Content, Form, and a Streetcar

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               When considering a book, there are two features that likely come to mind. The first that we might think of while I am communicating this over the internet is the content of the book. The second feature that you might notice before hand is the material structures and formatting of the book.

               When I first grabbed Poems to Read on a Streetcar, I noticed its simplicity in material. The pages are made from some form of print paper, and the cover from cardstock. The entire book is bound by two staples. The color used on the cover is an off-white rather than attempting to catch a would-be-reader by using a colorful background to have it stound out from other books.

               The choices in material construction appear to reflect the content of the chapbook. When I had first opened the book in no particular place, I came across the poem “Verona.” True to its title, the content is written as if Girondo had been writing this poem while riding the streetcar: “A powdery rain makes the Plazza delle Erbe shine; it draws itself up into tiny speres that sail across the pavement and suddenly burst, for no reason” (13). While the extraction of meaning and beauty might be anything but simple, the phenomenological view from which observations are made is what is so simple.

               The format of Girondo’s chapbook mostly follows the theme of simplicity. Titles are given at the top, and verse appear in standard font. Where I presume Girondo wrote his poetry in English, the poems are printed side-by-side on different pages. However, there are some poems that I assume were originally written in Spanish. In such cases, the original Spanish appears on the left page, and Cleary’s English translation displays on the right page. While most of the formatting is simple, anyone flipping through the chapbook will be drawn to “Cantar de las ranas” or “Frog song” on pages 20 and 21 respectively.

Works Cited

Girondo, Oliverio. Poems to Read on a Streetcar. Translated by Heather Cleary. New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2014.

4 thoughts on “Content, Form, and a Streetcar”

  1. It’s interesting that you spoke of the simplicity of the chapbook because I had that be the theme of my post for the chapbook I had. Things you brought up like the off-white color and how the title and poems appear are also things I brought up, and while they’re from different publishers and mine wasn’t a translation, it’s fun to see how our posts were similar in that sense.

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  2. I am very impressed by the front of the chapbook as well. I think the simplicity of the physical chapbook itself is to be able to highlight the content in it. Not only does it have complex and innovative structural designs in many of its poems, but the simplicity also makes the reading less confusing. It also makes there be a larger focus on the effort there is in the translation of the poems and trying to maintain the consistency between the original language’s formatting and the translation’s formatting.

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    1. There’s really a cool contrast, then, between the non-linear, visual interest of Girondo’s poems and the simple ‘pamphlet’ form (which is absolutely a ‘street’ form of book at its heart).


  3. I think it is interesting how you note that this particular book is distinguished for its simplicity in material. In addition, I like how you describe this book in a very relatable way, stating that it is composed of printer paper and cardstock bound by just two staples. I also found it fascinating how you distinguish that the color used on the cover is an off-white rather than a catchy colorful background that would make it stand out from other books.

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