Poems from Jorge Carrera Andrade’s Micrograms
Translated by Joshua Beckman and Alejandro de Acosta
Newly released from Wave Books, Micrograms, by the Ecuadorian poet Jorge Carrera Andrade, pays meta-homage to the brief yet visceral impact of the microgram. Featuring a meditative body of short works translated by Joshua Beckman and Alejandro de Acosta, the collection also includes Andrade’s hermeneutical “Genealogy” of the microgram that serves as a primer to the form while simultaneously providing a substantive look at Andrade’s innately philosophical consciousness. In Andrade’s words, “The microgram is but the Spanish epigram deprived of its subjective hue. Better: an essentially graphical, pictorial epigram. Through its discovery of the deep reality of the object (its secret attitude) it arrives at a refined emotional style.”
As we learn in the translators’ introduction, Andrade was a world traveler who believed in a universal human solidarity that transcended borders and united him to all men. Evidenced in his introduction and his poetry, Andrade was also a tireless observer of the natural world who remained committed to illuminating the metaphysical through an examination of the miniscule. Micrograms, with Zen-like clarity, offers earthly, object-centric writing that informs our perceptions and emotions with refreshing brevity.
Jorge Carrera Andrade (1902-1978) was born in Quito, Ecuador, and was a diplomat as well as a poet, essayist and journalist. His distinguished literary career comprises a wide range of work, including editing, translation, criticism, and poetry. William Carlos Williams described Carrera Andrade’s images as “so extraordinarily clear, so connected to the primitive I imagine I am … participating in a vision already lost to the world.”
I have included a sampling of Andrade’s poems below along with one of the translators’ reinterpretation of Andrade’s Japanese to Spanish translation of Basho.
WHAT THE SNAIL IS
tiny measuring tape
with which God measures the field.
The turtle in its yellow case
is the clock of the earth
stopped centuries ago.
Dented now it hides
among the tiny stones of time
in water’s blue cover.
Constantly tracing in dirt
the long inconclusive stroke
of a mysterious letter.
and filled with tears
are the eyes of fish.
—Jorge Carrera Andrade