40 pp. • 1994
Translated from the Spanish by Jack Hirschman
A lyrical testament to the struggles and endurance of a peasantry in flight from the pillaging army; of its homelessness, its burns and scars; its terrors and above all, its deep refuge in nature amid a world continually uprooted.
Ambar Past has found a direct, in the sense of honest, way to describe the plight of the Guatemalan people. The Sea on its Side, in a lucid translation by Jack Hirschman and the Author, tells the sad story of the diaspora of the Mayan people inside their own land. The intimacy with which Ambar describes the forced exile reminds me of my own suffering leaving El Salvador.
Ambar Past, poet and alchemist, is the creator of the graphic arts collective Taller Leñateros (The Woodlanders’ Workshop) in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. She also participated in the formation of Sna Jolobil, a weaving cooperative for Mayan artisans, the Mayan writers collective Sna Jtz’ibajom, and is president of Libros Prehispánicos A.C. Past’s first writings were published in Tzotzil in the collective book Slo’il jchiltaktik (Autobiographies of Tzotzil Women), 1978, and Bon, a bilingual (Tzotzil-Spanish) manual for Mayans on natural dyes, 1980. Past has a number of books of poetry in Spanish, most recently Huracana. Her poems and stories have been published in anthologies and magazines in Spanish, English, Italian, Bosnian, Polish, German, French, and Japanese. In 2008, she was honored by the Japan Poet’s Club and invited to spend the month of December in Japan, offering lectures and poetry readings. For 30 years Ámbar Past has worked in the collecting, recording, and translation of Tzotzil ritual poetry, which appear in the bilingual anthologies, Conjuros y ebriedades(1998) Incantations by Mayan Women and a music CD-book, Disco de los Conjuros. She is the founder and director of La Jicara, a journal for art and literature.
Jack Hirschman is an American poet and social activist who has written more than 50 volumes of poetry and essays.