In 1980, Eduardo Espina (Uruguay, 1954) was the first Uruguayan participant in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Since then, he has lived and worked in the USA and was awarded his PhD there in 1987. At present, he teaches creative writing and Latin American literature at the renowned Texas A&M University, where he also publishes the Hispanic Book Review.
Espina is also editor, together with the Language poet, Charles Bernstein, of S/N: New World Poetics, a magazine that publishes English-language poetry in Spanish translation and vice-versa. Not surprisingly, the poetics of this magazine is similar to Espina’s. It is a poetics of “invention and exploration”, aiming to be unpredictable and innovative and thus to explore routes different from those followed by the older avant-garde movements that have now become established.
Most of Espina’s poems are long and have no stanza breaks. They unfold down the page in lines of equal length, in a supple combination of a form of writing that is sometimes essayistic and sometimes narrative in kind, and which – as one hears when he reads his work – is propelled by a powerful rhythm and by associations of sound and meaning. The result is texts that are exceptionally forceful, compact, sensual and capricious, with a rich vocabulary that has been described as “neo-Baroque”. Due to their recalcitrance, they oblige the reader to pay heed to their workmanship and to the materiality of their language.
All of this makes reading and/ or listening to Eduardo Espina’s poetry a kaleidoscopic experience. In his work, there is no clearly identifiable speaker with an unambiguous message. Rather, his poetry is distinguished by a dizzying polyphonic abundance of voices, visions, styles and registers.
Espina published his first book of poems in 1975, and nine volumes by him have appeared since. He has also written six collections of essays. The best known of these is La condición Milli Vanilli, an English translation of which will be published this year. He has received numerous awards for his work both as poet and essayist. In 2010 he was granted a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Niebla de Pianos, Ánfora Solar, Buenos Aires, 1975
Dadas las Circunstancias, Ánfora Solar, Buenos Aires, 1977
Valores Personales, La Máquina de Escribir, México, 1982
La caza nupcial, Ultimo Reino, Buenos Aires, 1993
El oro y la liviandad del brillo, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, México, 1994
Coto de casa, Literatura Menor, México DF, 1995
Lee un poco más despacio, Cantus Firmus, New York, 1999
Mínimo de mundo visible, filodecaballos, Guadalajara, 2003
El cutis patrio, Aldus, Mexico City, 2006
El disfraz de la modernidad, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México/Editorial Ciencias, México/Montevideo, 1992
Las ruinas de lo imaginario, Editorial Graffiti, Montevideo, 1996
La condición Milli Vanilli. Ensayos de dos siglos, Planeta, Buenos Aires, 2003
Historia universal del Uruguay. Ensayos del yo nacional, Planeta, Buenos Aires, 2008
Festivas formas. Poesía peruana contemporánea, Editorial Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, 2009
Julio Herrera y Reissig. Prohibida la entrada a los uruguayos, Planeta, Montevideo, 2010