Return to the Sea – Etnairis Rivera

seasideDay and post three of poetry week takes us all the way across the waters to Puerto Rico, unless you happen to be reading this from there, that is.

There’s no blurb for this one but whilst attempting to hunt one out on Amazon.com, I noticed that the one used paperback copy was going for $35 dollars.  Not bad considering I got mine for $4 whilst using Letizia’s fun method of poetry buying – which can be found here  – and seeing where the journey takes you.

Return to the Sea sets both Spanish and its English translation side by side on the page, which I find fascinating and although this is nothing unique in the world of poetry books my eyes were drawn over to the Spanish side frequently through curiosity many more time than my Rilke books ever have, perhaps because the language is easier on the eye and more familiar.

It is clear from the start that Rivera is fiercely strong in her patriotism and her writings are shot through with calls for independence and self determinism of the country she so clearly evokes with passion through the text.  The love shines through in many way from reminiscences to the impassioned defence of her people.

There is fury at the legacy left by the US military, after testing chemical and nuclear weapons on the island of Vieques (nicknamed La Isla Nena, usually translated as Little Girl Island, which somehow makes it worse) left thousands with serious health issues including Cancer.  Not only does Rivera demand justice but also exhibits a diligent need to cleanse the people and their land.

As you would expect island life gives rise to some familiar themes, the most obvious is the sea motif as giver, purifier and inspiration.  There is also the innate banding together in isolation and the mistrust of foreign intervention as it inevitably destroys the community and the paradise the island once upon a time was.

Flicking through the book again as I wrote this review, I thought some of the writing about the destruction wrought by the US bombs was a bit heavy-handed but then I took the time to properly research the whole affair and I see now why there is so much outrage and horror at those events.  Armed with a little more knowledge, I found the book to be an effective draw not only to highlighting the modern-day horrors subjected to a nation – which incidentally was not involved in any of the wars the weapons were being perfected for  – but also for the nature and humanity lost, now and throughout the ages of Puerto Rico.

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28 Replies to “Return to the Sea – Etnairis Rivera”

  1. From images of the sea to US bombs, this book sounds like it certainly offers a range of topics. It is a poetry book that I may just have to pick up soon (also using Letizia’s method). 😉

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    1. It is a good method, this book had the added bonus of being printed in Massachusetts which helped make my decision. I must say I am pleased with the quality of books that I am reading and writing about at the moment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And we love reading your reviews. I’ve found books through you that I had not ever heard of in the great sea of publishing. Here’s to books and friendship!

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  2. I love that you found it using my quirky method! It’s funny, but I’ve rarely gone wrong with this method. Bilingual editions are wonderful for poetry. I will have to pick this one up.

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        1. It is a little known fact (because I don’t tell people) but I do pick up books because I think they may appeal to one or more of the bloggers who follow me…the trick is to actually get down to reading them.

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  3. Isn’t a funny experience reading Spanish language poems in English? I found Neruda baffling when I first read him but now I can read Spanish, I can see exactly what he meant.
    Were there some beautiful moments in Rivera’s poems or was it just political in the main?

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    1. It was for a good part political but there were some lovely moments that captured island life. I have avoided Neruda for some reason but as GG Márquez was a fan it would be rude to put that particular poet off for too much longer. There was nothing confusing about Rivera’s poem, they were very to the point which helped though.

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        1. I haven’t, my film knowledge is either cheesy horror and 80’s films or the more obscurer films. I have been meaning to check this one out but so far I have been rubbish. Films that help me understand books are always most welcome though.

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  4. Letizia’s method of buying poetry is something I must try very soon! I often resort to a similar ‘pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey’ method when selecting the next book to read from my tottering heap of tomes. I enjoy protest poetry and often find it easier to empathise with than the ‘host of golden daffodils’ type.

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    1. I agree, something with a little more bite is always more intriguing. I think I will spend more time reading in the poetry section to make a worthwhile decision. It does feel like pot luck sometimes when buying certain types of book.

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  5. You do travel around in your writings, don’t you? Sounds like a fascinating if depressing read, fascinating because one always likes reading about new places, depressing because it describes something else the first world is guilty of.

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    1. I do love a good ramble through literature, it isn’t depressing though, it’s an angry polemic and rightly so but I never found it depressing.

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    1. I did have to look up the history of Puerto Rico myself and some of the words used but I like that, to have to read up on a place to fully appreciate what is being said. Challenges are always welcome with me, although Connect four gets me highly stressed and competitive.

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  6. How sad about the testing of weapons, and the destruction of habitats and cultures. It makes me think of the Greenpeace story of Amchitka, and how terrified Canadians on the west coast were. How pathetic that nuclear weapons were ever invented.
    I went to Puerto Rico once. It is beautiful and handsome simultaneously. The people are fabulously life loving. I didn’t want to leave, and when I returned home I wanted to go back (in spite of having to fly). I thought I would like to live there.
    Spanish is a beautiful language, and I think when I read poetry in Spanish that I understand it. Or, at least it feels right.
    Well, I’m enjoying poetry week! 😀

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    1. I would like to go, we islanders share a certain mentality and I would love to go and explore the culture and try out some bad Spanish as well. It must have been amazing if you braved the flying haha. Thanks for reading my friend, it feels good to have completed it.

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