Alberto Ríos, Arizona’s inaugural poet laureate and a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, is the author of eleven books and chapbooks of poetry, including The Theater of Night—winner of the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award—three collections of short stories, and a memoir about growing up on the border, Capirotada. His book The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body was a finalist for the National Book Award. Ríos is the recipient of numerous accolades and his work is included in over 300 national and international literary anthologies. He is also the host of the PBS program Books & Co. His work is regularly taught and translated, and has been adapted to dance and both classical and popular music. Ríos is a University Professor of Letters, Regents’ Professor, and the Katharine C. Turner Chair in English at Arizona State University. His most recent book is A Small Story About the Sky.
What is lost and what is gained in translating creative work on the page? How do we keep the spirit of the original written work even as the words change and the nuance is sometimes lost between cultures? Authors and translators Alberto Ríos, Laura Tohe, and Ryka Aoki speak to the intricacies of working with multiple languages as a translative art form.
The term for magical realism in Spanish is “lo real maravilloso,” or the marvelous real. The emphasis in this phrasing is on the real, though when hearing the expression in English we immediately jump to the magical. In this talk, I’ll address magical realism generally, as well as the culture and writers who have defined it, along with the magical, the marvelous, the real, and the imaginary. I will welcome participants’ experiences and questions about this largely misunderstood literary and arts effort.
Across his life, Alberto Rios has seen enormous changes throughout the U.S.-Mexico border region, and its culture and language have shaped him as a writer. Now as Arizona's first poet laureate, Rios has a platform for his "poems of public purpose" on all that the border means to the everyone on both sides of it
I can say now that writing has very little to do with the page. It has everything to do with thinking. It has everything to do with solving the problems of the world, and solving the non-problems of the world. That is to say, simply celebrating. We forget that part. And in this very confused time we want to think that everything is a problem. And so many things are! But not everything.
Critics have often called Alberto Rios’ poetry ‘charming’, ‘enchanting’, ‘magical’, ‘full of invention’, and this remains true in his new collection, A Small Story About the Sky. The poems are playful, nostalgic, witty, imaginative and funny. It’s easy to envision many of them being enjoyed by children (as one hopes they are bound to be). Rios’ seasoned control of meter and rhythm, structure and pacing, mitigates what might have devolved into something too playful, too charming, too cloying, and keeps the poetic balance of the collection intact.
El mundo en en mapa parece el deubujo de una vaca / En la carnicería, todas esas líneas mostrando / Dónde cortar The world on a map looks like the drawing of a cow / In a butcher's shop, all those lines showing / Where to cut.
The border is a line that birds cannot see. The border is a beautiful piece of paper folded carelessly in half. The border is where flint first met steel, starting a century of fires. The border is a belt that is too tight, holding things up but making it hard to breathe.