In 2001, the president of Chile publicly acknowledged that many of the bodies of the people who had disappeared under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet would never be recovered. The victims had been flown up in planes and, after having their eyes gouged out, were ejected over the mountains and deserts of Chile or the Pacific Ocean. Raúl Zurita’s INRI (these are of course the letters nailed to the cross on which Jesus was crucified, identifying him as Jesus Christ, King of the Jews) is a visionary, prescient response to this atrocity, an agonized and deeply moving elegy for the dead in which the whole of Chile, with its snow-covered cordilleras, fields of wild flowers, empty spaces, and the sparkling sea beyond, is simultaneously transformed into the grave of its lost children and their living and risen body. This incantatory, prophetic work—prophetic in the same way that Jeremiah and Isaiah are prophetic, which is to say unapologetically political— is one of the great poems of our new century.
The essayist, poet, and translator William Rowe is Emeritus Professor of Poetics at Birkbeck College, University of London, and the author of several books on Latin American and British poetry.
Norma Cole is a poet, painter, and translator. Her most recent books of poetry include Fate News, Actualities, Where Shadows Will, and Win These Posters and Other Unrelated Prizes Inside. Her translations from French include Danielle Collobert’s It Then, Crosscut Universe: Writing on Writing from France and Jean Daive’s White Decimal. Cole lives and works in San Francisco.