The poems translated here come from Vitale’s 1980 collection, Garden of Silica, as well as her most recent work, uncollected as of yet in a single volume, but encompassing the section “Antepenúltimos,” [Second-to-Last] which opens her Poesía reunida (Tusquets, 2017). In the case of the former, the translations originally appeared in an anthology of her work we translated and published in 2010 with Salt Publishing (UK), also titled Garden of Silica. These have been thoroughly and completely revised. As for the latter, this is the first time they’ve appeared in English.
Tracing through Transparency
abundant with solid attempts
—trumpet, telegram, shreds of Girondo—
reserves sadness among its drupes.
Autumn forebodes transfer
wastes its splendid veils
on dark rituals.
hieroglyphic ashes persist.
Just love holding
you see the fire
the tallest barks
in the climbing gardens.
A warble, terse
Never mind if you are
on the summer stage
at the center of its defiance.
Far from its fires
you walk alone
among snowy statues,
along the stones of Charles
You see yourself walk,
watching how ice curdles
in short-lived islands,
it yokes at a point
far from here
between new shores.
Lightning is unspeakable.
Return then in the opposite direction,
reclaim uses and customs,
while you can.
But preserve in your blood
like a fish
the sweet clash of distance.
Everything is blue,
what isn’t green
—igne natura renovatur integra—
in this grave summer oil;
the one who weighs bird journey is falling
and curses the flightless bird,
verbal excrescence is falling =
soothsay = trophy,
jewel upon the same old skin.
Whoever sits at the shore of things
glows from things shoreless.
from Garden of Silica
The shockwave outside the poem or inside the poem, scarcely air held.
To read and then reread a phrase, a word, a face. Most of all, the faces.
To go over, to weigh what they silence.
Since you’re safe from nothing, try yourself to be something’s salvation.
Walk slow, see if time tempted follows suit.
Is vegetating so bad? Would you have to put down roots, with all the permanence that implies? Perhaps a pinch of sand is enough, but then it would be a cactus pushing through. Undeniably it would be better to find some good black soil for the experience, because not just any soil would be open to the adventure about to begin. Would just a few plantlets count? But no matter how willing you are, they just aren’t going to pop up anywhere unless you have a bit of root. And for that you need stillness. Sinking and stillness?
Translated by Katherine M. Hedeen and Víctor Rodríguez Núñez
Katherine M. Hedeen is a translator, literary critic, and essayist. A specialist in Latin American poetry, she has translated some of the most respected voices from the region. Her publications include book-length collections by Jorgenrique Adoum, Juan Bañuelos, Juan Calzadilla, Juan Gelman, Fayad Jamís, Hugo Mujica, José Emilio Pacheco, Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, and Ida Vitale, among many others. She is a recipient of two NEA Translation grants in the US and a PEN Translates award in the UK. She is the Associate Editor for Action Books and the Poetry in Translation Editor at the Kenyon Review. She resides in Ohio, where she is Professor of Spanish at Kenyon College. More information at: www.katherinemhedeen.com
Víctor Rodríguez Núñez (Havana, 1955) is one of Cuba’s most outstanding and celebrated contemporary writers, with over fifty collections of his poetry published throughout the world. He has been the recipient of major awards all over the Spanish-speaking region, including, in 2015, the coveted Loewe Prize. His selected poems have been translated into Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Macedonian, Serbian, and Swedish. He has been a riveting presence at the most important international literary festivals, having read in more than forty countries. In the last decade, his work has developed an enthusiastic readership in the US and the UK, where he has published seven book-length translations. He divides his time between Gambier, Ohio, where he is currently Professor of Spanish at Kenyon College, and Havana, Cuba. More information at: www.victorrodrigueznunez.com
In our twelfth issue, we pay homage to two giants of Latin American letters: Ida Vitale of Uruguay, winner of the 2018 Miguel de Cervantes Prize, and Julio Ramón Ribeyro of Peru, whose work we celebrate on the ninetieth anniversary of his birth. We also feature poetry, interviews, and stories that range from the Caribbean to the Andes and from Central American to Brazil, exclusive book previews and reflections from translators, and a special section dedicated to the work of Edwin Lucero Rinza, a young poet who recently published the first ever verse collection in Kañaris Quechua.