If the squirrels
were to devour your eyes
bring you to life
in one of his paintings.
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Poetry From the October 2005 issue: Jaguar Tongues
Humberto Ak abalHumberto Ak abal
Humberto Ak abal writes in Kichè (Maya) at his home far from his birthplace (1952) in Momostenango, Totonicapán, Guatemala. He is one of the most widely translated poets writing in an indigenous language in the Americas, his work having appeared in the U.S., as well as Austria, France, Switzerland, and Germany and in a large hardcover edition sponsored by the United Nations. He reads easily in a very deep voice that somehow reminds one of the sound a great tree would make, if trees spoke Kiché. Some of his work has been translated into English by Robert Bly, other poems by Dennis Tedlock. He has received the Blaise Cendras Prize from Switzerland, as well as many prizes and honorary degrees in Latin America.
Translated from SpanishSpanish by Earl ShorrisEarl Shorris and by Sylvia Sasson ShorrisSylvia Sasson Shorris
Earl Shorris was a prominent social critic and author. His works include Ofay; The Boots of the Virgin; A Novel of Pancho Villa; The Death of the Great Spirit; The Oppressed Middle: Scenes From Corporate Life; Latinos: A Biography of the People; and New American Blues: A Journey Through Poverty to Democracy among others. He was the coeditor of In the Language of Kings: An Anthology of Mesoamerican Literature, Pre-Columbian to the Present; The Life and Times of Mexico; and While Someone Else Is Eating: Poets and Novelists on Reaganism. He was a contributing editor to Harper’s, and his essays and articles appeared in the Nation, the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, American Educator, the Antioch Review, and many more publications. He founded and chaired the advisory board of The Clemente Course in the Humanities; and cofounded—with Howard Meredith and members of the Kiowa, Cherokee, Chickashaw, Maya, Nahua, Lakota, CYup'ik, and other tribes and nations—the Pan-American Indian Humanities Center at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. He died in May of 2012.
Sylvia Sasson Shorris is the author of Talking Pictures: With the People Who Made Them and co-editor of While Someone Else Is Eating: Poets and Novelists on Reaganism and In the Language of Kings: An Anthology of Mesoamerican Literature Pre-Columbian to the Present. She has published articles in The Nation, Chicago Tribune, Fork Roads, and Review (a publication of the Center for Inter-American Relations), and has been a translator in Mexico for Luis Montes Film Distribution, and in New York for 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation.
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