It Must be a Misunderstanding, New Directions Publishers (forthcoming)

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It Must be a Misunderstanding

From the Introduction

I’ll never forget reading a passage written by Bruno Schulz in which his protagonist, a child named Joseph, is stalked and trapped against a hedgerow by a howling, vicious, black dog that Joseph realizes, at the last second, is not a dog at all but, he explains, just a “man, whom, by a simplifying metaphoric wholesale error, I had taken for a dog.”

Such dream logics are at work all through Coral Bracho’s most personal and emotionally expressive collection of poems, It Must Be a Misunderstanding, dedicated to her mother who died of complications from Alzheimer’s. But instead of Schulz’s characteristic atmosphere of anxiety and terror, Bracho finds tenderness, humor, grace, and even a kind of bravery in the interactions of personalities who encounter each other in a “Memory Care” facility which Bracho compares to a “kindergarten or asylum or abstract space.” In the parallel worlds of the residents, a wall might be perceived as a man in a stiff suit, shadows might be taken for realities, light might be apprehended as traces of motion, quiet is strafed with fragments of voices, and everything exists and doesn’t exist at the same time.

I chose to translate this whole book rather than another selected edition because, although composed of individual poems, It Must Be a Misunderstanding is really a deeply affecting book-length work whose force builds as the poems cycle through their sequences. The “plot” follows a general trajectory — from early to late Alzheimer’s— with non-judgmental affection and compassionate watchfulness. We come to know an opinionated, demonstrative elderly woman whose resilience, in the face of her dehiscent memory, becomes most clear in her adaptive strategies. The poems involve us in the mind’s bafflement and wonder, in its creative quick-change adjustments, and in the emotional drama that draws us across the widening linguistic gaps that reroute communication.