1. How did you start translating Nadia López García’s work? What drew you to it?
Gabriela Ramirez-Chavez: I translated four of Nadia López García’s poems for the forthcoming anthology Daughters of Latin America: An International Anthology of Latine Women (HarperCollins, 2023), edited by Sandra Guzmán. After sharing my drafts with Whitney, who loved the work, we decided to co-translate more of Nadia’s poetry. We’d been looking for a translation project to collaborate on and this was the perfect opportunity. Nadia is a young poet from Mexico who publishes her work bilingually in Tu’un Savi (Mixtec) and Spanish. Her work is getting a lot of attention and deserves a broader readership in English.
2. What are some of the main challenges you’ve encountered translating this work?
A main challenge, something we spend a lot of time on, is making sure that the final translation of a poem is cohesive and has a singular voice. This is a challenge all translators face, but it can be especially difficult when working collaboratively. Our co-translation process involves each of us creating a draft translation of a given poem. After that, we come together to discuss our choices, choosing lines or phrases from each of our drafts that we like or work better. So, it’s really this process of braiding together two versions into one.
It’s a fun challenge and the process is not always so 50-50. Sometimes, we find that our individual translations have a lot in common, but in other cases one of our individual translations is ‘stronger’ or works better, so we build off that one. For other poems, our individual translations serve more as a starting point, and we end up with a radically different final version.
Regardless of how we approach each poem, we consider it crucial to consult the author—another important collaborator—who provides additional context for the poems and generously answers our questions.
3. What are you reading right now?
GRC: Wendy Call’s translation of Irma Pineda, In the Belly of Night and Other Poems / En el vientre de la noche y otros poemas / Ndaani’ gueela’ ne xhupa diidxaguie’, a trilingual collection published by Mexico City’s Pluralia Ediciones (August 2022). The book features 48 gorgeous poems “draw[n] from Pineda’s early poetry collections, published in Isthmus Zapotec and Spanish between 2004 and 2008.” The best way to purchase it right now is on Wendy Call’s website.
Whitney Celeste DeVos: I had a great experience teaching In the Belly of Night to undergraduates this semester. Wendy and Irma gave a mesmerizing virtual trilingual reading for my class with live interpretation in English and Spanish. I’m also reading Harsha Walia’s Border & Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism.
Whitney Celeste DeVos is a translator and scholar specializing in literatures of the hemispheric Americas. Her current work focuses on lenguas originarias, the region’s autochthonous languages. A visiting assistant professor at Pitzer College and an NEA Translation Fellow, she divides her time between southern California and Mexico City.
Gabriela Ramirez-Chavez is a Seattle-based poet and translator born to Guatemalan immigrants. As a translator, she focuses on indigenous literatures of Latin America, especially from Mesoamerica. Her translations of Rosa Chávez (Maya K’iche’ and Kaqchikel), with whom she regularly collaborates, appear in Poetry, Asympote, and elsewhere.
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.