In “An ABC of Translating Poetry,” Willis Barnstone says “Translation is the art of revelation. It makes the unknown known. The translator artist has the fever and craft to recognize, recreate, and reveal the work of the other artist. But even when famous at home, the work comes into an alien city as an orphan with no past to its readers. In rags, hand-me-downs, or dramatic black capes of glory, it is surprise, morning, a distinctive stranger. The orphan is Don Quijote de la Mancha in Chicago…A translation dwells in exile.”
Translation opens potential in the translation language, too. New possibilities for expression, new ways of seeing and hearing. In “The Task of the Translator”, Walter Benjamin observes that “the mother tongue of the translator is transformed as well.” He says “the basic error of the translator is that he preserves the state in which his own language happens to be instead of allowing his language to be powerfully affected by the foreign tongue.”
Literature must travel, and as it travels it transforms, like religion or technology or food. Tomatoes didn’t originate in Italy but who can imagine Italian cuisine without them? “Great poetry lives in a state of perpetual transformation, perpetual translation: the poem dies when it has no place to go,” wrote Eliot Weinberger in his compact classic, Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei.
These sentiments and ideas are touchstones in my own views of translation and writing, formed over many years of reading and writing and translating. As a teenager and young writer, much of the work I found most inspiring was in translation. Translations into English of Neruda and Vallejo, Mayakovsky and Rimbaud, were unspeakably exciting and inspiring. They were not only portals into other worlds but presented a toolbox for new ways of seeing and imagining, and innovative ways of writing in English. As a translator myself, I hope to provide that experience for other young writers.
I translate from Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese. Some of my literary translations from Spanish and Portuguese have been published in Rattapallax, Asymptote, Poetry, Subtroptics, Metamorphosis, A Piccioletta Barca, Antigonish, The Dodge, Puerto del Sol, and more. Over the past several years, I have been working on translating poems and prose of the Brazilian writer, Lêdo Ivo. My translations won the 2022 Poetry International Chapbook Prize for In Light of My Tropic of Water: Poems of Lêdo Ivo and will appear as a folio in the Summer 2023 issue.
Poetry August 2021: To Vermin (Aos roedores)
The Dodge January 2022: The Crows (Os corvos), Cockroach (A barata), Image of the Desert (Imagem do deserto)