Camouflage by Lupe Gómez
Translated from Galician by Erín Moure
Publication date: March 2019
There’s snow, so much snow in the fields and in the language I speak,
inside the political belly of cows.
In Camouflage, Gómez renders her mother and her mother tongue, her land and its changes with tender, sharp insight, and Moure brings into English this native language of Galicia in Spain so vividly that we can feel the original breathing beneath the surface.
“The sacred as description of experience” wrote Miriam Nichols about Robin Blaser’s work. These words aptly characterize Camouflage, this numinous book of poetry by Lupe Gómez. Forthright and visionary, Gómez conceives a work where poetry is ethics of love and protection, the serious play of small means in which the language of camouflage is political “ inside the political stomach of cows.” Nuanced and knowing, this address to the mother is the address to the Mother, to meaning, “the face of the other” (Levinas). Camouflage the poem, like camouflage the crypsis, conveys the ability to blend into its environment, the ability to be invisible like seawater and corn, where death is a site of action, disturbance. It effects a critique of romanticized versions of rural Galicia. The Galician bagpipers—gaiteiros—represent the region of Galicia, the bagpipe the symbol of a particular communal life. Coeval, the poem transcends Galicia and expands to an amaranthine world. Metaphors are multifarious, alert and alive, where “air is a knife” and “history . . . a knife from inside.” An elegant, gracefully designed bilingual volume, Camouflage is written in Galego, the language of Galicia, the autonomous community in Spain’s northwest, with an outstanding (elastic + spirited + vigilant + heartfelt) translation by the inimitable poet Erín Moure. “The hands of the dew were singing hip hop.”
In Camouflage, Lupe Gómez writes of a mother who, even in death, is not hidden but integral to their rural home. In this, the poet spotlights the ecological import of “camouflage,” meaning not only to disguise but also to blend into the environment. “With my love I make you a forest,” Gómez promises, and so she reimagines death as both creation myth and “political project,” energizing a history and place that her language refuses to forsake. A feminist pastoral epic for the 21st century, Camouflage makes the powerful claim that time is incantatory and that poetry may very well restore our dreams for the future. For new readers, Erín Moure’s translation and afterword, with generous erudition, vividly uphold Gómez’s radiant vision.
Lupe Gómez’ Camouflage, translated from Galician by Erín Moure, is a deeply wondrous book. The intensity of the mother is a shape Gómez outlines with a cube of blood, “electric shadow,” and “a new language of white flowers” that “sprang from our hands.” From this mother comes a child, who sleeps “in a mysterious cradle of wood.” In the instant of childbirth, the crackle of vomit, “freshly-pulled” milk and “electromagnetic sparks” fill the shed. Human and animal presences split the face, the life, the memory with unpublishable radiance. It’s not possible, for example, to document the moment when it’s no longer possible to hold the person you love in your own branching arms. As Gómez writes: “We weep, and our tears are not photographs.” As Moure writes: “I didn’t actually plan to translate Camouflage at all. I only wanted to spend time inhabiting these poems I deeply loved, held in a book whose sinews and quiet unity drew me irrevocably and brought me close to my own maternal source.” Yes. These poems changed the shape of my heart, like metallurgy. It’s hard to break the silence, the deep vibration of the book, by writing these words now. But how else to share their “secret energy”: with you?
November 15, 2018: “Circumference Books publica en marzo en inglés ‘Camouflage’, de Lupe Gómez” in El Correo Gallego
A Spanish note on the book’s publication.