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Vincent Spina: Dialogue

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Poet Vincent Spina has lived most of his life between two continents: North and South America. As one would suspect, therefore, there is a degree of “Spanglish” not only in the language of these poems but in the allusions to South American poets: namely, Cesar Vallejo and Pablo Neruda, but mostly Vallejo, much of whose poetry borders the line of what is possible to express in words and the inexpressible that waits just beyond. Juan Ramón Jiménez, a Spanish poet, asked in his poetry for the name of things (el nombre exacto de las cosas). And this exact name, the one we may never pronounce, is what Spina alludes to in these poems: the long name of things, the name that is born with us at our birth and grows as we grow and dies with us when we die. This is the name that defines us or indentifies us at our essence -- if there is an essence. There is another continent involved in these poems, too: Italy, the country of the poet’s grandparents, which he visited while working on this book. As Spina elaborates: “I grew up with ways of thinking that were not ‘wholly’ American but rather had leaked into my consciousness -- perhaps my conscience -- through other sources. The last part of the book deals with other sources and their meanings. For instance, the tarantella is not the folksy stereotypical dance with which an Italian American wedding ends. Its rhythm is hypnotic. Its purpose is to put the dancers into a trance in which rituals of life and death are reenacted: moments of love, of passion, of honor. Its name refers to a tarantula -- really a large spider -- because within the trance the dancers thrash around their arms and legs like those of a frenzied spider. Thus, my aim was to “de-stereotype” the dance and “reveal” its original “mystery”. Heidegger writes that for the Greeks, truth was revelation. Thus I wished in these poems to unveil certain truths about my people and about myself."

Vincent Spina was born in Brooklyn, New York. He received his Ph.D. from New York University in Latin American and Brazilian Literature, and is a Professor Emeritus of Modern Languages and Cultures at Clarion University, PA. His poems have appeared in various magazines over the years, and his first book of poetry, Outer Borough, was published in 2008. He is also the author of El Modo Epico en José María Arguedas, a study of the Peruvian author’s novels and their basis in the cosmology of the Andean people of Peru. His articles on Latin American writers have appeared in various magazines and anthologies.

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