Rafael Acevedo (PR Books #6)

instrumentario by Rafael Acevedo (Isla Negra: 1996).
Moneda de sal by Rafael Acevedo (Fragmento imán Editores: 2006).

Rafael Acevedo (1960-) is a poet, novelist, playwright and professor of literature at the University of Puerto Rico. He has six books of poetry and three novels. He was the editor of the journal Filo de juego (1983-1987) which was important in defining the poetic movements of the Generación del Ochenta. His poems have been included in several anthologies of Latin American and Puerto Rican poetry, including El límite volcado. Two of his poems have been translated into English here.

instrumentario is one of his earlier works, dense, playful, formal and edgy. The 116 page work is divided into 5 sections: Lenguaje, in which he plays with language and zoology; Materia(les), which delves into the physical composition of things from angels to milk to houses to grandmothers; Utensilios which reminds me a bit of Robert Pinsky’s “objects at hand” project, or Neruda’s later odes; Instrumentales which is densely lyrical; and Boleros Instrumentales which are love poems after a sort. The breadth of style here is remarkable, but throughout he maintains a rigorous rhythmic and sonic drive.

Moneda de sal is his most recent work. These short lyric poems have a distinctly political bent – reflected in the title which literally translates as “Salt Money” and plays on the etymology of “salario” or “salary” which meant a stipend given to a soldier to purchase salt. The book is in three parts: Economía de las pasiones (Economy of passion), Prosa de la mundial economía (Prose of the world economy), and Nombres del eco (Names of eco). Throuhgout he calls out privilege and the prioritizing economic concerns over human concerns, while championing the working class in short bitterly ironic poems-as-missives.

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