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Translator’s note, notes for

The author’s allusive style means translation has to be interpretation. While we have tried to stay as close to the words of the original as possible, we have sometimes changed them in order to keep the sense.

An important part of the meaning in the poems is the rhythm, and we have tried to keep that — rhythm of sound and image — again, sometimes changing wording to do that.

These poems are meant to be collages of rhythmic images, not logical arguments or linear stories; interpreting to translate (see my first sentence) has not meant translating to iron out or to privilege a particular reading.

The poems are very intertextual. Part of what we’ve done in the translation is work to make the references a little more obvious to the reader. We think annotation would overpower / kill the poems but, for instance, “otro embuste” is from Sahagún. In another poem, we used Stevens’ “keener sounds” which isn’t in the original, but makes the text work the way the original does.



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Of interest

Diglossia: Vallejo and Verlaine

Ballón Aguirre’s curious text


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Sobre la poesía

This was a poem I wrote in 1981, that I liked then and still do, but that needs context to be comprehensible. At what point do poems expire, speaking only to their own age? At what point does a text that interests its writer become interesting to another? I never thought of this level of poem as something to publish, but others are less modest than I.


The Chancay face has a curved eye and stands
among cumbias and guayaberas
(imported and contraband)
in the crowds by the jukebox sounding
dreaming in bars the gods are silent
but they rise

As La Tapada stood with one veiled eye
among the flowers of a National Palace dream
(il faudrait du vert à cette place, dit-il)
Miss Peru wore Maybelline
no somos de aquí they said
the President lives abroad
and the eyeless face walks
backward down the road PERDÓNAME

Carnaval: a day to show your desire
–-Spanish costumes French style
me dijo, y me llevó hasta Estados Unidos, qué lindo–-
We’re proud Incas
only foreign investment will save Peru
no somos de aquí

The Chancay face with shaded eyes diffused
among a wig and satin cross
in the offices with the jukebox sounding
from lawn chairs we call them comfortably
name the gods our real selves
as though they were here

The Chancay face has shells as eyes and turns
among imported and smuggled the cumbias and guayaberas
counting small coins–
Curves his eye
on an embroidered girl
as though we were here
gone but we are here
Krugerrands in an offered hand unseen–-
fingers cut through the bone

Marzo 1981: SÍMBOLO DE PERUANIDAD era la eslogan de Petroperú y se citan canciones de Juan Gabriel, Blondie y Camilo Sesto que andaban en las radios. Se inspira en un poster que había para promover el turismo de culturas antiguas, que tenía una máscara de Chancay.


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Notes on that poem

…that I spent days translating when I should have been doing any number of things.

The post-human.
The critique of nationalist literary histories.
The attempt to locate origins in what has been lost.
The fact that that is the game nationalist literary histories play, appropriating those origins for the national project.
We are taught to identify with that appropriation.
The evidence of those origins — that we know are not the reified origin of national literary histories — are nonetheless all around us, and resist nationalist appropriation (Vallejo knew it, too).
The dislocated feeling of identifying with a landscape filled with signs of this unknowable and unrecuperable past.
Writing about these things now, in globalization and the end of the nation-state.
Ortega speaks of this poetry as “emanating from a wound in the Spanish language” but it is more properly a gap in [the Peruvian gestalt].
Roxosol, the title, refers to the sun in a Golden Age poem but also to the Incan sun.
Inkarrí is here that awareness of the older world, lost to us, but whose traces are still visible.
The speaker is a national subject dissolving.
The poem insists on place, situatedness, but outside the narration of nation. Consciousness of this place means moving beyond binaries like civilization and barbarism, present and past, but also human and non-human.

…I wonder if this has potential, or is good.


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Fernando de Herrera, Soneto X

Roxo sol, que con hacha luminosa
coloras el purpúreo y alto cielo,
¿hallaste tal belleza en todo el suelo,
qu’ iguale a mi serena Luz dichosa?

Aura suäve, blanda y amorosa,
que nos halagas con tu fresco buelo;
cuando se cubre del dorado velo
mi Luz, ¿tocaste trença más hermosa?

Luna, onor de la noche, ilustre coro
de las errantes lumbres y fixadas,
¿consideraste tales dos estrellas?

Sol puro, Aura, Luna, llamas d’ oro,
¿oístes vos mis penas nunca usadas?
¿vistes Luz más ingrata a mis querellas?

Also, did you remember that Garcilaso de la Vega died in 1536? He was 35 and died in battle, being a soldier.


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La liste

These are some things I may do to expand my health program:

Magic 10 yoga poses.

Givamukti yoga.

Tumeric with black pepper.

Reduce caffeine.


Swimming, push-ups, backbends, locust pose, squats.


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Les articles du jour

Union busting is democracy busting.

Inverted totalitarianism: contexts of the entrepreneurial university.

Nair on going actually radical.


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