Martin Farawell, Program Director, Poetry
Last week’s blog began an exploration of poetry in translation by listening to poet and translator Peter Cole. It discussed the sonic shape of a poem, and the challenge of translating that shape into another language.
This week, we hear Mexican poet Coral Bracho say, in her introduction to her poem “Agua de bordes lúbricos,”
“The images float. They escape. There is also another sense intertwined: That’s pleasure.”
Those of us not fluent in Spanish might take her comments as another hint for how to enter a poem in a foreign language. We know that to experience the pleasure of floating in water we must completely relax our bodies. Any tension would cause us to sink. So now, allow yourself to simply float in the aural flow of Bracho’s poem for the shear pleasure of it, and suspend any need for judgment or analysis.
Can you hear the sonic shape of waves in Bracho’s reading? Now listen for the waves cresting and falling in Forrest Gander’s reading of his translation, “Water’s Lubricious Edges.”
Water achieves its effects through accretion, repetition. Once immersed in Bracho’s poem, the images and sounds may affect us in much the same way. The images do “float” and “escape” within the rhythm of the poem, almost like objects floating in the sea. The aural and visual images in the poem seem to move as one.
As in the video of Peter Cole and Taha Muhammad Ali, this recording of a poet and translator reading the same poem, both in its original language and in translation, offers a unique opportunity. Through repeated hearings, a listener might become familiar enough with Bracho’s poem in English to hear the sense of it in Spanish. You might also obtain a copy of Firefly Under the Tongue: Selected Poems of Coral Bracho, translated by Forrest Gander, and read along in one language while listening in the other.
Visit the 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival Poet Pages for biographies of Coral Bracho and Forrest Gander. Be sure to return for upcoming Poetry Fridays, when we will feature many poets from past Dodge Poetry Festivals in the weeks ahead, including Martín Espada, Joy Harjo, Jane Hirshfield, Charles Simic, C. D. Wright and others.