Laura Healy is a writer, designer, and literary translator. Her translations of Bolaño and other Latin American poets have appeared in Harper’s, The Believer, The Nation, and many other journals. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island and works as the managing editor of The Harvard Review.
Perhaps surprisingly to some of his fiction fans, Roberto Bolaño touted poetry as the superior art form, able to approach an infinity in which “you become infinitely small without disappearing.” When asked, “What makes you believe you’re a better poet than a novelist?” Bolaño replied, “The poetry makes me blush less.” The sum of his life’s work in his preferred medium, The Unknown University is a showcase of Bolaño’s gift for freely crossing genres, with poems written in prose, stories in verse, and flashes of writing that can hardly be categorized. “Poetry,” he believed, “is braver than anyone.”
Roberto Bolaño’s Tres is a showcase of the author’s willingness to freely cross genres, with poems in prose, stories in verse, and flashes of writing that can hardly be categorized. As the title implies, the collection is composed of three sections. “Prose from Autumn in Gerona,” a cinematic series of prose poems, slowly reveals a subtle and emotional tale of unrequited love by presenting each scene, shattering it, and piecing it all back together, over and over again. The second part, “The Neochileans,” is a sort of On the Road in verse, which narrates the travels of a young Chilean band on tour in the far reaches of their country. Finally, the collection ends with a series of short poems that take us on “A Stroll Through Literature” and remind us of Bolaño’s masterful ability to walk the line between the comically serious and the seriously comical.
Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003) has caught on like a house on fire, and The Romantic Dogs, a bilingual collection of forty-four poems, offers American readers their first chance to encounter this literary phenomenon as a poet: his own first and strongest literary persona. These poems, wide-ranging in forms and length, have appeared in magazines such as Harper’s, Threepenny Review, The Believer, Boston Review, Poetry, Soft Targets, Tin House, The Nation, Circumference, A Public Space, and Conduit. Bolaño’s poetic voice is like no other’s. Publishers Weekly praised The Romantic Dogs in its review: “The Savage Detectives, the best-known novel by the Chilean-born Bolaño (1953–2003) recently found spectacular success across the English-speaking world, bringing much attention to his other work. Now comes a very competently rendered bilingual selection of his fiery, if sometimes uncontrolled, verse. Bolaño began as a poet, and some of the work here seems to have come from an extraordinarily young man: a record of stormy, untamed teen emotion—the depths of despair (‘From these nightmares I’ll retain only/ these poor houses’) or the heights of sexual adventures. Bolaño moves easily into a blend of surrealism and populism, with in-your-face gestures learned perhaps from Pablo Neruda, as when he watches ‘a trail of nurses and a trail of scorpions’ wending their ways home. Other poems are closely tied to The Savage Detectives: Bolaño’s dreamt motorcycle journey in ‘The Donkey,’ mirroring the life of the real poet Mario Santiago, will send readers back to the fictionalized portrayals of Bolaño and Santiago (Arturo and Ulises) in the novel. Bolaño the poet’s ‘deliberate immaturity/ And splendors glimpsed on another planet’ can delight: they echo his brilliant but out-of-control authorial persona, with its high-speed, self-conscious verbal play, and those echoes will be more than enough to lead fans of his prose straight to his verse."