Today we launch Poesía en acción, a new feature for the Action Books blog that aims to highlight Latin American and Spanish poetry in translation, which is to say, en acción: in a state of action.
Poesía en acción sees in translation the active motion of poetry: its solidarity, extension, refractions, life and afterlife and lifeblood, correspondence and devouring and admiration, unnation, unborder, trans/action not transaction.
On the 15th of every month, we will feature new work by today’s poet-translators trans/actioning across linguistic, spatial, and temporal borders. We want to widen the range of voices and poetries available in English translation and we want to inhabit translation as action, a space wherein poetries mutually actuate each other.
1. a thing done
“Translation as an anti-neocolonial mode can create other words. I call mine mirror words. Mirror words are meant to compel disobedience, resistance. Mirror words defy neocolonial borders, blockades. Now look at your words in a mirror. Translate, translate, translate. Did you? Do it again, do it.”
– Don Mee Choi, Sky Translation (2019)
2. the accomplishment of a thing usually over a period of time, in stages, or with the possibility of repetition
“all poetry is hostile to capitalism”
– John Wendell (1968), invented and (pseudo)translated by Argentine poet Juan Gelman. Translated by Erín Moure (2020).
“capitalism is the number one enemy of poetry”
– Juan Gelman (1971), interview with Mario Benedetti. My translation (2020).
“Poetry (in translation or not) doesn’t get along with capitalism”
– Katherine M. Hedeen (2019), one of Juan Gelman’s translators, in Asymptote.
3. the bringing about of an alteration by force or through a natural agency
“Art, Genre, Voice, Prophecy, Theatricality, Materials, the Bodies, Foreign Tongues, and Other Foreign Objects and Substances, if taken internally, may break apart societal forms.
‘In an emergency, break forms’”
– Action Books manifesto (2015-present)
4. the manner or method of performing
“For some time, the devouring jaws of these new barbarians have been chewing up and “ruining’ a cultural heritage that is ever more planetary. In relationship to this heritage, the barbarians’ eccentrifying and deconstructing attack acts with the marginal impetus of the carnivalesque desacralizing, profaning antitradition evoked by Bakhtin in counterpoint to the main road of Lukácsian epic positivism, to monologic literature, to the closed, univocal work. In contrast, the combinatory and ludic polyculturalism, the parodic transmutation of meanings and values, the open, multilingual hybridization are the devices responsible for the constant feeding and refeeding of this ‘baroquizing’ almagest: the carnivalized transcencycylopedia of the new barbarians, where everything can coexist with everything. They are the machinery that crushes the material of tradition, like the teeth of a tropical sugarmill, transforming stalks and husks into bagasse and juicy syrup”
– Haroldo de Campos, “Anthropophagous Reason” (1981). Odile Cisneros’s translation (2007)
5. an operating mechanism
“In the task of changing life and transforming society, the mechanical use of prescriptions failed to achieve anything because it was ultimately about a dialectical question: in a given moment and a given country, the means of struggle obey a necessity.
A necessity for action: for poetry…”
– “Why the Whale?” (1964). Third manifesto of the Venezuelan neo-avant-garde collective El Techo de la Ballena. My translation (2020).
This week’s Poesía en acción features include:
Olivia Lott curates Poesía en acción on the Action Books blog. She is the translator of Lucía Estrada’s Katabasis (forthcoming, Eulalia Books) and the co-translator of Soleida Ríos’s The Dirty Text (2018, Kenning Editions). She is ABD in Hispanic Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where she is writing her dissertation, “Radical Re/Turns: Translation and Revolution in Latin American Neo-Avant-Garde Poetics, 1959-1973.” Twitter: @oliviamlott
Poesía en acción is an Action Books blog feature for Latin American and Spanish poetry in translation and the translator micro-interview series. It was created by Katherine M. Hedeen and is currently curated and edited by Olivia Lott with web editing by Paul Cunningham.