Languages@Muhlenberg.edu
Newsletter 2002
 
A Poet at the 'Berg


Poet Jaime Luis Huenún Villa chats with Dave Rapoport '02, Cheri Sirois '02, and Kristy Reinert '02 after his reading

   This spring the Chilean/Mapuche poet Jaime Luis Huenún Villa visited Muhlenberg. This visit was sponsored by the Dept. of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, the Lectures and Forum Committee, and the Deans' Office. In addition to a public reading of his poetry, the poet visited various Spanish classes, a First Year Seminar, and classes in History and Political Science. Huenún also gave a reading at the Americas Society and lectures at SUNY-Buffalo, Villanova, and Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

A Season of Cruelty
Poetry from Jaime Luis Huenún Villa

"La crueldad es una estación sin término",
escribió en la sucia bitácora mercante.
Entre brindis y juramentos
anotaba los dictados de su corazón.
Arrancaba después esas ficciones
y las dejaba morir en las acequias
anegadas por los desperdicios
y la lluvia.

"Cruelty is an endless season,"
he wrote in the dirty merchant log.
Between toasts and swears
he recorded his heart's desires.
He would later rip out those fictions
and leave them to die in the channels
flooded by the waste
and the rain.

Jaime Luis Huenún Villa. Puerto Trakl. Santiago:
LOM Ediciones, 2002. 41.
Translation by James Barnhart-Park.

Lunch with the Poet

   As Writing Assistant for Dr. Barnhart-Park's First Year Seminar, I spent a fair amount of time preparing for and then participating in the poet's visit. My interaction with Jaime Huenún was not limited to classroom discussion for I had the opportunity to have lunch with him and Dr. Juan Zevallos, another Spanish professor here. Our lunch was very informal, as we enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of a nearby deli, where we ventured into topics ranging from indigenous languages to politics and systems of education.
   For example, it was interesting for me to find out that one of the reasons why it is difficult to transcribe indigenous languages of South America into Spanish, or any other European language for that matter, is the lack of letters corresponding to certain sounds in the indigenous language. How can one capture a sound that isn't made in one's language?
   Our conversation soon drifted into the highly controversial field of politics. Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was brought up, and Jaime yet again provided valuable insight that only someone with first-hand experience could provide. I knew that Huenún had participated in a leftist movement against the dictatorship, so I asked him about the impact that had on his work. He explained that his reasons for participating in the anti-Pinochet movement were not difficult to understand-- one was either "for" or "against" the dictatorship. Jaime wished that there had been something in the middle, as two extremes always clash hard, and he seemed happy that Chile is currently looking for that political compromise. His poetic work during that time reflected much anti-government sentiment and naturally did not get published in Chile. Although poets are held in high regard in Chile, his country was not quite the land of opportunity for Huenún.
   Jaime Huenún's visit here provided an opportunity for him to draw attention to other indigenous poets throughout Latin America as well to cultures that have existed for centuries and should not be forgotten.

Nikolay Pandoursky, '04