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.
Season of Cruelty
Poetry from Jaime Luis Huenún
"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.
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