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Shalini Rana

Translator’s Note: Orlando Mondragón

About a year ago, my friend from Spain introduced me to Orlando Mondragón (Mexico, 1993). These three poems come from his recent poetry collection, Cuadernos de patología humana (Human Pathology Notebooks). Mondragón, a doctor and poet, won the Loewe Prize for Poetry in 2021 for this collection. He became the first poet under thirty years old to receive this award.


In these poems, I’m struck by the patients and caregivers who share space together, the friend who diagnoses her own cancer, and the finality delivered by documents and machines. The observer looks unflinchingly at certain truths of the medical profession and asks us to boldly look, too. I’m reminded that finding intimacy in unexpected places is a courageous and even defiant act when facing the reality of death within institutions. In “VII,” I believe the speaker when they say, “It takes so little / to be a home.” Still, I feel the loss of something.


Orlando Mondragón said in an interview that “When we translate reality into literature, like translating literature, there is always something lost. One always betrays reality when one writes because it is impossible to go from such a broad system, without the five senses, to one—like language.” I hope these translations convey what is both lost and found in the precious span of a poem, and by contrast, a life.

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