Roberto Bolaņo's "The Romantic Dogs" consists of 44 poems written between 1980 and 1998.
The title poem is a cry of exile (although born in Chile, he was raised in Mexico and the United States):
I'd lost a country
but won a dream.
As long as I had that dream
nothing else mattered.
And the dream lived in the void of my spirit.
And sometimes I'd retreat inside myself
and visit the dream: a statue eternalized
in liquid thoughts,
a white worm writhing
A runaway love.
A dream within another dream.
All the remarkable pieces that make up this slim volume are dreams within dreams, produced by a fevered imagination but distilled into the calm, lapidary images of a master. Although everything he writes is serious in the best sense of that term, he never takes himself too seriously, is never pompous, never makes claims for exceptionalism. His grace notes can include a salutary deflation of the poet's special status.
From New Directions Publishing (ISBN: 0811218015), some works appeared in Harper's, The Nation, The Threepenny Review, The Believer, Boston Review, Poetry, Soft Targets, Tin House, Circumference, and A Public Space.
Reading these lovely poems, which do not shrink from harsh realities, makes one realize just how hard won Bolaņo's art was. All the pain, the tribulation, the difficulties forged his unique worldview and the art that expressed it. "The Romantic Dogs" is indeed the essential Bolaņo, reaching deep into his tortured soul and giving us the fruits of his agonized exploration.