Volume 7, Issue 17, Spring 2012
David A. Colón
Deep Translation and Subversive Formalism
The Case of Salomón de la Selva’s Tropical Town, And Other Poems (1918)
Salomón de la Selva (1893-1959) was a Nicaraguan writer/activist who authored many books of verse in Spanish, but only one in English: Tropical
Town, And Other Poems (1918). Published in New York by John Lane–and regarded by Silvio Sirias as the first book of English verse published in the U.S.
by a Latin American–Tropical Town exhibits a curious dynamic of avantgarde impulse: radically subversive in invoking counter-politics resisting U.S. colonial transnationalism, yet tending toward inherited, traditional aesthetic forms of poetry meant to legitimize Selva’s Latin American identity with an impression of authority that contiguous Modernist experimental poetries could not. Through its sympathy for the U.S. immigrant’s nostalgia for homeland, coupled with express disapproval of U.S. international affairs, Tropical Town leaves a poetic record that challenges presuppositions about the integral relationships between ethos, aesthetics, and consciousness vis-à-vis assumed understandings of what constitutes radical poetry in the Modernist moment.