The Black Flower and Other Zapotec Poems
by Natalia Toledo
translated from from the Isthmus Zapotec and Spanish by Clare Sullivan
In her long poem addressed to T.S. Eliot, Natalia Toledo contemplates the “waste land” of linguistic death, in which her children, “homeless birds in the jungle of / forgetfulness,” will no longer speak Zapotec. This trilingual collection in Zapotec, Spanish, and English stakes a claim against such erasure through its exquisite evocations of the flora, fauna, and history of Toledo’s indigenous culture. Clare Sullivan’s meticulous translations, derived from closely comparing Toledo’s Spanish versions of her Zapotec originals, render this world accessible without condescending or domesticating, allowing the “humid magma” and olfactory richness of The Black Flower to flourish in English.