In this South American epic, poet Claudia Prado imagines her ancestors’ nineteenth-century migration from the Basque Country into Argentina and, ultimately, southward into the oceanic desert. At its original publication in 2000, El interior de la ballena received Argentina’s National Fund for the Arts prize, helping usher in a poetics of Patagonia.

Prado’s poetry honors her homeland’s wide open desert and its ancient silences, offering a vision that braids intergenerational migrations into a chorus of monologues and intimate voices, all looking for home. Here speaks a woman who, against her will, is taken to that desert; here is revealed the thoughts of an orphan laborer; here, a chicken thief celebrates his sad prize.

In El interior de la ballena, Prado uses her page to privilege the often unseen and unheard, composing in silence as much as sound. When read together, the poems quilt a place, time, and lineage through a story of strong women, wounded and wounding men, and a rural and unforgiving landscape from which hardscrabble labor is the origin of survival.

El interior de la ballena | The belly of the whale is now rendered into English for the first time by award-winning poet and translator Rebecca Gayle Howell. In this completely bilingual edition, readers of either language can immerse themselves in Prado’s Patagonia, as well as this unique collaboration between Prado and Howell that begs us to ask if language itself is our endless migration.