In ‘Cadavers,’ his long poem on the desaparecidos – the disappeared victims of Argentina’s military dictatorship – Perlongher does not seek to return their presence or whereabouts to those unnamed, absent corpses, but to restore their corporeity to them. He does so by means of a poetic language that can be as coarse and funny as it is ornate, bringing together such disparate elements as Góngora’s Baroque and the neighborhood hair salon, Rubén Darío’s Modernismo and Argentine public elementary schools.
Legend has it that Perlongher wrote his poem on the interminable bus trip from Buenos Aires to São Paulo that would take him into exile from a regime that had paradoxically criminalized him not for his fierce political activism, but for his militant homosexuality. This gorgeous translation by Roberto Echavarren and Donald Wellman retraces Perlongher’s journey, and finally brings his great poem to an English-speaking audience. — EZEQUIEL ZAIDENWERG