Mark Schafer ’85 is the translator for Before Saying Any of the Great Words: Selected Poems of David Huerta (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), a bilingual anthology of one of Mexico’s foremost living poets, David Huerta. The collection contains translations of 84 of Huerta’s poems selected from 12 of his 19 collections along with the original Spanish-language poems. The book is a powerful antidote to recent news coverage of Mexico that depicts the country as often violent and drug-ridden.
Huerta has been a central figure in two of the most influential poetic movements in late-20th-century Latin America—the neobaroque movement and that of postmodern language poetry. His imagery, intertextuality, and dense lyricism remain unparalleled in Mexican letters. In 2005 he was awarded the prestigious Xavier Villaurrutia Prize for his lifelong contributions to Mexican literature.
A graduate of Wesleyan’s College of Letters, Schafer has worked as a literary translator for 25 years. His career started with his senior year thesis, which he expanded and later published.
He edited and translated Before Saying Any of the Great Words with the support of a NEA translation fellowship. He also has received a variety of honors for his translations including grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Fund for Culture Mexico-USA, an NEA translation fellowship, and the Robert Fitzgerald Translations Prize. Translations in the Huerta anthology previously appeared in more than 15 literary journals, including American Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, BOMB Magazine, Massachusetts Review, Salamander, and Review: Latin American Literature and Arts.