Selections from “Quixotica: Poems East of La Mancha”

From the preface:

To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, we asked contemporary poets to interpret the themes of Cervantes’s classic Don Quixote for Hong Kong and East Asia, in particular the tension between pragmatism and vision, the “real world” and dreams or, in the words of scholar Ilan Stavans, “between hope and fatalism, … idealism and materialism”, and to explore what this says about the nature of humanity and success.

We hope we have succeeded in having exposed a new generation of poets to a work that many have called the first “modern” novel, and that they and their readers find, in the word of Harold Bloom,


There are parts of yourself you will not know fully until you know, as well as you can, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

* * *

Quixotica: Poems East of La Mancha, Juan José Morales, Tammy Ho Lai-ming, David McKirdy, Germán Muñoz (eds) (Chameleon Press, July 2016)
Quixotica: Poems East of La Mancha, Juan José Morales, Tammy Ho Lai-ming, David McKirdy, Germán Muñoz (eds) (Chameleon Press, July 2016)

Introduction to Quixotica: Parable of Don Quixote

Ilan Stavans


Since nothing human lasts forever, Don Quixote, in his deathbed, briefly relapsed into Alonso Quijano before passing away of natural causes. Cervantes did this wishing (Second Part, LXXIV) to preclude the possibility of any author from falsely bringing the knight back to life.

“For me alone was Don Quixote born,” Cervantes announced, “and I for him; it was his to act, mine to write; we two together make but one.”

Yet no sooner did he see, shortly after, that Cervantes died too and was buried in a nameless pit, he set out in search of another adventure, first through the arid landscape of a declining Spain, then through the ascending colonial fortunes of what would become Mexico and Peru. He was immediately surprised by people dressing up in festivals like him and his squire Sancho Panza, thinking these were doubles—and doubles of doubles—created by the faked Tordesillesque writer; he met a prince whose simplicity and open-hearted goodness made others believe he was an idiot; he came across a bored housewife about who it was said that she was him in skirts and a pelado comedian speaking on behalf of the downtrodden; he read chapters about his odyssey purportedly forgotten by Cervantes; and he debated a French plagiarist whose claim to fame was to rewrite a portion (First Part, Chapter IX) in seventeenth-century Spanish that on the surface sounded archaic but was infused with symbolism.

Don Quixote was dumbfounded by an invention that projected shadows on a large white screen, which reminded him of Plato’s cave; by dancers on slippers fighting against windmills; by marionettes recreating Maese Pedro’s puppet show; by picture books and markets displaying enormous piñatas of his enchanted head.

Emphatically, he attempted to count a vast number of translations (“Flemish tapestries”) of his narrative into unimaginable languages but, fatigued, gave up the effort.

As is stated, little had he and Cervantes suspected, as the end drew near, that his fragile profile in the theater of La Mancha would become, in the future, as poetic as Sinbad’s haunts. And so Don Quixote winked: it was still his act, for thousands of others to write.

Time had given him gravitas: he no longer belonged to Cervantes; in fact, he, an inveterate reader and unredeemed impostor, belonged to no one and to everyone.

* * *

Dulcinea dreams of rescue

by Viki Holmes


Last night I dreamed all your poems

strung into narrative:

show trials and the kidnapping of a judge (me)

while you waited to teleport us with your

diamond ring. We escaped, of course,

the remnants of your perfect kiss

lingering for days after the convoluted

plot had subsided. Black masks

as we entered the castle:

masquerade cat burglars, nylons

to obscure vision. Mine was different,

they said, judges

are allowed

to see the route, certain privileges

ensue. Of course, it was a sign

but not for me:

the goat tied to the village post,

the trompe-l’œil, the prestige.

I found no

way out: the winding stairs,

smallest corner. How I

pelted my way

to you and your

diamond, up

on the balcony, the

waiting spaceship

far above.


We’d succeeded, of course,

eponymous heroes always

do. But mostly I remember

the certainty of how

your mouth met mine,

in a side street, like all

the knowledge in the world

that day had come and

rested on my open lips.

* * *


by Shirley Geok-Lin Lim


To be so close to

madness, unable

to sleep, to eat or

live, grief and sorrow

mere noise capable

of knowing nothing,

blank the love that throws

you down, foot on your

stolen heart, stiff neck,

no longer yours, you

no longer yours, blank

the space where self was,

close to madness, no

sickness so sick, no

damage so crippling.

And when you crawl out,

live, from love’s drowning,

you can not return

to its barren salts

ever, never, again.

* * *

Inter mission

by Ricardo M. de Ungria


You are homepage. App. A tumbler. Flicker.

A blog. Pinterest. Poker rankings.

Youtube. Instagram. Facebook. Community.

An ear of you, or a hoof in Google

page 3. And more pieces of you scattered

down the pages of a book that is no book.

Until I find I have spelled your name wrong,

and I laughed so hard I took in more air

than I could fart. So many names I have

now I cannot find myself anymore.

I search their books and new magics unfold.

Mischief fills the air, their dragons kill

thousands unseen. Death is thicker than grasslands

of mountains you’ve grazed in, easier done

than said. Someone ties his shoelace and is

gone with everyone at once into scraps.

The sun heals no more, the waters dry up

or nibble on land to hide from the heat.

On a bench by the boulevard a voice:

‘I remember the tree that stood behind her

as she stood facing the waters that led

to the island of sorcerers. A day

with a name to burn on one’s skin with iron.

Now only the tree remains, piling up

shadows of her whose darkness never ends.’

I look back but nothing there, only surf

tumbled on sand. We are finished, you and I,

and not finished. Electric towers and

lighthouses lurk with windmills and coal plants.

I have kept my arms and found you among

others running in circles behind that fence.

We have mountains to climb and rearrange.

We go forward up and down, round and round

until they tire and turn off this disorder

of cheap lights and music and we ride off

and burn a broken path of light amidst the wreck.