Much like the work of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, Atahualpa Yupanqui’s song lyrics are beloved as poetry, in addition to their role in music, and many have been published as such in a variety of editions. The works translated here are taken from two volumes: Guitarra, published in 1954, and Antología, published in 1973. The poems/lyrics themselves cover a wider span of time, with “Road of the Indian” written in 1928, when Yupanqui was 20 years old, and “The Heart and the Verse” written in 1970.
Yupanqui uses the word viday numerous times in his work. This word is a combination of Quechua and Spanish and literally means “my life,” but it is uttered as an interjection, a verbal sigh. When possible I have translated it, but there were instances when I felt it was better left untranslated.
– Maia Evrona
After four decades of writing in her adopted tongue, Argentine poet Silvia Baron Supervielle’s themes in Around the Void seem little changed, even if tinged more recently with a sense of impending mortality: always she finds herself at an existential precipice, with her mixed allegiances to her two languages as to her sense of place and belonging.
About her change of language, she explained in a 1997 interview with the translator: “It seemed to me that I would never be able to find the thread, to achieve some kind of wholeness, if I kept writing in Spanish. But something very strange happened to me. Suddenly I found a terrain where I recognized myself and which was mine, where it was so difficult finding the word and the language that I wrote very short poems, very pared down. That’s how I started to write these poems that are of such little means, I understood that this is exactly what I am, this sort of poverty of words, this fear of the language. I realized I had found something, a place that was mine. That poverty was like a mirror that was imposed on me. It wasn’t due to French, from which I also wanted to remain apart, but to that distance between the language and me, which resembled the distance I wanted to exist around me, on both sides, a distance that obliged me to pare things down. That’s how I became a writer in French. For me it was a discovery that has nothing to do with the idea of the past or the French language tradition.”
Though she has visited her native Buenos Aires with some regularity over the years, it wasn’t until 1997 that she returned as a writer–invited by the French embassy as a French writer who also spoke Spanish. And only in subsequent years has her work begun to appear in Spanish translation.
The following poems are the first two sections of Autour du vide (“Around the Void”), her eleventh book of poetry, made up of seven sections with ten poems each.
– Jason Weiss
The Brooklyn Rail welcomes you to our web-exclusive section InTranslation, where we feature unpublished translations of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and dramatic writing. Published since April 2007, InTranslation is a venue for outstanding work in translation and a resource for translators, authors, editors, and publishers seeking to collaborate.
We seek exceptional unpublished English translations from all languages.
Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry: Manuscripts of no longer than 20 pages (double-spaced).
Plays: Manuscripts of no longer than 30 pages (in left-justified format).