Donald Wellman

poet, editor, translator

Crossing Mexico: Diario Mexicano

Crossing Mexico embraces multiple perspectives: Mayan, mixed race, neo-colonial and others, not least of all my own, an Anglo-American from the north. I sought to write with a telling delicacy of precision and understanding. Multiplicities are at the heart of my poetry. I am many and my different selves both harmonize and jar with ambient environments, nomadic in crossing Mexico, on foot or by bus. The object is neither to blend or to shock but to allow differences their scope.

Expressivity in Modern Poetry


“Immanence and expressivity are Donald Wellman’s watchwords in this bold and exhilarating account of literary modernism and its legacies.”
— Peter Nicholls, literary scholar and critic


Expressivity in Modern Poetry explores three interrelated subjects. The first is a general exposition of the radical or deeply realistic aspects of the poetry and visual arts of the modem period. The focus is on the works of Ezra Pound as understood through a prism of postmodern thought. The second subject is the poetry and poetics of Charles Olson, a pivotal figure during the transition from modernism to postmodenism. The third subject is contemporary innovative poetry with special attention to transcultural, neobarroco, and language-centered aspects of composition. The grounding for this section is found in the works of William Carlos Williams, Aimé Césaire, and Jose Lezama Lima. A reversal of the relation between the center and periphery-decentering the New York-to-Paris vector-is crucial for understanding  the Caribbean as a seedbed for both innovative and identity-based poetics. Wellman’s purpose is to amplify the cultural importance of expressivity in a field where critical discussion is often dominated by constructivism and conceptualism. Expressivity in Modern Poetry offers a new reading of the relation between twentieth-century modernism and contemporary poetic practice.


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Reviews of Néstor Perlongher’s Cadavers


ANOTHER REVIEWéstor-perlongher

In their continual effort to bring some of the most interesting Latin American literature to the English-speaking world, Cardboard House Press releases yet another instance of powerful, important poetry with a political resonance. As it is customary in the publisher’s catalog, the slim book comes as a bilingual edition, translated accurately by Roberto Echevarren and Donald Wellman.

Vincent Moreno

Argentine writer Néstor Perlongher (1949-1992) was one of the major poets arising during the early 1980s, a time when the Argentine military “disappeared” thousands of people who opposed or seemed to oppose its dictatorship. Perlongher, a gay man, escaped to São Paulo, Brazil, where he graduated from the University of Campinas with a master’s degree in social anthropology and was appointed professor in 1985. He was the founder and an instrumental activist for the Frente de Liberación Homosexual (the Homosexual Liberation Front), one of the world’s first LGBT organizations. He died in São Paulo of AIDS in 1992.


Douglas Messerli, Hyperrallergic

Cardboard House Press has a reputation for both finely crafted books and exquisite translations from the Spanish, not to mention a team of editors that spans the globe. For an English-only poetry scholar, their editions are essential to an understanding of the Latin and South American landscape.


In their latest release, Cadavers (2018), translated by the Uruguayan poet, Roberto Echavarren and Donald Wellman, Néstor Perlongher (the Argentinian poet and anthropologist) immediately sets the tone for his long poem by creating a tapestry of geography, scene, and image via “clusters,” each containing only a handful of lines, cohered not only by the haunting refrain There Are Cadavers/Hay Cadáveres, but a fervent confrontation with the Argentine dictatorship of the 1970s.


Rosemarie Dombrowski, Angel City Review

The skeletons won’t be kept in the closet. They’re hidden everywhere, haunting everything: “Under the brush / In the scrub / Upon the bridges / In the canals / There Are Cadavers.” So begins Néstor Perlonger’s masterpiece Cadavers — newly released in a beautiful Spanish/English bilingual edition from Cardboard House Press, translated by Roberto Echavarren and Donald Wellman— a restless queer elegy for victims of Argentina’s Dirty War.


Noah Fields, Anomaly.


Every language has its cadavers, and it must come to terms with it—be it through art, politics or any other medium.

Serrgio Sarano, Asymptote

Essay Poems, now available



Essay Poems is Donald Wellman’s most ambitious volume of poetry to date.

The verses absorb everything including several languages besides English

(Spanish, Latin, German, French). His poetry evokes the universe seen from

the all-encompassing point of view of Borges’ Aleph. The center slips away.

There is no sense of personal identity. But someone emerges, with a liquid

body. Information, quotations agglomerate and turn around in a dancing vortex

propelled by a horror vacui. Allusions dart in every direction as the richness

of the text overwhelms the reader. – ROBERTO ECHAVARREN


Wellman is a wanderer, a wonderer, and well of knowledge, too. Probing,

disturbing, disorienting, and melancholic, these are erudite and emotional

essay-poem-collages. They loop and spin the reader in multiple directions

from the mucilaginous body to fishing with handline and hook, or searching

for a whisk in a Chinese store, a storm of stars, the throes of love, the self is

felt, reflected, distorted, and imagined. – ROS ZIMMERMANN


These serial poems point the reader toward unexpected affinities between text

and text, event and consequence, thought and being. Wellman’s enormous erudition

penetrates into the essence of what matters in life and in the life of the

mind. In the hands of a lesser poet, such an ambitious sweep would be doomed

to fail: Wellman triumphs. – CHRISTOPHER SAWYER-LAUCANNO


Wellman’s methodical chora, offering a unique philosophical-spiritual and

literary approach, is a marvelously intelligent translation “of false / and fictionalized

confessions,” beautifully wrought and suffused with a rueful gaiety

that will break your heart. “A passageway to a parallel world,” everything

one might fear and desire: dick, Zyklon B, resemblances, contiguities, and

causations “between thought and prayer” can be found herein, one of the

most compelling books you will ever read. – ANDREW LEVY


A finely crafted, bawdy, beautiful, heartrending and hilarious testament to

the poetic vocation. Who would have suspected that the dick–not the Lacanian

phallus but the humble dick, pink and shriveled, “wrapped in folds of

uncertainty,” that “moldy wad… wound with red rubber bands”–could be the

anchoring point of an elegiac mode? Only a poet of Wellman’s craft and erudition,

that ring in every phrase and every line. – BILL LAVENDER


The Virgin Mountain

The Virgin Mountain, Roberto Echavarren, trans. Don Wellman and Roberto Echavarren. Diálogos 2017.

In The Virgin Mountain, the great Uruguayan poet, novelist and essayist, Roberto Echavarren, continues his investigation of twenty-first century modernity, this time in the context of desire and the natural world. Drawing from theorists and philosophers like Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, as well as from his Latin American poetic forebears like Vallejo and Neruda, in this long poem Echavarren mines the depths of a mountain both natural and symbolic, following veins of desire which reside in basic human (and animal) impulses, sex and waste material fused into an erotic materiality from which the language arises. The Virgin Mountain represents the highest level of Echavarren’s accomplishment, as he continues the explorations of his art and its limits, always subject to violation and experiment. Echavarren, for many years Professor of Comparative Literature at New York University, is the author of more than twenty books of poetry and literary criticism on subjects including Latin American Literature, Surrealism, Neo-Baroque poetry, Russian and other European literatures, poetic and gender theory. He is a co-editor of Medusario: Muestra de Poesí­a Latinoamericana.

Recent news and publications

Albiach / Celan / Reading Across Languages (Annex 2017). Available from Small Press Distribution.

Echavarren’s The Espresso Between Sleep and .Waking, translated by the author and myself has been released by Card Board House 2016.

Neila, Evening Song: Last Poems of Yvan Goll has been released by Spuyten Duyvil  2016.

Roman Exercises is also a new release (Talisman House Publications, 2015).

Albiach / Celan: Reading Across Languages Released

Albiach / Celan : Reading Across Languages


Annex Press 2016, Donald Wellman’s new book of prose travels far : Antonio Gamoneda’s poetry, ‘Earth Ergon’ on the work of Derrida, his thoughts on translating Paul Celan, his musings on the art of translation, the work of French Poet Anne-Marie Albiach. This volume includes a new version of her poem : après cela, moi j’ai regardé’ translated by Wellman and Julian Kabza. Also included, a new work by Jean Daive, the author of ‘Under the Dome’ (Burning Deck Press). Daive’s reminiscence titled -‘Urgence et négation en réponse Anne-Marie Albiach et PaulCelan’ is, in part, an extension of his earlier work on Celan. “My desire is to erase boundaries,” says Wellman, and in many ways, this book is an exploration of how language can aid that project. Based in consideration of translation, Wellman’s musings pass through the lens of critical theory and continental philosophy, a lens that gathers diverse approaches and focuses them into a single, illuminating beam. At once erudite and intimate, autobiographical and analytical, Wellman effectively erases the distinction between text and translation, between writer and translator-and with a particularly graceful momentum that comes through in both his prose and his poetry.” – Cole Swenson. from Jean Daive : ” The life of Paul Celan is a perpetual struggle against death, against time, against language. The language too is directed, aimed, magnetized. It traces out a trajectory. The language stops at its limit: the Rilkean language of the first two books, the Mallarmean language of the third, then the language of research into Low German (Plattdeutsch), Dutch or Flemish the source of Yiddish. There are two clocks: the life clock, thus one of urgency, and that of the language, which travels from the northeast toward the north. The real watch: one worn on his wrist, he would later place on the night table

Statement on practice

My poetics stem from early studies of the works of Ezra Pound and Charles Olson. Before that I had concentrated on Anglo-Saxon and other archaic texts. I was spellbound by lyric poetry, especially in German, sometimes in French, as well as in English. I have taught “modernism” in the arts as well as in literature. I have been identified as a modernist in my own style. That style is imbued by pre-conscious emotions that surface during the act of composition. My grasp of imagery, as is the case with some painters, is haptic and even eidetic. Highly expressivist figures from Ernst Ludwig Kirchner to Francis Bacon lurk there. Textures awaken deep sensibilities. The visual grasp is seemingly complete and sure in an instant, as opposed to studied. This mode of engagement with the strange and the beautiful is processural and indeed rhizomatic. I place desires that originate with perception ahead of verbalized conceptions. The philosophy of Giles Deleuze and Félix Guattari corresponds in multiple ways with what I intimate here. Earlier I had sought an American pragmatism, Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James were my guides. Inevitably Thoreau kindled my sense of soul and nature and its beauty. I sought withdrawn and liminal spaces where my thinking and feeling were open to transformation. The primary refuge was an island off the coast of Maine. The effects of that love of nature remain visible on my pages. I think of my long poems as histories of such liminality and the transformations that have shaped my life. Much of my poetry employs narrative series, characterized by disjunctive gaps and overlays where the weaving of dissimilar strands is evident. Interleaved and episodic with emblematic lyrical clusters might be attributes of this method. It is a highly allusive method rich in its array of citations to works that have engaged me in the several languages that I read. Reading across languages and writing across languages catch me in preverbal webs that engage a mind seeking words for percepts and feelings. A proclivity for the careful and difficult work of translation follows and supports my poetics of translation. Poetry is a matter of verbalization where words or phrasings are entirely inadequate to the felt purpose, but yet the text bears traces of a pulse that ears and tongues and even fingers potentially share.

Derek Walcott

At my blog, Derek Walcott on Immanent Occasions.



Mental Excursions

Donald Wellman is a poet and translator. As editor of O.ARS, he produced a series of annual anthologies including Coherence (1981) and Translations: Experiments in Reading (1984). He has translated books of poetry by Antonio Gamoneda, Emilio Prados, Yvan Goll, and Roberto Echavarren. Albiach / Celan: Reading Across Languages is forthcoming (Spring 2017) from Annex Press. His Expressivity in Modern Poetry is forthcoming from Fairleigh Dickinson. His poetry, most often highly allusive serial compositions, has been described as trans-cultural and baroque. His collections include Roman Exercises (Talisman House, 2015), The Cranberry Island Series (Dos Madres, 2013), A North Atlantic Wall (Dos Madres, 2010), Prolog Pages (Ahadada, 2009), and Fields (Light and Dust, 1995). Here are some of my publiations.