"Shake the flower,
root out song
in your house, Ipalnemoani,
Master of Herons.
"Perhaps with words
you will be pierced, broken
earth is all over with.
The brilliant Aztec poetic tradition would have all but vanished after the Spanish Conquest in 1521 without the friars who painstakingly transcribed and preserved the poems in the years that followed.
In this new edition of their translations, Edward Kissam and Michael Schmidttwo poets who spent formative years in Mexicogive us powerful echoes of the lyrical and philosophical songs; the songs of rejoicing, sorrow, ritual, and war; the laments made by Nezahualpilli and others as the end of their empire approached; and the epics of myth and legend.
Their introduction is a distilled account of the backgroundto the Aztec empire, its way of life, and its fall, including the role of poetry in Aztec life andhow the poems were preserved.
Michael Schmidt, poet, scholar, critic, and translator, is the founder-director of Carcanet Press and "PN Review." He studied at Harvard Universityand Wadham College, Oxford, before settling in England. He lives in Manchester.
Edward Kissam studied at Princeton University and Magdalen College, Oxford. He works at JBS International on a variety of applied research issues related to education in developing countries. He is the author (with David Griffith) of "Working Poor: Farmworkers in the United States." He lives in Oakland, California."