Gustavo Perez Firmat


Gustavo Pérez Firmat teaches modern Spanish, Spanish-American, and Latino literature.His books of literary and cultural criticism include: A Cuban in Mayberry (2014); The Havana Habit (2010); Tongue Ties (2003); and Idle Fictions (1982; rev. ed. 1993). He has also published several collections of poetry in English and Spanish—The Last Exile (2016), Scar Tissue (2005); Bilingual Blues (1995); Equivocaciones (1989); Carolina Cuban (1987)—a novel, Anything but Love (2000); and a memoir, Next Year in Cuba (1995; Spanish version: El año que viene estamos en Cuba, 1997). He was a coeditor of the Norton Anthology of Latino Literature (2010). Next Year in Cuba was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in non-fiction; Life on the Hyphen was awarded the Eugene M. Kayden University Press National Book Award for 1994 and received Honorable Mention in the Modern Language Association’s Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize and the Latin American Studies Association’s Bryce Wood Book Award. Before coming to Columbia, Pérez Firmat taught at Duke University, where in 1997 he was named Scholar-Teacher of the Year, Duke’s highest award for teaching excellence. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Mellon Foundation. In 2004 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Source

Bilingual Blues

Soy un ajiaco de contradicciones. 

I have mixed feelings about everything. 

Name your tema, I'll hedge; 

name your cerca, I'll straddle it 

like a cubano. 


I have mixed feelings about everything. 

Soy un ajiaco de contradicciones. 

Vexed, hexed, complexed, 

hyphenated, oxygenated, illegally alienated, 

psycho soy, cantando voy: 

You say tomato, 

I say tu madre; 

You say potato, 

I say Pototo. 

Let's call the hole 

un hueco, the thing 

a cosa, and if the cosa goes into the hueco, 

consider yourself en casa, 

consider yourself part of the family. 


Soy un ajiaco de contradicciones, 

un puré de impurezas: 

a little square from Rubik's Cuba 

que nadie nunca acoplará. 






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The repetition of similar vowel sounds that takes place in two or more words in proximity to each other within a line; usually refers to the repetition of internal vowel sounds in words that do not end the same.

Internal Rhyme

A rhyme involving a word in the middle of a line and another at the end of the line or in the middle of the next.


the expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect


a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times

Slant Rhyme

A rhyme where the words have similar sounds in their stressed syllables.