The poems in Synergos smack of Whitman and Martí, two of Roberto Manzano’s most important influences; they outsoar anything pedestrian, even in celebrating the here and now and the close-to-hand. Translated by Steven Reese, the collection covers Manzano’s poetry from his earliest to his most recent work, which won the 2005 Nicolás Guillén Prize, one of Cuba’s highest awards. The text includes a substantial amount of interview material that clarifies Manzano’s poetics and places it within the traditions of recent Cuban poetry. Manzano’s writing offers a window into contemporary Cuban life in its attention to the local landscape and environment, an attention that won Manzano the 2007 Samuel Feijóo Prize for Poetry and the Environment. But its greatest achievement lies in making, from the local and everyday, a poetry that is unmistakably universal.
“Manzano’s poems go beyond the traditionally circumscribed lyric, beyond the often humble and household range of so many contemporary poems. Translating those poems, and talking with Manzano about his work, was to experience that energy and ambition at close range, too close indeed to avoid being affected by it permanently Manzano offers one of the great gifts of translation—to be changed oneself in the process of that other, impossible change: moving a poem out of one language into another.”—Steven Reese, translator of Synergos