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  • Radio: Wireless Poem in Thirteen Messages and Uncollected Poems trans. by Kyn Taniya
  • Leslie Marie Aguilar (bio)
Kyn Taniya, trans. David Shook, graphics by Daniel Godínez-Nivón, Radio: Wireless Poem in Thirteen Messages and Uncollected Poems. Cardboard House Press, 2016. Pp. 61.

Originally published in Mexico City during 1924, Radio: Wireless Poem in Thirteen Messages is the seminal work by pioneer-poet Kyn Taniya. An unlikely figure-head for the Stridentist Movement, Taniya's work embodies the rejection of conservative principles, the lure of technology, and the celebration of modernity that were characteristic values of early Stridentists. His second collection juxtaposes poetic diction, favored by the academic elites, modern colloquialisms, and technical jargon to illustrate the collision of worlds that Taniya would have encountered during the turn of the century. Reeling from wounds left by the Mexican Revolution, the world Taniya creates in Radio reflects a plane of existence that has yet to materialize, but is nonetheless on the verge of realization.

As an artifact of the Mexican avant-garde, Radio reads as an amalgamation of artistic mediums. This is echoed by translator David Shook's imagistic renderings [End Page 191] of Taniya's original text. In the collection's invocation, Shook captures the distressing atmosphere of pleading that unfolds throughout the collection as the speaker exclaims:

    My fatherwho art in heavenfrom up there can you not hear my pain?    Ascend slowlyvertically    and please leave a trailSO THAT I CAN FOLLOW YOU!

This private prayer, a cry for help as it were, enacts the call-response form favored by Taniya. His speaker sends a message, through radio waves, into the cosmos hoping for an answer to the burning questions that flood his "anesthetized" soul. This theme of technology subsuming the role of God is continued throughout the collection. "Listen to the conversation of words / in the atmosphere," the speaker demands; but who are they listening for in "the rasp of hertzian waves," the signals streaming from a radio?

Taniya's speaker is frantic for an answer, exclaiming "S.O.S! / Thousands Millions Billions Trillions of stars / have been cast in vain into the sea" like prayers to an absent god. In "It was a May Night," the speaker laments:

My brain sings and is the motor    The Moon-raystremble like antennas greedy for messages    On the streets of Eartha generous poet continues spitting stars in vain    IT WAS A MAY NIGHTAND THE CLOUDS WERE PREGNANT WITH WEEPING

This cry functions as a refrain, an echo similar to the plea emitted in the collection's opening poem. The speaker, affirmed as Taniya himself, writes words in vain. Is it possible that he knew his words might fall on deaf ears, that poetry as an archaic mode of art would be overshadowed by ever-evolving modes of disseminating information? If the answer is "yes," then Shook's decision to revive this collection for posterity takes on a deeper meaning, that of preservation perhaps.

Much has been made of the similarities between the modern world Taniya describes in his poems and the contemporary world. It seems the concerns of [End Page 192] modern men have only been exacerbated by the violence and neglect that Taniya witnessed in his own time. Lines from "Cold Lights" illustrate his awareness of society's faults:

But the bourgeois lynched the last poetand the discoverer of the radio had to escape to Marsso that the Governments would not jail himThe cold light of winter blows against the red sails of lifeand young hearts must go to lose themselves to the sea

The sterile space this speaker inhabits is reminiscent of T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Both speakers meander through an anesthetized world void of meaning. In this world, youth is wasted on the young who simply weep away their existence. Having grown up in a household frequented by Guillaume Apollinaire, Auguste Rodin, and Amado Nervo, Taniya, it stands to reason, would have been familiar with Eliot's iconic work and poetic leanings. Similar to Eliot's Prufrock, Taniya's speaker is largely aware of his circumstances but...


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pp. 191-194
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