- Snichimal Vayuchil trans. by Paul Worley
The release of Paul Worley's translation of the anthology Snichimal Vayuchil, whose Bats'i k'op title translates roughly to "Flowery Dream," represents a departure for the experimental poetry group of the same name. Founded by poet and artist Xun Batun in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, the group of young Tsotsil Maya writers has until now shunned traditional publishing circuits in favor of hand-binding and self-distributing their works. While this approach has enabled them to integrate communal work into the creative process, as well as to retain total physical and artistic control over their productions, it has limited their readership. The release of a trilingual volume through a North American press represents an effort to extend Snichimal Vayuchil's influence to a broad global audience. Proffering an invitation to share in the "espacio llamado poesía relacional" (2), the publication draws a new group of readers into conversations surrounding the challenges now confronting Indigenous communities across Abiayala.
Following a note from the translator and a brief introduction by Gloría Chacón, the anthology introduces the work of ten poets, six male and four female. Each contributor presents two free-verse poems in the original language(s)—in most, but not all cases both Spanish and Bats'i k'op (Tsotsil)—followed by Worley's translations. The diversity of tones, perspectives, and poetic styles among the twenty short lyrics establishes a series of active dialogues within the pages of the collection itself. As the oneiric meditations of Candelaria Álvarez give way to the buoyant dances of Cecilia Díaz, which in turn cede to the defiant challenges of Manu Pukaj, the book offers glimpses into many facets of the Indigenous experience. On its pages, to be Tsotsil is equally to mourn a lost heritage, to commune with the earth, and to resist continued discrimination. Recurrent allusions to dreams, ritual, and the natural world unite all of these perspectives into a nuanced depiction of Tsotsil Maya identity.
In embracing this identity, the poets collectively reject the destructive imperatives of neoliberal capitalism. The poems of Snichimal Vayuchil challenge the logic of extractivism with a worldview that blurs the divisions between dream and reality, spirit and mind, humanity and nature. As Manu Pukaj, the most critical of the poets, asserts in his poem "Hurry": "this hurry, it's not my hurry, / the hurry of time, / the hurry of the few, / the hurry of slavery, / the hurry of money" (10). Dismissing the time clock in favor of the "revolutions and evolutions of Mother Earth and Father Sun," the poet echoes a desire for unity with nature that flows through the entirety of the collection (10).
Though less explicit than Pukaj in their rejection of capitalism, the other poets likewise privilege natural rhythms and processes. They present human growth, both physical and spiritual, as intimately linked to the cycles of the Earth, and they idealize traditional practices that support a close connection between workers and the land. In "The Milpa" by Artemio Hernández, for example, perfection arises from the unity of the speaker and his crops: "Your symmetry / Is my symmetry / Perfection / As your children grow" (40). Expressing nostalgia for a world in which humans flourish within and alongside nature, rather than at its expense, the poets refuse economic systems that rely upon the exploitation of natural resources.
The linguistic arrangement of the collection reflects a parallel shift away from dominant values. Presenting Bats'i k'op, Spanish, and English versions in rapid succession, Snichimal Vayuchil draws attention to the interplay between these languages. The interjections of one language into another in poems like Pukaj's "Vovijel," Susi Bentzulzul's "Sk'in Ch'ulelal," and Cecelia Díaz's "Ak'otajel" provide examples of how the collective's poems create meaning through the friction between tongues. The English translations add another layer of complexity as they enter into a dialogue already established between the Spanish and Bats'i k'op versions. As...