Manuel Tzoc Bucup’s Queer Poetry

© Photography by Fabrizio Quemé

Introduction by Rita Palacios

Poems translated from Spanish by Paul Worley

Manuel Tzoc Bucup is a poet, visual, and performance artist from Iximulew (Guatemala). His work is intersectional, using poetic language and visual art to explore social realities, focusing on gender, identity, the body, origins, memory, language, image, object, sexual dissidence, and all possible combinations of these. He is self-taught, having learned through workshops, certificate programs, and readings of contemporary art and literature. In addition to self-published poetic objects, he has published a number of books in alternative presses, and his texts have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies throughout Abya Yala. Further, he has presented his visual art in galleries and contemporary art shows locally and internationally.

An example of “texts without borders” © Ediciones la Maleta Ilegal

He is one of the founders of Maleta Ilegal, a cartonera editorial, that is a small, independent and handmade publishing outfit that carries out limited print runs. He is well-known for his queer, erotic poetry and his poetic book objects, and recently he spearheaded the publication of one of the first queer poetry collections in Central America, Antología LGBTIQ+ Guatemala (e/X 2018). Tzoc’s overall approach to the edition and publication of his verses is informed by both the practical need to forego censorship and to ensure that his work is also experienced in a sensory manner. This also means that he shortens the distance between creator and public, lending his verses a physicality that they would otherwise lack as mere printed words. For the poet, the feel of the paper, the impact of the images, and the experience of handling the poetic object are all a part of the experience, and the reader is prompted to reflect on the fetishization of the book, and, ultimately, the word.

atómica (atomic) © Manuel Tzoc Bucup

His latest collection, Wuj (December 2019), recreates an epistolary experience of sorts. The poet-maker crafts a mere fifty copies of a loose-leaf poetic object, made out of richly textured paper, with font resembling typewritten text, all enclosed in an envelope that has been sealed. To obtain a copy, one must contact Tzoc directly, and its delivery is done by an international courier (Guatemala has no national postal system) or in-person (it should be noted that getting hold of a copy of Wuj has been impacted by the current global pandemic). The verses therein reflect on our relationship to social media (“Adiós Facebook! Cierro mi cuenta contigo ☹️” Goodbye Facebook! I’m closing my account with you ☹️) and the internet (“San Google cómo se encuentra tu espíritu cyborg en este momento?” Saint Google how is your cyborg spirit at this moment?); to writing and being read (“Ejercicios de escritura” Writing exercises, “A los lectores” To the readers, and “Wuj”); to Maya dress (“Kat Waj” I love you); and to urban life (“Memoriales urbanos” Urban memorials), to name a few. For this edition of Siwar Mayu, Tzoc presents us with unpublished verses that reflect on the current global pandemic: what it means to be alone, to face fear, illness, and death.

Wuj © Manuel Tzoc Bucup, 2019
Polen © Manuel Tzoc Bucup, 2014
Polen © Manuel Tzoc Bucup, 2014

Fresa y fracaso  © Manuel Tzoc Bucup

“Strawberries and Failure” © Paul Worley

A selection of 5 poems from an unpublished collection tentatively entitled, “Strawberries and Failure” by Manuel Tzoc. Written during the COVID-19 global pandemic for the electronic magazine Siwar Mayu, Guatemala 2020.

BULLSHIT OF OBLIVION

Looking at the things in my bathroom

I ask myself about the little bullshit in them

those cynical bodies of the future

washing themselves with unscented gel soap

Exactly boy

we are bodies with no future

THAT’S US

washing and dirtying our hearts, wanting

to write from the depths of the abyss

Rebuilding the crime of day-to-day life

hugging our favorite book

watering a red poppy

looking out at the oil infested water

hugging a dead body, still warm

caressing stray dogs

finally and at last

this is the bullshit of our happy years

The day’s crime section

full of domestic and work incidents

are we alone or do we feel alone?

the truth is always singular

I can’t speak for you, girl

I’m sorry

even if you hate me

I’ll disappear any minute

to rebuild the cursed history of our lives


STAR OF LONELINESS

Right now

you are the only thing that exists

Star of Loneliness

you’ll keep us company

these nights filled with guns fired into the air

nights of collective isolation

of bodies pursued and forgotten

of radiant and free flamingos

swimming in urban rivers

Nights of solitary mirrors

OF ME AGAINST MYSELF

Note: this was written on the first day of the stay at home order in Guatemala, the 22 of March 2020


CORN DOUGH

Chew on the memory

devour

the ear of corn toasted by the fire

living ash


WOUNDED GIRL

The world and its mundane dangers

is outside, hypochondriac girl

(it’s even inside)

waiting for you

calling you

you can’t keep traveling through the universe

on that treadmill

germs smile back at you from everything 

you are terrified of opening the door to go out

of touching your friends’ skin 

of penetrating your lovers’ flesh

The sharp corners of things threaten you

you’ve made a cave in your wounded heart

you fear the spores floating in front of your crazed eyes

breathe and feel the pure, infected air

breathe and feel and ask to be calmer

Walk and breathe deeply my hypochondriac friend

and everything will be fine!

Or maybe not

Or maybe not


SALT WATER

Everyone in this story will get hurt

with a dead body in tow

with a lover in the middle of the pandemic

healed

wounded

the same

private

sick

rejuvenated

bored to death

more alone than ever

more connected than ever

overworking ourselves virtually

or eternally waiting, resume in hand, for a reply

This story

this path

destiny

chance

bad or good luck

our daily walks on sidewalks of blood and green grass

films of memories and things we’ve forgotten

and salt water

always SALT WATER

anxiously awaiting

our defeated bodies

Sad boy’s body, Polen, Wuj, Atomic © Manuel Tzoc Bucup

For more about Manuel Tzoc

Latin American Literature Today: 4 Poems by Manuel Tzoc

Please follow this link, and enjoy four more of Tzoc’s poems. They cover a wide range of topics, written over many years. They speak to the complexity of the human existence, touching on everything from the inner child to medicinal plants and queerness.


VAGABOND CITY

For eight more moving poems by Tzoc, each steeped in emotion, please visit Vagabond City, a digital space which features “poetry, art, nonfiction, interviews, and reviews by marginalized creators.” (Vagabond City 2020)


Ediciones la Maleta Ilegal

Explore the galleries of Maleta Ilegal, learn about the philsophies behind “texts without borders,” and get to know the authors and artists. They support creators through their alternative publishing style, allowing for unedited and uncensored content. You can find more of Tzoc’s work there, including De Textos Insanos (From Insane Texts).