’re wise and witty, yet helpful and docile. There’s much more to discover so pay attention here.
Longfellow once described men as dogs and women as cats. I wonder how he would describe the genders now in this day and age.

Another favorite poem of mine in this work, is In No Remedies for Love, where Reid translated from the Spanish of Francisco de Medrano, who was speaking to Amarili or better known as the Amaryllis; (flowering bulb) popularly given on Valentine’s Day to show one’s love:

He who believes that absence breeds oblivion has never loitered in the courts of love; for if he truly loved, what absence – even Death – could ever erase his thoughts, his memories, his hopes of love?...
And, my favorite lines…
Love makes a wound so deep, it reaches right into the soul! And it was your arrow, Amarili, that gave my heart this wound of happiness!...Five stars for Cupid and his determination, this author and Reid for selecting this poem.
Reid intertwined his knowledge of art and artists, his Christianity, his love of nature, the sun, moon and stars, his romanticism, and his love of assembly, into a modern patchwork of poetry everyone can understand, learn from and appreciate. A smooth and easy read… 5 Stars for Amazon.

Reviewed by Joyce White, author of Sculpting the Heart Book and Sculpting the Heart’s Poetry while Conversing with the Masters. Find her at  or
Author of Sculpting the Heart: Surviving Depression with Art Therapy and
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