- Demand of the Centuries
Pedro, Mir, Jonathan, Cohen, Dominican poets, Sylph, geography, nautical
Wild and splendid Sylphyou absolute animal,open your two waysof glidingon a tangent of the planetand show me how to make people.To turn peninsulas into faces,archipelagos into sailors,into magical horizonsyour circular mannerof gliding.Open your two scaleslike the pages of a bookthat shows how to make peopleand show me how to forma small fleshnose, skin for some bones,for a smile with the touchof a little blue whereyour outermost and softesttendon endsto make me absolutely an animal,an absolute wild animalthat lives forever. [End Page 246]
pedro mir (1913–2000) was the Dominican Republic's foremost poet of the twentieth century, named the country's Poeta Nacional (National Poet, i.e., Poet Laureate) by the Dominican Congress in the 1980s. He continues to hold this high poetic status. "Demand of the Centuries" comes from his 1969 book of erotic love poetry Poemas de buen amor … y a veces de fantasía (Poems of Good Love … and Sometimes Fantasy). He believed the ultimate aim of love is not poetry but the procreation of human beings. Though not well known in the United States, he is in the same league of Latin American poets as his contemporary Pablo Neruda.
jonathan cohen is a poet, translator, essayist, and scholar. He translated Pedro Mir's Two Elegies of Hope (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019) and, with Donald D. Walsh, Countersong to Walt Whitman and Other Poems (Peepal Tree Press, 2018). He is editor of William Carlos Williams's By Word of Mouth: Poems from the Spanish, 1916–1959 (2011) and the centennial edition of Williams's Al Que Quiere! (both published by New Directions, 2017). His edition of Williams's translation of the Spanish Golden Age novella The Dog and the Fever, by Pedro Espinosa, was published in 2018 by Wesleyan University Press.