ALMOST OBSCENE is Gòmez Jattin's English-language debut. It includes work culled from his sporadic chapbooks, written from 1980-1997, showcasing a jaggedness of tone, approach, and mind space--precisely the unpredictability that made Gòmez Jattin an uncomfortable presence within mainstream Colombian literary circles. Ranging widely in content and form, what unites these poems is the uninhibited expression of a marginalized poetic voice; a decolonizing queerness that challenges the heteronormative as it defies the West's narrow definitions of queer poetics.
You could not simply peer down from above, nor would you want to--to enter Raúl Gòmez Jattin's image world is to be on earth with your own bursting, breaking heart. Through this act of translation by Katherine M. Hedeen and Olivia Lott, new readers can encounter not only 'loneliness and its causes, ' no, not only verses of exhaustion and devastation, but also, somehow, a 'whole wonderful life.' How sweet the sound. ALMOST OBSCENE assembles a queer companionship of rag doll children, papier-m'chÈ lovers, the Sin˙ River, and most of all poetry itself, a dangerous ceremony Gòmez Jattin chose to attend. I cannot wait to return over and over again to this open field, noisy with sorrow and joy, under constellations shaped by his divergent lines. 'Poetry and love did this to me, ' he writes, and poetry and love could do this to you, too, if you let them. Part manifesto, part self-portrait, this is a book of amazing grace in a maddening world. Gòmez Jattin's poems from the margins shift the very center. I am sheltered in the body of this work.--Oliver Baez Bendorf
After 82 years of the institutionalization of art and writing by the MFA, it is unsurprising that poets like Raúl Gòmez Jattin and artists like Lee Lozano--that is, mad, confrontational, libidinal, and ultimately resistant to becoming disciplined subjects of their respective cultural worlds--are being recovered. After all, such worlds now seem encompassing, total. But we should be careful not to narcissistically narrate their recoveries, as if they were some wild Dionysian strain--'I WAS LIKE WEED but they didn't smoke me'--brought in merely to refresh the sterile Apollonian greenhouse. On the contrary, they testify to economies and processes independent of the world and thus destabilize its tacit claims to omnipresence and omnipotence--'when we see each other you shoot me a quick 'how's life...' / As if I still had use for one'; 'The city dressed in lights waits for him and calls / The nice outfit will be dirty and ragged by morning.' ALMOST OBSCENE is an exciting addition to Colombian poetry in English and will help establish Gòmez Jattin as an important voice in 20th-century poetry.--Robert Fernandez
Poetry does not make us well, but it can make us honest, so honest that it cannot be ignored. Raúl Gòmez Jattin's new work in translation, ALMOST OBSCENE, is a timely reminder of this, that he was here, that systems of oppression can never fully extinguish. His poems turn our gaze back to the material reality of the disenfranchised, of the wretched, suggesting with their tender, rough music that in these conditions lay a certain creative liberation. Always to be at the edge, of the mind, of the imperialist project, makes writing, makes living, impossible, tragic, this we know. But it is also a raging against alienation, the opposite of it. Gòmez Jattin's poems are anything but alienated. They are completely aware in their madness, in their language of love, demanding we see what is happening. There is life in this, then, and we will all be closer to the truth of ourselves, we will all be better, for having read him.--Vanessa Jimenez Gabb
Poetry. Latinx Studies. LGBTQ+ Studies.