"A contact bomb, a volcano ready to erupt" describes not only Central America in the 1980s but—in the conception of its editors—this anthology of contraband poetry. The poems themselves were often copied by hand and smuggled onto Mexico, from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. In all those countries, except Nicaragua, this poetry is banned. The thirty-nine poets represented here give potent voice to the struggles of their peoples under the crushing oppression of life "under the volcano" in these war-stunned lands. Many of these women and men have been jailed, exiled, killed, or otherwise made to disappear.
"Still they survive in these faithful and sensitive translations by a new literary underground in North America.
"These are poems of war, exile, love and death. As such, they are about life lived at an extreme level of intensity. You will find no enchanting country scenes in this anthology, nor the travel-poster images of picturesque villages, pretty women and delicate folk-art. You will find the true reality that is hidden behind that facade; in other words, the guerrilla in the jungle, the years of bitter exile, the corpses of young people lining the early morning streets of Guatemala and El Salvador. There is the taste of total oppression that is Honduras–and the victorious insurrection of Nicaragua with its dreams for the future and its memories of those who fell along the arduous road. . . . This anthology is a statement of solidarity; it's bilingual because many for whom these poems are meant cannot read them in their own countries but will read them in the cities of their exile. This is an anthology of the most committed poetry there is. This is not an anthology at all, but a contact bomb, a volcano ready to erupt." —Alejandro Murguía, 1983, Introduction
Alejandro Murguía was born in California, but raised in Mexico City. His experiences as an international volunteer in the Nicaraguan Insurrection of 1979 are recounted in his second collection of short stories Southern Front (American Book Award,1991). He lives in San Francisco, where he teaches Latin American literature at San Francisco State University. He was named Poet Laureate of San Francisco in 2012.