1. How did you start translating Daniel Lipara’s poetry? What drew you to it?
I met Daniel Lipara on a trip to Argentina in 2017, and I first read Otra vida, his debut, the year after. I was struck by its multiplicity and range: it’s both epic and intimate, earnest and funny; it’s autobiographical but polyphonic and intertextual, attaining a vast historical scope while remaining intensely contemporary in its manufacture. I think the very first thing that drew me to it, though, was how warm a book it is, how gentle and dignified and attuned to other people’s dignity. Another Life, which is one long poem in fifteen parts, follows the adolescent speaker as he travels from Buenos Aires to an ashram in India with his younger sister, aunt, and terminally ill mother. It’s an elegiac book, but it’s also wonder-struck and never ponderous; it looks clear-eyed at loss with a sense of curiosity and tenderness that shook me on first read and still moves me deeply now.
2. What are some of the main challenges you’ve encountered translating Freschi’s work?
Lipara’s work is directly informed by the Odyssey, and especially by Emily Wilson’s dazzling 2017 English translation, as well as by Alice Oswald’s Memorial, which is a poetic “excavation” of the Iliad. In Another Life, Lipara identifies the “characters” in his book with Homeric epithets (like “Liliana, lily blossom” in the excerpt published here); he transposes and restages (often sweetly, even comically) several Iliadic episodes as part of his own family chronicle; and he’s always both exploring and subverting the idea of the epic itself. So the poem is laced with all these other references and traditions, but the result is light-footed, humble, casual, even irreverent—it doesn’t come off as “dense” in the way I think we expect intensely intertextual writing to feel. I found this a really daunting duality to pull off in translation.
3. What are you reading right now?
At the moment I’m reading a novel with no connection at all to anything I’m writing or translating: Elif Batuman’s The Idiot. And I’m always trolling for poems, wherever I can find them, that stop me in my tracks in some way or other. Two recent drop-everything poems for me were “The Garden,” by Aria Aber, and “Almanac,” by Joanna Klink.
Robin Myers is a Mexico City-based translator and poet. Other forthcoming book-length translations include The Science of Departures by Adalber Salas Hernández (Kenning Editions), Copy by Dolores Dorantes (Wave Books), Salt Crystals by Cristina Bendek (Charco Press), and Tonight: The Great Earthquake by Leonardo Teja (PANK Books). She writes a monthly column on translation for Palette Poetry.
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.