At last! A translation of Aztec poetry done not by an historian, a linguist or an anthropologist, but by a poet. In this volume, David Bowles captures the heart and the soul of the Nahua poets, and carries them safely across the narrow bridge swinging far above the perilous waters of translation. This book transports us to the living, breathing world of the Aztecas, and covers the mundane and the beautiful, the tragic and the sensual. The broad range of themes in the selected poems is refreshing and often surprising, creating newer, more humane, and more realistic dimensions to our understanding of this ancient culture. Such poems as “Tempted by a Priest,” “Where Songs Begin,” “The Answer to Doubt,” “To Kiss Your Lips by the Wooden Fencepost,” “Brotherhood,” and “For Travelers along the Road Just before Daybreak” remind us that we cannot claim to know “American” Literature unless we have satiated our poetic appetite at least once at the banquet table of this volume.
Poet Laureate, City of San Antonio
David Bowles has done a superb job translating these “songs” from the Mayans and Aztecs. Like Robert Bly’s translations of César Vallejo and Pablo Neruda, and Richard Lattimore’s translations of The Homeric Hymns, Bowles transmutes the original languages – Nahuatl or Mayan—into contemporary poetry, while remaining faithful to the intentions of the original text. He has the ear of a composer and the deft touch of a musician. Here you will find the plaintive lyric of “The Poet’s Longing” and the seductive song of the “Warm-Blooded Woman.” This is a collection to cherish, with its excellent introduction, striking artwork, and these long-lost invocations of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.
Steven Schneider, Ph.D.
Author of Unexpected Guests and Borderlines: Drawing Border Lives