Moving between the speech and silence of a woman struggling to speak freely, Ruth Behar embarks on a poetic voyage into her own vulnerability and the sacrifices of her exiled ancestors as she tries to understand love, loss, regret, and the things we keep and carry with us. Behar’s vivid renderings of wilted gardens, crashing waves, and firefly-lit nights recall the imagery of her inspiration, Dulce María Loynaz, who is often known as the Cuban Emily Dickinson. Presented in a beautiful bilingual English-Spanish edition—Behar serves as her own translator—Everything I Kept/Todo lo que guardé will haunt readers with the cries and whispers which illuminate the human spirit and the spectrum of emotions that make for a life and lives well-remembered.
About the Author
Ruth Behar is the Victor Haim Perera collegiate professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan.
“Presented in both English and Spanish, Behar’s lyric prose poems possess a deeply layered sensibility, with the deeper strata revealing multiple selves, influences, and, above all, ways to come to grips with loss, mortality, the space in human interaction where intentions are never fully knowable. . . .One might think that Behar simply explores the damaging impact of exile, but her focus is more complex, and her poetic montages show how self-reflection generates awakenings and turning points.” — World Literature in Review
“For Behar, the notion of home is fluid. It’s a series of translations between places, a constant yearning for an unfixed point in memory. . . .The prose poem form serves as an elegant container for Behar’s supple images and symbols.” — Stateside
“Poems in English and Spanish appear en face throughout the collection. Behar's family emigrated from Cuba when she was a child, and she grew up speaking Spanish at home. That sense of displacement, and her reconnection with Cuba, are themes that animate this collection. The poems are urgent; they often feel as if they have to be written. . . .Her poems are often shaped by the pleasure of metaphors, even if the meaning approaches the reader obliquely.” — Ann Arbor Observer
"Behar serves us her first book of poetry, aged like a fine bottle of rum, in a beautiful bilingual edition with illustrations by the Cuban artist Rolando Estévez. Everything I Kept/Todo lo que guardé evokes the friendships, failures, mishaps, and adventures of a poet who has traveled across continents, cultures, and eras. . . . Everything I Kept lingers long after we finish reading it, making a definitive space for itself in the panorama of contemporary Spanish-American poetry." — Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas
“Echoing the Chinese proverb by Lao-Tzu (A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step), this book is a journey and we are in Ruth Behar’s proverbial shoes. Her words—sometimes in whispers, sometimes in crying out—guide us though life’s emotional landscapes of longing, elation, anger, joy, fear, and acceptance. The full spectrum of emotions that makes a life, a life, embedded in vivid renderings of her physical, tangible landscapes: garden roses, crashing waves, rainy streets, and winter days warmed by cups of tea. Each poem is a step in that journey. Very conscious steps, pausing along the way to carefully consider every nuance through language that illuminates the spirit the way aphorisms and proverbs do, but with the tenderness and vulnerability of a poet like Ruth on her journey. A journey that ends—as all great journeys end—with a deeper understanding of the self and one’s place in the world.” — Richard Blanco, author of For All of Us, One Today and The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood
“With Everything I Kept, Ruth Behar inserts herself into the expanding canon of Cuban women’s writing, beyond any circumstantial divisions or geographic or emotional borders. Indebted to the most important women poets of Latin America and especially to Dulce María Loynaz, Ruth Behar takes poetry to the extremely subtle zones that form individuality. Over the course of this book she creates a unique lyrical discourse, expressing it at times in words and at times into silences, in which texts link up with other texts to form the history of a woman on a voyage across the waters. Here is the ocean, separating and mediating. And here is all the water, able to give new life to any harvest, clean away any grime, and even flood and bring down every dam. On a first reading, these poems seem aimed at a common story of love, but once the subtle rains and the storms of summer appear, a different story becomes perceptible, the story of a life marked by voyages toward the self, in which the other—the others—appear as the only possible extensions of the author’s poetry and of her life itself.” — Rolando Estévez, co-founder and editor of Ediciones Vigía and founder of Edicion El Fortín in Cuba
“An evocative collection of prose poems about loss and absence as well as hope and encounter filled with delicacy and beauty as well nostalgia for what we all leave behind. Ruth Behar’s extraordinary lyrical voice allows us to also find in ourselves what we thought lost. A thought-provoking and deeply intimate collection written with grace and fortitude.” — Marjorie Agosín, author of The Light of Desire/La Luz del Deseo
"Behar’s latest volume of poetry, Everything I Kept: Todo Lo Que Guardé, embodies her ongoing desire to present the duality of her history. . . . Behar’s work beautifully encapsulates the Cuban Jewish conundrum of shuffling between two distinct homelands." — Jewish Boston
"And this sense of fragility never leaves the poet, who makes of it a home. Perhaps this is precisely one of the things this book achieves by trading emphatic images for the contours of the ungraspable: memory, remembering things that are no longer here but that remain in everyday life —the telephone ringing while the poem insists on being written; the tree with its gift of indifference; the wine and candles of an anniversary celebration. The images of daily life, which vanish like smoke yet stay with us. In this sense, Everything I Kept lingers long after we finish reading it, making a definitive space for itself in the panorama of contemporary Spanish-American poetry." — Jesús Jambrina