Thursday, February 19th, 2015
One nice side benefit of the class I took last spring at la Universidad Desconocida was the chance to meet classmate Isabel Zapata. Today her "Canción de Cuna para Sonámbulos" is online at Limulus along with my translation. Check it out! A beautiful poem.
Monday, November 17th, 2014
— My friend, you are a barbarian. You paint as if one eye were on the moon and the other on Mars. I don't like your work; but you have made me weep. And tears are the blood of sincerity. Cool -- two publications in a row of Marta Aponte Alsina translations! A story I translated last year is included in the November issue of The Acentos Review -- 1955: Lavender Mist.
Thursday, October 16th, 2014
Marta Aponte Alsina's recent novellette Mr. Green is available on Kindle in Spanish; and now you can read the first few pages in my translation, at Tupelo Quarterly.
Saturday, March 8th, 2014
Mantener enteras las cosas
Soy la ausencia
en el campo.
A dondequiera que estoy
soy lo que falta.
divido el aire
entra el aire otra vez
para llenar los vacíos
que ha dejado mi cuerpo.
Tenemos todos motivos
para que se mantengan enteras las cosas.
from Funeral oration, at the death of Joaquín Pasos
by Carlos Martinez Rivas
tr. Jeremy Osner
The drum beat echoing across
the little parade ground,
as if we were at the funeral of some Hero:
that's how I'd like to begin. And just
as must be done, in these Rituals of Death, I'd like
to forget his death; to look to his life --
to the lives of all the heroes now extinguished,
heroes who just like him lit up the night down here --
for many is the young poet who has died in our time.
Across the centuries they call out and we hear
their voices blazing, their distant canticle --
from the depths of the night they call out and reply.
There's not so much that we can know of them: that they were young,
that their feet strode upon this earth. That they knew how to play some instrument.
That they felt the ocean breeze across their forehead,
and looked up to the hills. They loved some girl,
and scribbled all this down til late at night, and crossed lines out,
and one day died. And now their voices blaze in the night.
Saturday, February 15th, 2014
¿Recuerdas bien cuando nos encontramos
en Gomorra? Cuando aún no tenías barba --
y yo engrasaba el pelo, iluminada por el farol antes de
verte; éramos jóvenes y con esa juventud nos sonrojábamos
como frutas magulladas. ¿Nos interesó entonces
lo que pasara entre los vecinos
en la oscuridad?
Mientras nos nacía la primera hija
al lado del río Jordán, mientras
la rosada cabeza de la segunda
se esforzaba, saliendo de mi cuerpo
como promesa ¿nos preocupó
cómo usaran la lengua
O ¿cuáles grietas nuevas encontraran
para lamer el amor? o ¿cuál carne extraña
encontraran para empujar el placer? En llamarlo
entonces a uno sodomita,
sólo quisimos decir
Cuando nos mandaron los ángeles correr
de la ciudad, te acompañé;
pero eses ángeles sabían también
que mira la mujer siempre atrás.
Déjame así decirte, Lot,
cómo lucía tu ciudad en llamas
puesto que tú nunca te volviste para mirarla.
Los dedos pegajosos del azufre se arrastraban sobre la piel
de nuestros compatriotas. A pelo quemado apestaba
y a huevos rancios. Observé a los amigos sacando trozos
ardiendo de sus rostros. ¿Hay una forma
tan obscena de amar?
Cúbrete los ojos con fuerza,
hombre, hasta que veas las estrellas. Convéncete
de que miras el cielo.
Pues el hombre que es bastante débil para cerrar los ojos mientras
se castiga a los vecinos por la forma en que se aman merece a un dios
Todo esto te lo diría, Lot,
si no se me hubiera secado océano en la lengua.
En lugar de eso me quedaré aquí; mi cuerpo soplará
grano a grano de regreso a la tierra de Canaán
Voy a quedarme aquí
y te veré
Monday, February third, 2014
Here is a new practice of revision I have been using. I have a couple of notebooks full of rough drafts at this point in a mix of English and Spanish, only a small minority of which I have even read, let alone revised into actual written work. What I've been doing is to scan quickly until I find a passage I like, and then develop it by means of translation: among other things, translating a text forces you to figure out what the core meaning of it is. So in particular, when I'm translating my own rough work with an eye toward revising it, I'm free to modify expression, tone and meaning in the interests of conveying more accurately the underlying sense of the text -- which I may or may not have been well aware of while I was composing the thing.
I've had some good luck with this, including the last couple of poems I've posted. Here is a question: Can I (at least for as long as I have untouched raw material) make a daily practice of this? I would like to -- that would not necessarily mean a poem a day posted here, but hopefully a couple of poems a week anyways. Here is today's effort (no translation with this one, just revision in English):
by J Osner
It's just dusk now
and the headlights gleam at you
as his front wheels hit that bump
in the road
Purse your lips now,
furrow your brow
as you watch him pulling up
to the curb
the wheels rolling noiselessly
to a stop
Saturday, January 25th, 2014
My translation (current draft -- there are still a couple of constructions that I'm not 100% sure about to call this "final") of Karen Finneyfrock's astonishing What Lot's Wife Would Have Said (If She Wasn’t A Pillar of Salt):
Monday, January 20th, 2014
I have been translating two stories told in the first person recently -- "Power", by Javier Sáez de Ibarra (from Bulevar), is one that I did a pretty fast rough draft of several months ago and just recently revised -- it is narrated by a factory worker who is trying to project an unwanted level of intimacy with his titular co-worker; and "A few prosaic lines" by Marta Aponte (La casa de la loca) is the story (still not totally sure I have this straight) of the wife of a poet in a village outside of San Juan,
An interesting comparison between these two is how strongly I have to twist my sense of identity to say "I" like I mean it -- I find it quite easy to identify with the "I" in Power's "friend"'s story -- less so with the poet's wife on a personal level. With her I have a hard time finding a personal center; and yet the voice of this story is attractive to me as well. The story's climactic moment is a translation of Emily Dickinson being written onto the soles of her husband and son's shoes!
Tonight, when they walk into the club, my two men will be treading, without knowing it, on a few words stolen from the yankee poetess...
Saturday, December 14th, 2013
I was briefly in touch with Roberto Bolaño's literary agent over the idea of my publishing Teach me to dance... The answer as it turns out is unsurprisingly "No, the estate has other plans for his early poetry" -- oh well, it was fun anyway to have that contact.
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