Poetry at the Post: B is for Benedetti, or Reading Poetry in Alphabetical Order

Board of Directors*
by Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), as translated by Harry Morales

There is a dry cough
like from the cigarettes
then a murmured remark,
a chair being dragged
two yawns
the reading of the minutes
that foul smell

Hay una tos reseca
como de cigarrillo
un comentario murmurado

un arrastre de silla
dos bostezos
la lectura del acta anterior
esa peste.

A meeting of a board of directors of the Leipzig–Dresden Railway Company in 1852
A meeting of a board of directors of the Leipzig–Dresden Railway Company in 1852

If you have ever worked in an office, Benedetti’s office poems are for you. With titles such as “Salary,” “The New Guy”—”the new guy/arrives happily” and “the Christmas Bonus”—don’t we wish?—I wonder: How did he do it? Write about such mundane things and make the poems sing? Of course, there is more than the ordinary—there always is if the poem is good. With Benedetti, you get a view of Montevideo in the early 1950’s and a whole lot of social/political commentary. His stuff is good. Really good.

It’s time for the “Typist.” (Remember those saints who took care of all those things you have to do for yourself now?)


Montevideo quince de noviembre
de mil novecientos cincuenta y cinco
Montevideo era verde en mi infancia
absolutamente vrede y con travías

Mario Benedetti
Mario Benedetti

In a career of more than 60 years, Mr. Benedetti wrote more than 80 books, addressing subjects that range from love and middle-class frustration in Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital, to the pain of exile. (NY Times, May 19, 2009)

*From Only in the Meantime & Office Poems by Mario Benedetti, as translated by Harry Morales. Host Publications, 2006.

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