Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Diary of a young mother

Is there anywhere in the world a child more lovely than my son? I will tell the whole world about my son and then they'll tell me that I am right to believe that he is the most beautiful, the most intelligent of all babies.

Today I put on him a scarlet suit that I had knitted from thick silk over many days; through many wakeful nights, and all were astonished, seeing my infant. I had walked down the Prado, where, when it's nice out, the mothers and the nannies walk with their babies, and I heard many people say, staring, "Such a beautiful baby!" And I wanted to shout after them: I am his mom! Don't walk away thinking, as sometimes happens, that I'm his sister or his aunt. This baby is mine, mine, mine.
And I say at such times, taking him from the arms of his nanny: "Come with your little mother, my treasure!"
Could there be anyone that doubts that I am the mother of this baby, so pretty, dressed in scarlet silk?

I laugh at the rich people that have gold and jeweled necklaces, that own enormous amounts of diamonds, of pearls, of rubies. That want to have worked silver plate and kill themselves buying [ ] and fine jewelry. If they all had sons like mine, they could be content. At times his father and I say:
"How much could we get for this baby? "
And we ask each other:
"Would you sell him for one, for two, for three million? Would you resign yourself to never seeing him again, to sell him to the Shah in Persia, if in exchange he'd give you all his sparkling treasure and you could be the richest person in the world?"
And as no quantity is high enough for me to decide to give up my son, I convince myself that there isn't in all the world a richer woman, given that I am the owner of this child, whose price can't be reached, even if we gained millions and millions.

I will be old when my son becomes a man. And when we go out to walk together, I will pretend to be hunchbacked, so that he will seem, at my side, to be more gallant. I will be a little old woman full of crafty tricks. I will learn to stumble once in a while, so that he can support me.
I'll have to feign exhaustion, so that he'll give me his arm, saying:
"You're tired, Mom?"
And the girls, who surely will all fall in love with him like fools, will say:
"That crippled old lady on the arm of this handsome elegant man - it's his mother."
And I'll walk on secretly swelled with pride!...

"What would you do," they asked me, "if a thief came to steal your baby?"
And I answered:
"I'd leap to put myself in front of the cradle to defend him. But first, pretending to be calm, I'd say, "Why would you want such a bad child, so ugly, such a crybaby? In that chest there's money and fine clothes. Take all that stuff, but leave me the infant, who can't be any use to you, and besides, I want him, sort of, since in the end, I'm his mother."
And the thief, believing this, would get busy looting the chest and would be convinced that this baby is awful, although he's the best baby in the world.

Oh yes! He is the best and most lovely and the most lively and most enthusiastic!
My baby only pays attention to the most beautiful and picturesque things; he reaches out his arms to embrace the moon, to touch the little black larks, the flag, red, blue, and white, of the French embassy, our neighbor, the flag that hangs on holidays right across from our balcony; he's desperate to grab the most beautiful flowers, the books of nursery rhymes with the prettiest, bright colored covers; he exults when we give him the gold head of his grandfather's cane, his father's watch, my necklaces and my kisses.
And every morning, on waking, with his sparkly brown eyes wide open, his curls all tangled, gurgling in a particular enchanting way, he wants to clutch in his little fists a ray of sunlight that comes in through a crack in the door and sinks, like a shining arrow, through the mosquito net that I, when I woke up, had tucked into both sides of his cradle.
(probably around 1918)

Thursday, October 30, 2003

More thoughts

talked with DJ about possible de Ibar projects this afternoon. I described a bunch of things I know about her and things I think are interesting. Borrowed a book called 1926, by Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht and as I am reading bits of it here in the cafeteria I am very excited by it. Just reading the first entry, "Airplanes", makes me think of Juana's poem "Las Olas" when the gulls become an airplane to carry her to tiss investigation into $300 million in missing funds [SMH]

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Using Foucault to consider Juana de América, the Statue

I am writing an essay on an event in 1929 in which Juana de Ibarbourou was given the name “Juana de América”. Poets and diplomats from twenty countries, the Uruguayan government, and thousands of citizens gathered in and around the Salón de los Pasos Perdidos in the Uruguayan capitol building. Juana, wearing white robes and a gilded replica of Minerva’s helmet, was consecrated and married - to America. The Uruguayan writer Juan Zorrilla de San Martín placed the nuptial ring on her finger. In a similar event in the same year in Havana, Cuba, the new Capitol building was opened, and an enormous gilded statue of “La República”, dressed as Minerva, was unveiled; it is still the third largest indoor monument in the world. As I think about these two events, Rodó’s statue of Ariel, and the poems of Juana de Ibarbourou in which she speaks in the voice of a statue, I have come up with a lot of questions that might be helpfully addressed by Foucault’s understanding of history and ways to “circumscribe the ‘locus’ of an event, the limits to its fluidity and the conditions of its emergence” (Discourse, 230). What was the (inter)national and literary discourse in 1929 that brought these ceremonies, these statuifications, to being? And why Juana Fernandez Morales?

Using Foucault’s methodology of the analysis of discourse, I would look at genealogical ideas of chance, discontinuity, and materiality; also at the ‘critical’ or reversal-principle ideas of exclusion, limitation and appropriation (231-232). In what discourse was Juana de Ibarbourou’s poetry considered a perfect expression of wisdom, art, and pan-americanism? When I ask, “Why Juana?” I would like to consider “Why not someone else ?” I consider the singular lack of politics or nationalism in her work: she was chosen in part because she was outside the boundaries of political, national, and literary discourse. Why was this special ceremony created, when normally a poet would be honored by literary prizes? I would like to look at biographical sketches of Juana, which always include references to this event, as material echos of the event, and the ways that the event froze her in time, defined and statuified her in the literary discouse of 20th century poetic history. In doing this I would look at the ways that the event is talked about, and try to supply some of the ways the event is not talked about.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

El fuerte lazo

Para ti.
Tálame. Mi acacia
Implora a tus manos su golpe de gracia.

Para ti.
Córtame. Mi lirio
Al nacer dudaba ser flor o ser cirio.

Para ti.
Bébeme. El crystal
Envidia lo claro de mi manantial.

Alas di
Por ti.
Cázame. Falena,
Rodeo tu llama de impaciencia llena.

Por ti sufriré.
¡Bendito sea el daño que tu amor me dé!
¡Bendita sea el hacha, bendita la red.
Y loadas sean tijeras y sed!

Sangre del costado
Manaré, mi amado.
¿Qué broche mas bello, qué joya más grata,
Que por ti una llaga color escarlata?

En vez de abalorios para mis cabellos,
Siete espinas largas hundiré entre ellos,
Y en vez de zarcillos pondré en mis orejas
Como dos rubíes dos ascuas bermejas.

Me verás reír
Viéndome sufrir.

Y tú llorarás
Y entonces… ¡más mío que nunca serás!

The tight knot

I grew
for you.
Chop me down. My acacia
begs for the merciful death-stroke from your hands.

I bloomed
for you.
Cut me. My lily
at its birth: flower? or clear, pure wax?

I flowed
for you.
Drink me. Crystal
envies the clarity of my stream.

Wings grew
for you.
Catch me. A moth,
I circle your flame, full of impatience.

I will suffer for you.
Blessed be the wound of love you give me!
Blessed be the hatchet, blessed the snare!
And praised be scissors, and thirst!

Blood will drip
from my side, my beloved.
What brooch more beautiful, what jewel finer,
then one scarlet wound made by you?

Instead of jeweled pins in my hair,
seven long thorns will pierce my head,
and instead of earrings, like two rubies
I'll fasten to my ears – two red hot coals.

You will see me laugh
as suffering enters me.

And you'll cry
and then… you'll be more mine than ever!
El fuerte lazo

Para ti.
Tálame. Mi acacia
Implora a tus manos su golpe de gracia.

Para ti.
Córtame. Mi lirio
Al nacer dudaba ser flor o ser cirio.

Para ti.
Bébeme. El crystal
Envidia lo claro de mi manantial.

Alas di
Por ti.
Cázame. Falena,
Rodeo tu llama de impaciencia llena.

Por ti sufriré.
¡Bendito sea el daño que tu amor me dé!
¡Bendita sea el hacha, bendita la red.
Y loadas sean tijeras y sed!

Sangre del costado
Manaré, mi amado.
¿Qué broche mas bello, qué joya más grata,
Que por ti una llaga color escarlata?

En vez de abalorios para mis cabellos,
Siete espinas largas hundiré entre ellos,
Y en vez de zarcillos pondré en mis orejas
Como dos rubíes dos ascuas bermejas.

Me verás reír
Viéndome sufrir.

Y tú llorarás
Y entonces… ¡más mío que nunca serás!

The tight knot

I grew
for you.
Chop me down. My acacia
begs for the merciful death-stroke from your hands.

I bloomed
for you.
Cut me. My lily
at its birth: flower? or clear, pure wax?

I flowed
for you.
Drink me. Crystal
envies the clarity of my stream.

Wings grew
for you.
Catch me. A moth,
I circle your flame, full of impatience.

I will suffer for you.
Blessed be the wound of love you give me!
Blessed be the hatchet, blessed the snare!
And praised be scissors, and thirst!

Blood will drip
from my side, my beloved.
What brooch more beautiful, what jewel finer,
then one scarlet wound made by you?

Instead of jeweled pins in my hair,
seven long thorns will pierce my head,
and instead of earrings, like two rubies
I'll fasten to my ears – two red hot coals.

You will see me laugh
as suffering enters me.

And you'll cry
and then… you'll be more mine than ever!

Wednesday, October 15, 2003


This is very handy: full text online of Rodó's Ariel. I also have the Margaret Sayers Peden translation.

Another useful thing: the preface to selected poems, by Sylvia Puentes de Oyenard. I need to find her address and write to her. Dr. Sylvia, please write to me if you see this page! And thank you for all that great information on Chocano.

Pronunciado el 10 de Agosto de 1929, cuando, en el Palacio Legislativo de Montevideo, Fué consagrada como



La impresión de este instante es demasiado profunda, para que me sea posible transformarla en palabras y en voz. En cambio, fácil os será a vosotros adivinar lo que significa este momento para mi corazón, que empieza a anegarse de sombra.

Nacemos con la esperanza de un día. A veces, es una esperanza casi secreta para nosotros mismos, que no nos atrevemos a mirarla cara a cara ni siquiera en el ensueño. Pero está en nuestro presentimiento para hacerse torrente o relámpago, cuando el Destino trace su señal o cuando Dios mismo diga ahora. Y en ese día, como en un haz vibrante se engavillan todas las emociones capaces de caber en una existencia entera. Sin embargo, yo no esperé nunca, no alenté, no busqué, no pedí a los dioses esta hora de premio máximo, que viene ella a la vida por la voluntad fraterna de un grupo de poetas y de amigos, que no han querido que me vaya de la juventud sin saber lo que es la generosidad del afecto desinteresado y puro, que hace nacer impulsos de esta índole; no ha querido que la tiniebla descienda sobre mí sin que se pose una vez siquiera sobre mis manos el reflejo de la claridad que forman las aureolas; no han querido que, a punto de que se me desmenuzases la confianza en todo bien humano, a fuerza de desaliento y de luchas amargas, me quedase desamparada de toda fe.

Les doy las gracias con la sensació del que encuentra de pronto una lámpara encendida en la noche impenetrable. Y contraigo, por este fragmento de tarde enriquecido de generosidad y afecto, el compromiso más grande para el porvenir: el de ganarme ante mí misma el derecho de este día que la adhesión de mis amigos ha transformado en mi día. El de recobrar con la esperanza el ánimo de crear y la ilusión del ensueño; el de recuperar la avidez nueva de creer en el sol y la erguidura del afán de t rabajo que se me estaba durmiendo en la voluntad aflojada y sin fuerzas de levantamiento. Gracias a todos, porque a todos deberé en el porvenir esa especie de resurrección que es la fe reconquistada.

El grupo de jóvenes poetas que ha deseado hacerme ver que no estoy sola en el camino - !yo, que soy un ser esencialmente organizado para la simpatía y el afecto! -, queda ligado para siempre a mi porvenir y a mi obra por el vínculo indestructible de esta hora de compensación inesperada.

!Gracias a ellos, y a todos los que han contribuído a darme este orgullo y este bien! Gracias a Alfonso Reyes, cuyo corazón es tan grande como su talento, y que me ha traído la voz de su México de maravillas. Gracias por todos los signos cordiales que me han llegado de todos los países de América. Gracias, en fin, a cuantos me rodean en esta hora, que es la más resplandeciente de mi vida.

Monday, October 13, 2003

El afilador

Este dolor heroico de hacerse para cada noche
Un nuevo par de alas…
¡Donde estarán las que ayer puso sobre mis hombres
El insomnio de la primera hora del alba!

Día, afilador de tijeras de oro,
Y puñales de acero, y espadas de hierro.
Anoche yo tenía dos alas
Y estuve cerca del cielo.
Pero esta manaña
Llegaste tú con tu flauta, tu piedra,
Tus doce cuchillos de plata.

Y lentamente me fuiste cortando las alas.

The knife-grinder

This epic pain of making, each night,
a new pair of wings…
Those wings I put on my shoulders yesterday
will become insomnia, at dawn’s first hour!

Day, sharpener of golden scissors,
and steel daggers, and iron swords.
Last night I had two wings
and was nearly in heaven.
But this morning
you came with your flute, your whetstone,
your twelve silver knives.

And slowly you started cutting off my wings.

From La rosa de los vientos, 1930

My dad told me that in caracas or maybe maracaibo there were guys who would indeed ride their bikes around town playing a litttle flute and advertising themselves as knife grinders.
Exposing process

Which in my case means exposing my abysmal ignorance. Here is what a "first draft" translation of mine looks like. As you can see, it is not like I read the poem in Spanish and even really understand it, the first time around. I try to go for the underlying meaning-possibilities and meaning alternatives and not worry at all about phrasing things nicely or elegantly. Sometimes I completely mistake the meaning of some basic phrase or do things like mix up the subject and object of a sentence. Or I don't realize something is in subjunctive future tense until I actually look up each verb in my 501 verbs. Doh!

La ronda

Una vez más ha semillado
El árbol espeso de la noche
En espigas de constelaciones
Y puñado de astros menores.

Una estrella,
El brillante de Aldebarám,
Me tira un cable invisible
Desde su atalaya sideral.

Lo afirmo en mi corazón y mis ojos
Para ascender por su escala
Cuando Èl se halle lejos
Y tenga hambre de verlo mi alma.

El sabrá
Que desde el lucero dorado de Aldebarán
Yo lo miro apartando los gajos de la noche
Y haciendo de mi angustia un reflector lunar.

Así, en la vigilia y en el sueño,
He de rondar en torno suyo,
Como una llama minima y fugitiva
O un pequeño resplandor inseguro.

The night-round [the night-watch]

One more time
the thick night-tree has fruited (grown) bloomed into
constellation spikes corn-ears of constellations
and plenty of lesser stars.

Again -
night’s thick-leaved tree
has grown constellation-fruits
and plenty of lesser stars.

One star,
the brilliant diamond Aldebaran,
throws me an invisible rope
from its astral watchtower.

I swear with heart and eyes
to climb his ladder
when he seems most far away
and my soul hungers to see him.

He will know [ I have trouble parsing this sentence - the "desde" mixes me up]
that I see the golden light of Aldebaran it when aldebaran’s golden light is
peeking through the night’s branches
(and making a moon mirror of my anguish). [lunar reflector from my anguish/heartache]

That’s how, awake and asleep,
Iíve made my rounds, watched in turn with him,
like a tiny fugitive flame [little, miniscule, miniature]
or a small, uncertain point of light. [brilliance, splendor, a small uncertain shining]

Prose sense of poem: The brilliant stars. Insomnia and heartache or longing for distant/absent/imaginary lover. Aldebaran - the brightest star -seems to beckon. She vows to
keep a sort of tryst with the star . Even if she is asleep she is aware of the star and it is aware of her. The star seems to reflect her pain and longing as she is a tiny echo of its splendor - as the moon shining reflects a distant sun. Is there a "him" and then the star or are they conflated???

I like the idea of "round" almost like the round of a song but also thinking of the round of night and day and the round of the stars. I think of a lonely watchtower or a lighthouse. But could abandon "round" for "night-watch". Standing watch/insomnia/ship images.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

I love the word "derramar".

I tried "the bee's four wings" and others and in fact varied it a bit in places as you can see. But I like the chant-like, oddly formal "the four wings of the bee", repeated.

I've read this translation out loud a bit and people like it a lot more than I thought they would. It is rough in places but there are also places where I just hit the sweet spot for lyrical translation into english. I could feel it.

The four wings of the bee

I've come back from our date with four bee-wings
pressed on my lips. Four bee-wings
gilded and red-hot.

Miracle like that of the beard of Dionysus,
The sweet-voiced god! The beard of Dionysus
that has four bee-wings instead of curls.

Your lips on my lips spill their honey
and the wings burst out. They spill their honey
and you have the sweetness of honeycomb on your skin.

Don't laugh. The four wings of the bee can't be seen
but they are felt on the mouth. The wings can't be seen,
but sometimes - amazing! - they buzz right into my head.

And yet still further inside. The sweet wings hum
right into my heart. The sweet wings hum
and free my soul of all anguish and care.

But if one day they stopped flying and buzzing...
If they turned to ash ... If it ceased, the hum
of wings that made my lips flower...

How sad death is! What lamenting black wings
then will bud forth! What black wings of grief
would replace the transparent wings of the bee!

Juana de Ibarbourou, 1919, Las lenguas de diamante

Los cuatro alas de abeja

He vuelto de la cita con cuatro alas de abejas
Prendidas en los labios. Cuatro alas de abejas
Doradas y bermejas.

Milagro como el de la barba de Dionisos,
El dios de acento dulce! La barba de Dionisos
Que tenía cuatro alas de abeja en vez de rizos.

Tus labios en mis labios derramaron su miel
Y brotaron las alas. Derramaron su miel
Y tuve las dulzuras de un panal en la piel.

No riáis. Las cuatro alas de abeja no se ven,
Mas las siento en la boca. Las alas no se ven,
Mas a veces, prodigio!, vibran hasta en mi sien.

Y más adentro a?n. Las dulces alas vibran
Hasta en mi corazón. Las dulces alas vibran
Y a mi alma de toda angustia y pena libran.

Mas si un día dejaran de alatear y zumbar...
Si se hicieran ceniza... Si cesara el zumbar
De las alas que hiciste en mis labios brotar...

Qué tristeza de muerte! Qué alas negras de queja
Brotarían entonces! Qué alas negras de queja
En lugar de las alas transparentes de abeja!

Juana de Ibarbourou, 1919, Las lenguas de diamante

Thursday, March 27, 2003

I give you my soul...

I give you my soul naked
like a statue - not even a scrap hides it.

Naked like the innocent flaunting
of a fruit, of a star or a flower;

of all those things that have the infinite
serenity of Eve before the fall.

All these things,
fruit, stars, and roses:

They don't feel ashamed of their unveiled sex,
And no one dares to sew them clothes.

Without veils, like the body of a serene goddess,
intensely lily-white!

Naked, and all open, wide open
from the desire to love!

Te doy mi alma...

Te doy mi alma desnuda,
Como estatua a la cual ningún cendal escuda.

Desnuda como el puro impudor
De un fruto, de una estrella o una flor;

De todas esas cosas que tienen la infinita
Serenidad de Eva antes de ser maldita.

De todas esas cosas,
Frutos, astros y rosas,

Que no sienten vergüenza del sexo sin celajes,
Y a quienes nadie osara fabricarles ropajes.

Sin velos, como el cuerpo de una diosa serena
que tuviera una intensa blancura de azucena!

Desnuda, y toda abierta de par en par
Por el ansia de amar!

-- 1919
Junk from the desk of...

I went and looked at these boxes of Juana de Ibarbourou's papers and they were pretty neat. No manuscripts of poems. Harvard has some of them.

There were photos of Juana, and of other writers who sent their pictures. There were about a hundred copies of that one photo of her with enough eyeliner to fuel a steam locomotive, and the ugly dress with puffy sleeves.

There were many letters from governments and diplomats and committees who were awarding her prizes. Some letters from other writers, which I would like to go back and read.

Also many fan letters from teenage girls. I particularly remember one from a Peruvian girl who must have been about 14, who said that she slept with Las lenguas de diamante under her pillow. I like to think of Juana de Ibarbourou laughing a little, but being touched and treasuring this letter for what it was worth, rather than rolling her eyes and saying something insulting about the sentimentality of adolescents.

The hour

Take me now while it's early
and because I have dahlia buds in my hands.

Take me now while my tumbling locks
are still shadow-black.

Now, while I have fragrant flesh
and clear eyes and skin like a rose.

Now, while I wear on my light feet
the living sandals of spring.

Now, while on my lips a smile chimes
like a bell struck suddenly.

Afterwards... Ah, I know
that what I have now, I won't have later!

That then your desire will be useless
as flowers on a tomb.

Take me now while it's early
and while I have plenty of lilies in my hands!

Today, not later. Before night falls
and the fresh petals wither.

Today, not tomorrow. Oh beloved, don't you see
that the morning-glory becomes the grave cypress?

-- from Las lenguas de diamante, 1919

¡Ay! That last line is driving me crazy! It's so not right! And I'm not even sure I have the meaning really right. Shelters? Nurtures? Harbors? Feeds? Nourishes? The idea I'm going for is that you might see the happy morning glory flowers, but under them is the cypress (tree they plant in cemeteries). But then it's not necessarily morning glories, but maybe some more sinister vine like kudzu or bindweed that covers everything with an appearance of vigorous growth, but that is temporary and will die off and become fertilizer for the cypress? Also, I think my Velazquez dictionary gave "convulvulus" for "enredadera", but I'm pretty sure most U.S.A.-ians don't know what a convulvulus is.

You can see how my mind works here. I have a lot of uncertainty, but in the long run, I just have to pick something - I have to choose a direction and run with the ball. I think even if I were perfectly fluent in Spanish, any poem has ambiguities or lines where the reader has to decide on the meaning.

Here, I could be just completely wrong. Long ago I decided not to let that stop me. Surely, if I am wrong, someone will eventually point it out to me, and I will feel very stupid for about 30 seconds, and then I will fix the error. Whenever I start to worry about looking stupid, I go and look at the "acknowledgements" section of some published book of translations, where the translator thanks about 2 pages worth of people who have helped.

And then I go look at this; and while it's fine, it definitely doesn't do her justice.

La hora

Tómame ahora que aun es temprano
Y que llevo dalias nuevas en la mano.

Tómame ahora que aun es sombría
Esta taciturna cabellera mía.

Ahora, que calza mi planta ligera
La sandalia viva de la primavera.

Ahora, que en mis labios repica la risa
Como una campana sacudida a prisa,

Después... ¡ah, yo sé
Que ya nada de eso más tarde tendré!

Que entonces inútil será tu deseo
Como ofrenda puesta sobre un mausoleo.

¡Tómame ahora que aun es temprano
Y que tengo reica de nardos la mano!

Hoy, y no más tarde. Antes que anochezca
Y se vuelva mustia la corola fresca.

Hoy, y no mañana. Oh amate, ¿no ves
Que la enredadera crecerá ciprés?

-- 1919
Naked wind

No sun, no rose, no sharp sword-grass,
no open door
in the deserted street.
The bold wind,
so alone.
The grey wind, naked
for sin or dream. in order to? Hmm.
The wind, cold and grim.
My lover or my master.

I shout:
"Don't touch me!"
And, roaring, it honors my cry.
Alas, my winter flowers!
Alas, the miserable nest,
untouched in the ailing
tree ravaged by cold!

Strong, rough, and naked,
the wind accompanies me,
Oh, bitter impure wind,
how you long to devour my insides!

My cruel naked wind!

Viento desnudo

Ni sol, ni rosa, ni espadaña aguda
ni puerta abierta
en la desierta calle.
Tan sólo el viento
El viento gris, desnudo
para un crimen o un sueño.
Mi amante o mi dueño.

Le grito:
- No me toques.
Y él respeta, rugiendo, mi alarido.
¡Ay, mis flores de invierno,
ay, el mísero nido
intacto, en el enfermo
árbol, que muerde el frío!

Fuerte, tosco y desnudo,
el viento me acompaña.
¡Oh viento amargo, impuro,
que quisiera comerme las entrañas!

Mi cruel viento desnudo...

From La pasajera 1967

Look up: espandaña. spear-grass? That makes me think too much of spearmint. I picture it as being like an iron plant.
Las olas

Si todas las gaviotas de esta orilla
Quisieran unir sus alas,
Y formar el avión o la barca
Que pudiesen llevarme hasta otras playas...

Bajo la noche enigmática y espesa
Viajaríamos rasando las aguas.
Con un grito de triunfo y de arribo
Mis gaviotas saludarían el alba.

De pie sobre la tierra desconocida
Yo tendería al nuevo sol las manos
Como si fueran dos alas recién nacidas.
¡Dos alas con las que habría de ascender
Hasta una nueva vida!

The waves

If they wanted to, all the gulls
on this beach could join their wings
to make an airplane - or a ship -
to carry me to some other shore...

Through the dense mystery of night
we'd venture, skittering over the water.
With a scream of triumph, my gull-ship
would alight on land and greet the dawn.

Walking on virgin soil
I'd hold out my hands to the rising sun
like two newborn wings.
Two wings, to lift me
to a new life!

From La Rosa de los vientos, 1930

I'm pretty pleased with this so far. The way I did the last two lines seems a bit bold, but I think I capture the spirit without having to say the same huge mouthful of syllables.

Speaking of syllables, I think each poem has its own rhythm, even when it's not in a formal meter. Rhythm can be a movement or a feeling and I don't think it has to be duplicated formally in order to get across a feeling. A rhythm in a Spanish line or sentence that seems grand, liquid and flowing, if duplicated exactly in English might just be wordy.

Besides, I'm not good at formal meter. So I'll do it my way, and the people who love to make a perfect sonnet can re-translate to their own satisfaction!
Words of a failed suicide to Death
-or how about- A failed suicide's letter to Death

For you I forsook plain bread, quiet milk,
the shadow-dog and the singing choir,
For you I forsook jasper and the sea-foam horse,
The wind's church-organ, the homely weed. [I dig those hyphenated made up words]

I forsook for you, more ochre than all misery,
my lightningflash of bees, flutes and fireflies,
and yet you, blind one, didn't want me in your valley
where your path leads each day.

To shut your dominion, stubborn and fierce,
to forbid me your apples, to break your bridges,
to see that I'm shipwrecked and to deny me your ship, **
to hear my bitter cry and not come to me!

To leave me like this, so eager and deluded,
without your amber arm hugging me to your shoulder,
while in the garden, this thunderstorm
breaks the flower stalks, makes singers hoarse.

To have a dry tongue, forked and burning
to answer the angelic prayers that you repulse,
and to become dark ice, when you could tell me,
in a dream, just one innocent word.

The sleep that still won't ripen in my nerves,
that won't lift its tranquil light to my brow,
that won't nestle its moon in my breast,
that won't show me the images of its blurry mirror. [this could be better]

You have left me lost, damned, mutilated, in disgrace,
with my sure step and full breath.
She of the rustling silks just doesn't want me now, [lively satin? spirited? hmm.]
and I don't have your sleeping lambs either. [huh? am I getting this wrong?]

Back in the dominion of the bitter sun, ['anew' sounds too archaic, 'again' is boring]
now I turn my back to you, and face the harsh plains,
face the badlands with their sterile salt grass,
their trampled reeds and useless summers. [or "useless harvests"]

**or To see that I'm homeless and deny me your haven,** [nave=ship or nave of church?]
She keeps switching from su to tu. Probably important but i didn't consider it. Must go back and re-consider everything. Death is female? Or no?

I think Juana would like my lush hyphenated made-up words. I see her use of language as daring and masterful (as I like to think I am - *blush* Oh, the arrogance comes out! ) And I just can't stand it when people translate some phrase from Spanish that has a lot of "X de Y" and they say "X of Y" when in English it would be so much more natural to say "Y X". Especially if the word combination is odd: imagistic or surreal, I end up hyphenating in a step towards neologism.

Then I had to say "church organ" (pipe organ?) because face it, in English if you just say the wind's organ, if you're dirty-minded like me, you start thinking of the wind with some sort of allegorical penis. Ew. NOT the right effect!

Palabras del frustrado suicida a la Muerte

Dejar por ti el pan claro, la leche sosegada,
El perro de la sombra y el corro de las voces;
Dejar por ti los jaspes y el caballo del agua,
Los órganos del viento, los vegetales roces.

Dejar por ti, más ocre que toda la miseria,
Mi fulgurar de abejas, de flautas y luciérnagas,
Y aún tú, la cegadora, no quererme en tu valle
Donde todos los días los caminos entregas.

Cerrarme tus dominios, arisca y enconada;
Vedarme tus manzanos, romper por mí tus puentes,
Ver que estoy desvalido y negarme tu nave.
Sentir mi acerbo grito y no hacerte presente.

Dejarme así anhelante y así alucinado,
Sin tu brazo de ámbar redondeándome el hombro,
Mientras en el jardín la tormenta del día
dobla los alhelíes y enronquece los coros.

Tener la seca lengua tajada y encendida
de contestar las voces del ángel que rechaza,
Y hacerte hielo oscuro, cuando puedes decirme
Para el sueño, la única, la inocente palabra.

El sueño que ya nunca en mis nervios madura
Ni levanta en mi frente su lucero tranquilo,
Ni acomoda en mi pec ho, recostada, su luna.
Ni me acerca su espejo de imágenes sin filo.

Me has dejado perdido, mutilado, en la mengua
De mi paso seguro y mi aliento completo.
La de los briosos rasos ya no me quiere ahora
Y no tengo tampoco tus dormidos corderos.

De nuevo en el dominio del sol amargo,
ya te vuelvo la espalda hacia los duros llanos,
Hacia las malas tierras de gramíneas estériles,
De juncos maltratados e inútiles veranos.

Juana de Ibarbourou, From "Perdida", 1950

I've been translating Juana de Ibarbourou for about a year and a half. I've got around 200 poems, some more or less done, but most "in progress".

My long term goal is to translate and publish her complete works, or at least a really big "selected works". I would like to see her manuscripts and read her personal letters too.

She seems to have gotten the short end of the stick from history, being left out of anthologies, not translated into English aside from about 6 or 7 poems in anthologies and magazines, and getting disparaged by critics in all the classic ways that Joanna Russ describes in How to Suppress Women's Writing.

Me, I just want to ride up on my white horse and fight that dragon for you, Juana.

I'll post my translations here, and maybe rough drafts with questions. Also notes from my readings on theories of translation.

I am hoping that readers will answer my questions on grammar or 'uruguayanismos' that I'm having trouble with! Also I'll confess right now that I am not fluent in Spanish at all. But I am a very good poet in English, and I think I have a soul congenial to Juana's, and the intuition necessary to understand the whole of a poem and of her work, and follow that understanding when I'm in doubt.

My dad has answered some questions for me, but what I need are some devoted readers and something like a thesis advisor.

I must note that I have no idea whether some of these are still under copyright. AGADU seems to own the rights or maybe they just act as a filter between the copyright owner and poor slobs like me. But I tried reading up on international copyright law and it seems like at least the older stuff from 1919-1930 should be public domain by now. It depends on whether you go by when it was first published, or by the death of the author. She died in 1979 so if it goes by death of author, I'll be dead myself before this work ever sees the light of day, because magazines want you to own the rights before they even consider your translations, and AGADU wants to squeeze hundreds of dollars per poem out of my gringa hide. And book publishers don't want to talk to me until I have some translations published in journals. Despite all this, I keep working on the translations because I love de Ibarbourou's poetry and think it's important that her voice be heard in English.

I'll add comments soon, but for now you can email me at lizzard@darkshire.org

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