Spring 2018, Volume 24

Pink by Zazil Collins

Review by Bill Neumire

Mexican poet Zazil Collins’ latest collection, PINK: Dance Poems, brings together her art, dance, and music influences in brief lyric forms complemented with graffiti images and Warhol’s shoe drawings. The poems, with translations by Ximena Atristrain on alternating pages, were selected by Don Cellini of Ofi Press from a larger collection. Ofi Press focuses on bringing contemporary Mexican poetry to a broader audience via collections available online. Collins, who is also a radio DJ, has a history of working with artists in other forms. She makes clear a wide range of influences, saying in an interview with Dylan Brennan of Numero Cinq, “New media has caused changes with regard to the way in which readers approach literature, and authors have adapted too; it’s something reciprocal. It’s not that new, really, either; since the avant-gardists there have been textual and discursive explorations, and those who believe that these experimentations, between literature, dance and visual arts, for example, have existed since the beginnings of civilization (...) The idea of collectivisation includes working in many fields; at least attempting to initiate dialogues; in this way, creating small mobilisations (this is my idea of activism).” Collins dedicates poems in this book to musicians Daniel Jodocy and Dalious Naujo, writers Clarice Lispector and Heather H. Thomas, artists Jackson Pollock, Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol. In the middle of the collection there’s a picture of Andy Warhol’s 1955 picture A la recherche du shoe perdu with a note below that reads, “Warhol featuring Shakespeare featuring Proust, A la recherche du shoe perdu (1955)” (20). This kind of multi-layered allusion is a tool that runs throughout the book as the poems gesture to classical figures such as Hephaestus and Marcus Aurelius, but also to modern artists, such as Leonard Cohen in the epigraph:

                  The poems don’t love us any more
                  They don’t want to love us
                  They don’t want to be poems.

Like poets and philosophers since the days of Plato’s Cave, Collins takes issue with reality, illusion, sincerity, and authenticity. But accessibility is important to the poet who has said of her books, “I prefer that they are within the reach of anyone, at any time. I think that creation is an act of surrender, and in an even deeper sense, an act of collectivization (...) I’ve uploaded nearly all my books to Google Books so that they can be looked up online.” She weaves phrases in the original Spanish into her English translations, and in the Spanish versions she places some phrases in English, forcing the flux and hybridity to remain a feature. Toward the end of most of these brief poems, she employs a colon followed by a few lines that form a contemporary effect functioning something like introducing the final couplet of a Shakespearean sonnet. This happens, for example, at the end of ‘Naujo Hotel,’ which reads, “: muera el mal gobierno, motherfuckers!” (12). Or here, the end of ‘Punk’:

                  Three marbles roll
                  In front of a gutter of abandoned factories
                  “I don’t want to lose my marbles!”
                  You shout
                  And gasp American Spirit
                  I press PLAY to the off-pitch
                  : it is the hour of the star
                  When rhythms stop we die

The function of color as an agreed upon illusion becomes an idea of “[p]ink oppression” (25) and a claim that “life stops / at a mirror” (25). And still later, “I pronounce you in what’s real” (30). Indeed, the word “PINK” appears as graffitti both as the cover image within the text. This excerpt appears in the title poem:

                  Alone, Pink, is a color.
                  In the beautiful company
                  of a rose,
                  is a flower.

                  Fernando del Paso (25)

This idea of color recurs, as in the white and silence in the opening poem, ‘Mathi’:

                  When tremors, like waves
                  Improvise over the notion of love
                  —or a shot of Coltrane at the Hudson
                  : White and silence are the present
                  Not now
                  Like a one-off principle
                  Inside a glass sphere
                  Ahora me siento fuerte cuando te abrazo

Though a brief selection, the poems in PINK are playful enough to include laughter during sex, political enough to be anti-government, artful enough to leave one with questions that can’t be answered, and musical enough to leave one with a resonating note. Hopefully, Ofi Press has garnered here a new readership for an original poet.




Bilingual poetry collection written by Mexican poet Zazil Collins.
Translated into English by Ximena Atristain.
Published by The Ofi Press in 2018: www.ofipress.com.