1. How did you start translating Julia Wong Kcomt’s poetry? What drew you to it?
These two poems are from Julia Wong Kcomt’s latest poetry collection, 18 poemas de fake love para Keanu Reeves, which was published as an ebook in early 2021 by Cascada de Palabras and is forthcoming as a print book in Peru. I read the collection right as it was being published because Julia had asked me to participate in its book launch event. As I was writing my presentation script, I found myself feeling especially drawn to these two poems, and I started translating them for fun. I think I was pulled in by their sharply peculiar imagery—one reason I love Julia’s poetry in general—as well as the challenges of trying to capture the sounds of “El Viudo” in translation. Later, Julia was preparing poems for the San Antonio Museum of Art’s “No Ocean Between Us” reading, and she asked if I wouldn’t mind translating these two poems from 18 poemas. I said, Aha! As it happens, those are precisely the two poem translations I have drafts for because I’ve been fiddling around with them. Coincidences like that bring me a lot of delight.
2. What are some of the main challenges you’ve encountered in translating this work?
There’s very strong assonance happening in these poems, especially “El Viudo,” which features internal assonant rhyme. It was an exciting challenge to come up with ways to echo that in my translation. I sent a draft of “The Widower” to my fellow translator Gabriela when we traded work, and it was such a pleasure to have another reader see everything the original poem offered and what I was trying to do in response. Her comments shored up my confidence in some of my choices and opened my eyes to new possibilities in other spots.
3. What are you reading right now?
Catcalling, by Lee Soho, translated by Soje; Distant Fathers, by Marina Jarre, translated by Ann Goldstein; Mirko Lauer’s Martín Adán anthology; and The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata, by Gina Apostol.
This week’s Poesía en acción feature also includes:
Jennifer Shyue is a translator focusing on contemporary Cuban and Asian-Peruvian writers. Her work has been supported by fellowships and grants from Cornell University’s Institute for Comparative Modernities, Fulbright, Princeton University, and the University of Iowa and has appeared in The Common online, New England Review, Words Without Borders, and elsewhere. Her translation of Vice-royal-ties by Julia Wong Kcomt is forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse’s Señal chapbook series. She can be found at shyue.co.
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.