On Juan B. Nina’s Use of Time in Poemas de Ocasiones

For my directed study I am focusing on bilingual poetry, so I’ve been reading books in English and Spanish. Juan B. Nina’s Poemas de Ocasiones is completely in Spanish from front cover to back cover, but what I found the most interesting was how Nina morphed time in his poems.

Well, let’s start with the title Poemas de Ocasiones, which translated to English is Poems of occasions. The word “occasions” is important here because it gives a sense of time to all the poems. For example, the poems are for a specific occasion. They are for a specific moment in time, but we don’t necessarily know the specific moment in time because the occasions are not specified. Whew, what a redundant sentence!

On page 14, the poem “He visto el tiempo deternerse,” which in English means “I have seen time stop,” or literally “I have seen time stop itself.” Speaking truthfully, that is exactly what it feels like to read each of Nina’s poems in this collection. Each poem is in an unspecified specific moment in time that it feels like time stops for the moment. Also, contradictory as well, it feels like each poem is happening all over time. For example, there are poems that seem to be happening in the present, others in the past, and the last two in the future.

Nina ends his collection with “Voces debajo de la tierra,” which means “Voices under the earth.” From the title, one might think that the poem is about dead people, and it might be. Pero quiero concentrarme en the last line of the poem, que es

“Pedro Gutiérrez sin hablar agitó sus pasos por la calle principal y hasta el día de hoy, viente cuatro de junio de dos mil cuarenta y siete que cumplo tres años no lo hemos vuelto a ver” (Nina 57).

“…From today’s date, 6/24/2047, it has been 103 years since we have seen him.” Even in the very last sentence of his collection, Nina is playing with a morphed sense of time. Nina writes the sentence in a way that it seems as if we are in the past, the present, and the future all at the same time. Which, side note, is one of the many things that Hispanic/Latino writers have always been good at, just look at the first sentence of One Hundred Years of Solitude. But, like I was saying, the date is very specific, 6/24/2047, but because of the way the sentence is written we are also thinking about 103 years ago, 6/24/1944. This shows a morphed sense of time because we are put in two different dates, possibly two generations, at the same time like a vanilla and chocolate swirl.

 

Thank you.

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