Early last spring, not long after I had come out to her as a trans woman, a Venezuelan friend I had studied literature with asked if I'd ever heard of Esdras Parra. Parra was a Venezuelan writer and she had written critically-lauded books before and after living openly as a trans woman in her home country, my friend told me. Since then I've tried reading as much of Parra's work and about her life as possible.
It's been difficult, though, because a great amount of the writing Parra did during her lifetime (she was born in 1939 and passed away from cancer in 2004), including translations, film and literary criticism, essays, and uncollected poetry seems all but impossible to access from outside Venezuela. I've hardly found any copies of her major works of fiction and poetry available for purchase here in the United States where I reside or anywhere online. However, a handful of copies of her books are held by some libraries scattered across the US and readers here may be able access them through interlibrary loan - not an easy matter for trans women who are unsafe in such public spaces or unable to get library cards under their chosen names, but it's something.
At last, I borrowed a copy of Parra's poetry book Este suelo secreto (1995), which I've translated in full and am offering to readers here as an ebook, bookended by my introduction to Parra's work and my translation of a "self-portrait" essay written by Parra in 1997.
This ebook spans over 216 pages in total, including 190 individual poems. I won't say much on Parra's poetry here, as its extended meditation on interior and physical landscapes - marked by recurring images like stepping forward through chasms, blossoming bones, the trembling foliage of plantain trees, a sky sculpted from stone, abandoned lakes, the city where a life smolders - defies efforts to be categorized or summarized, but samples of these translations can be read here at my blog.
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