PRINT December 2015


Chris Kraus

Cecilia Pavón’s poems are pure happiness, although they aren’t always about happiness, or about happy things. Living and working in Buenos Aires, she writes poems that are at once subtle, direct, and uncanny. Sometimes emotion erupts, but she keeps her eyes moving, scanning the room and the sidewalks, the faces of friends. Poetically, she seems a close cousin of Dorothea Lasky. Her poems in A Hotel with My Name (Scrambler Books) are like beach balls: primary colors in bright plastic strips, driven by winds and always aloft. Pavón founded the legendary Belleza y Felicidad storefront cultural center, small press, and gallery with her friend and sometime collaborator Fernanda Laguna in 1999, and these poems, written between 1998 and 2001, reflect that era’s intense alternative scene of artists and intellectuals marooned by the economic crisis, without losing their singularity. The book’s translator, Jacob Steinberg, recalls hearing Pavón read in Buenos Aires when he was nineteen. As he writes in his introduction, “Something in my soul stirred; I felt less alone.” Steinberg’s done a fabulous job of rendering her simple and feminine—not feminized—Spanish into compulsively readable English. The poems draw you in. As her friend the writer César Aira has noted, Pavón’s triumph is one of creating “a dream, just like reality.”

Chris Kraus is a writer and critic based in Los Angeles.