A preview of The Alphabets of Latin America: A Carnival of Poems by Abhay K.

* Author of the Month *

The Alphabets of Latin America

Author: Abhay K.
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9789389867909
138 pages, Paperback

Organized alphabetically from A-Z, The Alphabets of Latin America, a collection of poems written by poet-diplomat Abhay K. during his travels across Latin America between 2016-2019, takes you on a roller coaster ride to one of the most culturally and geographically fascinating continents, known for its legendary Maya and Inca civilizations, sizzling Samba and Tango, the world's biggest carnivals, labyrinths of Borges, magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, great poetry of Ruben Dario, Pablo Neruda , Gabriela Mistral, Cesare Vallejo, Octavio Paz, fascinating art of Frida Kahlo and Fernando Botero, among others. As you flip its pages, you will find yourself swimming with pink dolphins in the Amazon river, watching the sunset in Martian landscape of Atacama desert, kissing the heights of Machu Picchu and admiring a thousand rainbows at Iguazu Falls.
The noted Cuban poet Víctor Rodríguez Núñez writes –“Latin Americans must be grateful, today and always, to Abhay K. and this fundamental book. Armed with intelligence and sensitivity, with calculation and passion, The Alphabets of Latin America is a love poem that honors us as a society and culture. In these pages, poetry, as a way of thinking and a response to adversity, reaches breadth and mastery, depth and splendor. Our region’s past and present are approached not only as reading but also as experience, with the knowledge of cause and the authenticity of memory. What’s more, in these texts, narrative and lyric, intellectual rigor and formal play, description and reflection happily shake hands. Likewise, identification predominates over differentiation, and an essential link is established between Indians and Latin Americans: “A people, a tribe, a nation is destroyed, / only to reincarnate in another form.”


I, Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor,
born a sovereign, died a prisoner

mercilessly strangled by a garrote
under the cunning friar’s watch

then burnt without a dignified
Inca burial, to prevent my rebirth.

Spaniards brought a strange disease
to the Andes, that killed my father

his successor died soon, plunging
the Inca empire into a succession war

Huascar and I fought for years,
subduing him, I emerged victorious

soon armed intruders entered my empire
with sixty-nine horses and a hundred more men

being ingenuous and benign, I called them
for a dialogue falling into their trap

the deceitful friar offered me a breviary
asking me to convert to Christianity

disgusted I threw it down in rage
Pizarro ordered his men to charge

a handful of them, heavily armed
butchered my army of five thousand
none of them was wounded or killed
they captured me alive in the battlefield

to be set free, I offered to fill
my cell with silver and gold

but Pizarro conducted a mock trial
and sentenced me to death by fire.

Huascar: half-brother of Atahualpa


    in the sea
           of an indifferent
               the carnival
i.e. life.


In the middle of this vast square
I stand alone, meditating—
racing back and forth in time

hearing jeers of the victors
silence of the vanquished
all swept away by time’s broom

does it matter who loses, who wins a war—
a people, a tribe, a nation is destroyed
only to reincarnate in another form.

Octavio Paz

History is one thing, our lives something else...I have survived,
that’s enough…’ – Octavio Paz

Staring at a draft of shadows
I straddle between two pasts

my feet on two boats
I keep afloat composing poems

I am alone in a library
reading forbidden books

I lose my faith reading Voltaire
the library crumbles in front of my eyes

I am happy
I have survived

I come across godemiches in Paris
don’t know what are these

embarrassed, I ask a surrealist,
who whispers in my ears—

‘these are objects to overcome
profound human loneliness.’

I think all fighting is absurd
but cannot tell it to anyone

so I go to see Neruda
he calls me a traitor

then embraces me affectionately
calling me—‘son.’

Meeting Buddha in India
on the footpath, I ask—

‘what is Self?’ Buddha smiles
and turns into a pile of stones.

Abhay K. is the author of a memoir and eight poetry collections including The Seduction of Delhi, The Eight-Eyed Lord of Kathmandu and The Prophecy of Brasilia. He is the editor of CAPITALS, New Brazilian Poems, The Bloomsbury Anthology of Great Indian Poems and The Bloomsbury Book of Great Indian Love Poems. His poems have been published in over 60 literary journals across the world including Poetry Salzburg Review.

He received the SAARC Literary Award in 2013 and was invited to record his poems at the Library of Congress in Washington DC in 2018. His poem-song 'Earth Anthem' has been translated into over 50 global languages and is performed across the globe. He has recently translated Meghaduta and Ritusamhara of Kalidasa.

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