Review of A Miniature Garden / Un Jardin en Miniature, Poems by Anna Lidia Vega Serova, photos by Gonzalo Vidal
Amaurea Press, 2021, hardback
The ‘Miniature Garden’, in this book of three extended poems by award-winning Cuban-Russian poet Anna Lidia Vega, is the one “we all carry within us, and plant wherever we find ourselves. No matter what surrounds us”, making it a kind of personal survival guide for times of crisis. Anna, born in Leningrad in 1968 to a Cuban father, has lived in Havana since the 1980s, and writes about her personal reflections on daily life, in particular about different kinds of love, but through a colourful magical realist lens. Photographer Gonzalo Vidal was exiled in Havana from Pinochet’s Chile in 1980 and has lived there ever since. His low key colour photos accompanying the poems look for the abstract in everyday surroundings.
The first poem ‘The Song of the Girophant’ introduces a mystical creature – an unknown, hybrid new thing. “Who decides from which water the girophant will drink, and in what land it will wake up?” suggesting Anna’s concept of being an immigrant.
The second piece, ‘The Return of Penelope’, is a kind of feminist love letter inspired by the Greek epic The Odyssey. Penelope is the wife of Odysseus (or Ulysses in Roman myth), king of Ithaca. She remains faithful to him while he goes off to wars, and waits for him to return. Anna’s Penelope starts off insisting “do not listen to any song other than my song… I have not left my window watching for your return” but ends up, unlike the Greek myth, going off travelling herself, drinking rum, ‘texting’ Odysseus “I will be a while, love,… there are other lives”. She becomes an active protagonist having her own adventures rather than passively waiting.
The third piece, ‘The Infinite Embrace’ explores ideas of potential being encased for protection but needing to break out to grow, like an egg, a seed, and how hugging something too hard could kill it.
With a fresh, magical and often passionate voice which avoids clichéd metaphors for the revolution, Ana’s work compels us to think, act, transform and love.
The poems are all in Spanish, accompanied by a beautiful translation into English by Jonathan Curry-Machado who owns Amaurea Press, for whom this book is the first publication.
Review appeared in CubaSi Spring 2021 magazine