Kenyon Review: After Rubén

A champion of contemporary Latinx poetry, Francisco Aragón returns with his third collection, After Rubén (Red Hen Press). A scholar, translator, and the son of Nicaraguan immigrants, Aragón draws inspiration from the life and work of Rubén Darío, building lyrics around responses to the latter’s legacy. The result is a brilliant hybridity, filled with erasures, riffs, and interpretations of the maestro’s lifework. Of especial import to Aragón is a romantic relationship between Nicaraguan hero Darío and Mexican poet Amado Nervo, which surfaced recently and elicited backlash from traditionalist academics caught off guard by the revelation. Aragón answers the rebuttals in a tender personal essay, “My Rubén,” and crafts lines of intimate authenticity, at once embracing a buried Nicaraguan literary heritage and extending that lineage to the United States. The collection also includes ten Darío poems in the original Spanish and copious notes that provide scholarly and artistic context. The book’s been ten years in the making, and it will enrapture generations of future readers.