Against Atrocity is Margaret Randall's first large book of poems since Time's Language: Selected Poems 1959-2018, a major collection covering work from 30 of her books over a period of 60 years. This new book shows that this poet continues to be a relevant and inspiring voice in American letters. It is also a stellar example of contemporary, intelligent protest poetry by a significant writer. Long known and honored for her work throughout the Americas, she is also long admired in the LGBTQ community. Among numerous awards, Randall was awarded the Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett grant for writers victimized by political repression. In 2004 she was the first recipient of PEN New Mexico’s Dorothy Doyle Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing and Human Rights Activism. In 2017, she was only the second American to be awarded the prestigious Medal of Literary Merit by Literatura en el Bravo, Chihuahua, Mexico.
Nicaraguan poet Daisy Zamora writes: "These poems restore language to its authentic meaning, remind us of the power of words when expressing the truth, and the redeeming potential of poetry in these terrible times." These are indeed terrible times, ones in which we increasingly find ourselves looking to art and creativity to lift us from the unchecked violence, everyday frustration of deaf governance, and an out-of-control profit motive that too often seems to bury us in a dangerous sense of futility. Randall writes as insightfully about the plight of a single woman or child as she does about global warming or the mysteries of aging. In these poems we find more questions than answers, but they are the questions we must continue to ask ourselves in order for our humanity to survive.
Against Atrocity will also see publication this year, in completely bilingual format, by Aguacero in Buenos Aires, Argentina. And some of the poems are included in El lenguaje del tiempo, a book-length sampling of the poet's work coming out from El Angel Editor in Quito, Ecuador to coincide with that country's Poesía en paralelo cero (Poetry on the Equator), an important Latin American poetry festival. Randall's work is being published in Cuba, throughout South America, in Europe and Asia. She is someone who combines the intimate with the international, our small stories with the larger one that shapes us all.
Here are poems that pierce complacency's thick skin and provide a road map to agency and hope.
About the Author
Margaret Randall is a feminist poet, writer, photographer and social activist. She is the author of over 100 books. Born in New York City in 1936, she has lived for extended periods in Albuquerque, New York, Seville, Mexico City, Havana, and Managua. Shorter stays in Peru and North Vietnam were also formative. In the 1960s, with Sergio Mondragón she founded and co-edited El Corno Emplumado / The Plumed Horn, a bilingual literary journal which for eight years published some of the most dynamic and meaningful writing of an era. Robert Cohen took over when Mondragón left the publication in 1968. From 1984 through 1994 she taught at a number of U.S. universities.
Randall was privileged to live among New York’s abstract expressionists in the 1950s and early ’60s, participate in the Mexican student movement of 1968, share important years of the Cuban revolution (1969-1980), the first three years of Nicaragua’s Sandinista project (1980-1984), and visit North Vietnam during the heroic last months of the U.S. American war in that country (1974). Her four children—Gregory, Sarah, Ximena and Ana—have given her ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She has lived with her life companion, the painter and teacher Barbara Byers, for the past 33 years.
Upon her return to the United States from Nicaragua in 1984, Randall was ordered to be deported when the government invoked the 1952 McCarran-Walter Immigration and Nationality Act, judging opinions expressed in some of her books to be “against the good order and happiness of the United States.” The Center for Constitutional Rights defended Randall, and many writers and others joined in an almost five-year battle for reinstatement of citizenship. She won her case in 1989.
In 1990 Randall was awarded the Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett grant for writers victimized by political repression. In 2004 she was the first recipient of PEN New Mexico’s Dorothy Doyle Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing and Human Rights Activism.
Recent non-fiction books by Randall include To Change the World: My Life in Cuba (Rutgers University Press), More Than Things (University of Nebraska Press), Che On My Mind, and Haydée Santamaría, Cuban Revolutionary: She Led by Transgression (both from Duke University Press). Her most recent nonfiction works are Only the Road / Solo el Camino: Eight Decades of Cuban Poetry (Duke, 2016) and Exporting Revolution: Cuba’s Global Solidarity (Duke, 2017).
“The Unapologetic Life of Margaret Randall” is an hour-long documentary by Minneapolis filmmakers Lu Lippold and Pam Colby. It is distributed by Cinema Guild in New York City.
Randall’s most recent collections of poetry and photographs are Their Backs to the Sea (2009), My Town: A Memoir of Albuquerque, New Mexico (2010), As If the Empty Chair: Poems for the Disappeared / Como si la silla vacía: poemas para los desaparecidos (2011), Where Do We Go from Here? (2012), Daughter of Lady Jaguar Shark (2013), The Rhizome as a Field of Broken Bones (2013), About Little Charlie Lindbergh and other Poems (2014), Beneath a Trespass of Sorrow (2014), Bodies / Shields (2015), She Becomes Time (2016), and The Morning After: Poetry and Prose in a Post-Truth World (2017), all published by Wings Press. In October of 2017, she was awarded the prestigious Medal of Literary Merit by Literatura en el Bravo, Chihuahua, Mexico. Time’s Language: Selected Poems (1959-2018) was published by Wings Press in 2018.