Contributions by Heather Cleary

Heather Cleary has published translations and literary criticism with Two Lines, Words Without Borders, and Music & Literature, among other publications. She was awarded a PEN Translation Fund grant in 2005 for her work with the poetry of Oliverio Girondo, and her translation of Sergio Chejfec’s The Planets was a finalist for the Best Translated Book Award. More recently, her translations of Chejfec’s The Dark, nominated for ALTA’s National Translation Award, and Poems to Read on a Streetcar, a pamphlet of Girondo’s poetry (New Directions 2014) have made their way into bookstores. She holds a PhD in Latin American and Iberian Cultures from Columbia University.

Writing Lessons for the Blind and Deaf (excerpt)

Published on May 12th of 2015 by Mario Bellatin, David Shook and Heather Cleary in BAR Bellatin, Fiction.

from the future Spanish of Mario Bellatin
translated by David Shook

Josué’s mother was blind. Not always. She lost her eyes one at a time, starting at about age 49, in people years. That’s seven years old for a Chihuahua, which, though a little early, isn’t exceptionally unusual. The process began with a slight milkiness at the perimeter of her bulging left eye. Aw, she’s got cataracts, the show circuit groomers cooed. Know-nothings with no creativity, no curiosity. She had uveitis. Her ophthalmologist explained the disease by making a drawing on a whiteboard: tiny triangles, which she explained were the eye’s pumps, shedding off the eye’s regular waste emissions—mostly a solution of minerals and salts. The regular wastes were represented by tiny squares that looked like grains of rough-cut salt, maybe Himalayan. The ophthalmologist prescribed two medicines: … Read More »

Among the Dead

Published on July 20th of 2014 by Ernesto Hernández Busto and Heather Cleary in BAR(2), Essays.

Ernesto Hernández Busto
translated by Heather Cleary 

The future is always a lie. We have too much influence over it.
— Elias Canetti


It all began in September of 1991, when a friend (let’s call him I.) showed up at my place with the news that we’d be able to leave the country a few days later. I vaguely recall that we celebrated (despite the superstition about doing so in advance) and then went for a deliberately nostalgic walk around the city. I realize now that I don’t have a clear memory of that last stroll, of where we were, exactly, as though all that premeditation had generated the opposite effect: an overly illuminated screen on which we could barely make out blurred figures and places.

In another country, our departure would not have been anything special. In … Read More »

Edgardo Cozarinsky

Published on May 27th of 2014 by Edgardo Cozarinsky, Victoria Lampard and Heather Cleary in Poetry.

Translated by Victoria Lampard and Heather Cleary

From “Ultramarina,” a contemporary opera by Marcelo Lombardero, with music by Pablo Mainetti and a libretto by Edgardo Cozarinsky, based on his novel “El rufián moldavo” (Emecé 2004). “Ultramarina” premiered in “Hasta Trilce” in April 2014. The excerpt that follows is a play on tango kitsch sung by a prostitute named Perla.


If I could spit out all the kisses
That tainted my young lips…

If I could wash away the scratch of
of all those god-forsaken sheets…

If I could wipe away the caresses
that consumed my skin, then I could love you.

Oh how I wish you were my first,
the one who lied to me a thousand times.

(Does it matter? It is a man’s way to lie
to a woman, and love her all the same),

How I wish you could see me as I once was,
and … Read More »

The Pizarro Sisters

Published on November 20th of 2013 by Juan Álvarez and Heather Cleary in Fiction, Tongue Ties.

Juan Álvarez
translated by Heather Cleary

“What,” I said. That was how I answered the phone then. It was a forceful what—scrappy, combative. But combative isn’t quite the word, because my greeting was always followed by the desire to be left alone. The way I answered the phone had to do with a few demoralizing years misspent in Mexico working as a reader for a commercial publishing house, and also with all those sniveling Colombians who say Aló? and then launch into one story after another like idiot nightingales in a cage.

A voice on the other end of the line said hello.

“Yeah, what?” I repeated.

“Hello?” repeated the voice.

This kind of game isn’t my thing. I cut right to the chase.

“Who is this? What do you want?”

“Galvareza?” The voice asked, timidly.

“That’s right.”

“My name is Estela Lara. I’m María José and María del … Read More »

An American Poet’s Dream: an interview with David Shook

Published on November 20th of 2013 by Pola Oloixarac and Heather Cleary in Interviews, Tongue Ties.

Interview and introduction by Pola Oloixarac
translated by Heather Cleary

A young professor of literature in Los Angeles collects funding and poems online in order to make his dream a reality: he wants to fly over the territory, dropping poems like bombs. He believes that, in light of the recent history of the United States, cleaving the air with his own drone is the best way to protect poetry: everything else can collapse—NASA can close its doors and employees of the State can fall victim to the shutdown—but military programs remain intact, the drones still carry out their secret missions. By joining with these unmanned vehicles, poetry refuses to capitulate, David muses, twirling his long connoisseur moustache.

The son of preachers from the heart of Texas, David Shook grew up having faith in the spoken word. He studied the … Read More »

Arrebato [madrid]

Published on August 23rd of 2013 by Juan Soto Ivars and Heather Cleary in Shelf Love.

Juan Soto Ivars

I used to live in Madrid, but now I only go when I’m able, and feel like it. When I get there I perform certain rituals, like a pilgrim arriving at Santiago de Compostela. One is to have a beer at a great bar called Pepe Botella, and another is to give in to the temptation of Arrebato (“Rapture”), a bookstore on La Palma street, right in the middle of Malasaña. It’s a second-hand bookstore, but that second hand has a soft touch. Pepe, the bookseller, finds objects of value to the literary sybarite and offers them up for sale instead of keeping them for himself, which is what I would do. It’s not like Tipos Infames, a nearby bookstore with a Michelin star for selling new work. It’s a space for exploration, a place where you never … Read More »

On Repetition: Nietzsche, Art Basel, and the Venice Biennale

Published on July 30th of 2013 by Mariano López Seoane, Pola Oloixarac and Heather Cleary in Art.

Mariano López Seoane
translated by Pola Oloixarac

In fairy tales, curiosity, one of the forces that sets the story in motion, is always punished. This ancestral warning has stopped few, even though punishment has rained down upon us from Eve’s appetite for apples to the present day. It was the desire to see things up close, to be where the action was, that drove me to visit the Venice Biennale and Art Basel in the space of two weeks. The punishment was not long in coming. Like a hero in disgrace, I was condemned to repetition: in both places, the same artists, the same names, the same questions and, what’s worse, the same experience.

There’s little to say, in critical terms, about Art Basel. It’s a fair: it aims to sell works and make names circulate, ignite careers, turn artists into … Read More »

La Inestable [lima]

Published on June 7th of 2013 by Alicia Bisso and Heather Cleary in Shelf Love.

Alicia Bisso
translated by Heather Cleary

I never liked poetry. My self-imposed task of learning to read it began with a strange discovery. One afternoon, a traffic jam brought me to a stop in front of what seemed to be a small bookstore. I was barely able to make out what the sign hanging from the iron door said. I-N-E-S-T-A-B-L-E. Unstable. I went back because of the name. As soon as I set foot inside, I knew I had found my place. I’m drawn to small spaces where I’m not overwhelmed by titles and authors, and where the salespeople don’t throw themselves at me like darts. When I’m in a bookstore, I like to feel invisible. The owner of La Inestable is always reading and seems not to pay attention to anything else, so I’m able to take all … Read More »

Edipo [buenos aires]

Published on May 2nd of 2013 by Milton Laufer and Heather Cleary in Shelf Love.


Milton Läufer
translated by Heather Cleary

It’s true: Edipo is an ugly bookstore. And yet, though this may seem like a contradiction, its most notable trait is its invisibility. Though it was founded more than thirty years ago on one of the busiest stretches of Corrientes Avenue and has survived the rise and fall of some giants of its guild nearby, surprisingly few people know about it. The reason for this, I think, is that Edipo disappears among the dozens of its less important peers that surround it. The ones that, instead of shelving their books, heap them carelessly on rickety tables; the best-seller is everywhere in these stores, as are the self-help book and a few classics in reprint editions of questionable legality. These shops are passed over by the eye of the book fetishist, … Read More »

Evita Fashionista

Published on April 28th of 2013 by Mariano López Seoane and Heather Cleary in cultural criticism.

Mariano López Seoane
translated by Heather Cleary

A decade ago, the New York philosopher Jennifer Lopez gave us “Jenny from the Block,” an ode to upward mobility in the key of bling. In the hook, she syncopates what would become a mantra of the mamis of global latinization:

Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got / I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block.

In fewer than twenty words, Jenny gave FM hip-hop not its social truth (it had been clear since the 80s that a main theme of the music would be gaining access to consumer goods that had previously been off limits), but rather a possible political stance. The single, released at the Everest moment of Jennifer Lopez’s ascent into the pop firmament, is meant to turn her power into something not only recognized, but also … Read More »

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