Sunday, February 03, 2008

All the bad poetry has gone together to vote republican/ Toda poesía mala se junta para votar republicano

Lately I've become interested (again) in the part languages play in keeping me sane: the idea that learning something new -- outside of oneself, disregarding of one, indifferent to one's downers, and yet changing and subject to human usage -- like language has gotten me through some rough spots. I am interested, currently and namely, in how translation works as language and idiom changes. Recently, Alex and I translated the work of Celia Fontán and Eduardo D'Anna, both Argentine, for an upcoming issue of Golden Handcuffs Review. In one of Fontán's poems, she writes about driving a car, about how her grandmother knew how and her own mother didn't. The Spanish version is already online, here. I debated a lot about this poem. I wanted to make it more than just another "I remember..." which has great resonance in English thanks to, above all, Joe Brainard.
My goal, rather than changing the work, was to "translate" the way Nicanor Parra views translation, namely, that translation is impossible and that the term "rewrite" would better describe translation. I don't know if I'd go as far as Parra in either execution and theory. My belief is between the meta and the trot, the literal and the temporal, the "how can I get the author's opinion and intention across to the reader while keeping it current" (ac/dc, not l'actualité). This latter decision, put bluntly, is tough.
Anyhoo, what get lost in some translations and endure in others are spots where the translator chooses to risk and grab from idiom, because idiom changes and slang becomes obsolete. Some words and mannerisms don't work. So, at the midnight hour, what matters is acquisition: language and how much access we have, what we're given wrapped in contemporary parlance, patois, pachuco.


I smoked AWP-grade pot
Configures sampler to compete
with mazelike
Of the better camp and most literary
verbal hits What rude people
are reading asking for money are you
experimenting someone?


Fumé mota marca AWP
Configurar el ejemplo para competir
con lo laberinto
De los mejores lelos, de grandes golpes
literarios, que leen
Las malcriadas, piden plata
¿experimentas con alguien?

1 comment:

richard lopez said...

odelay! tho i'm monolingual the nature of all writing i believe is translation or to use parra's phrase 'rewriting'. as a reader translation was/is still very important to my developing praxis as a writer and my sensibilities as a reader. i don't think it is poetry that gets lost in translation, rather that if we are lucky in our work we find that their might be many sorts of writing in a single piece.