Erin Moure’s & Oana Avasilichioaei’s ‘translations’

Here’s a little gathering of some notes on various books these two poets have brought over to English form various other places & poetries.

Andr’s Ajens. quase flanders, quase extremadura Erín Moure. translations from south to north with notes (La Mano Izquierdo 2008).

One of Moure’s ‘trans(e)lation’ works, ’14 poems & wombpoem: 3 papages & one a – part’ by Ajens, & Moure’s ‘troubled’ translations. It’s an interesting collection, fables fantastic & fragmented, & right up Moure’s road; & she seems to have carried his games-playing with form & language across from the Spanish to the English. I cant really say anything about the poems, but I enjoyed reading them, trying to get something from the originals despite not knowing the language, & finding the ‘translations’ abrupt, cutting, cute but also witty.

Chus Pato. Charenton (bushekbooks/shearsman 2007), trans Erin Mouré.

Pato says at the end that ‘I have a predilection for those constructions which investigate the possibility of a language-thinking that refuses to repeat the already-written and lives in contact-lamination with the seams of the unsayable, of what hasn’t yet been written into the corporeality of the poem.’ This volume of broken prose/narrative(s) lives up to this desire, as it approaches the boundaries between aesthetics & ethics eventually set up in the political undercurrents of the (many women’s) stories whose fragments are shown & alluded to throughout. Each part works its own event(ual)(ful) effects, & they eventually string together in a somewhat opaque manner. Shifts from drama to narrative to lecture to lyric cry, yet it all gathers in its own momentum. There are some singular comments, lines that sing or cry, but it’s finally the book, with its Galician politics as poetics, that counts. Pato is definitely the kind of poet Mouré can delight in (translating).

Nichita Stanescu. Occupational Sickness (BuschekBooks 2006). Trans. Oana Avasilichioaei.

Thought by many to be Romania’s greatest 20th C poet, Stanescu writes little, eccentric, & often appalling, fables of deceit, treachery, violence, usually directed at the self. There’s a kind of understated & ironic surrealism at work, as the speakers in the poems argue against the world through a series of material & body images & metaphors that call any sense of the normal into question. This is perhaps a very Eastern European kind of poetry, inextricable from the politics out of which it emerges, but I find it powerfully engaging in its near nihilism, its sardonic satire, its refusal to make up to anyone or any power. Avasilichioaei’s translation is tough in English, surehanded in its re/presentation of Stanescu’s tone.

Chus Pato. m-Talá (bushekbooks/shearsman 2009), trans Erin Mouré.

m-Talá, Moure says, ‘marked, in 2000, a further rupture, an invitation across a boundary. It is considered a turning point in Galician poetry.’ the title is not a word in Galician & is untranslatable. Moure goes on to talk about the book’s break with lyric, its refusal of a single subject (position), etc. Reading it in English translation, I necessarily cannot feel that sense of rupture in the poetic culture; it reminds me of both modernist & postmodernist poetic prose manifestoes but much more attuned to a feminist perspective, as well as one politically on edge coming from someone living in a peripheral part of Spain who was born during the dictatorship. There’s very little verse here; rather a range of partly parodied prose versions, in which a series of ‘figures’ speak, are interviewed, or are inscribed with new visions of who/what they have been. The range of intertexts or allusions is huge, & all are both honored & queried. Commentary on poetry rather than poetry, except it is. Averse to trad lyric verse, but aware of its power & out to undermine that too (especially as it seems so often male speech, patriarchal). The poetry is in the commentary, its treacherous depths; & there are a few pages of free verse presentations to remind us that we are to read it as poetry, not just commentary. The commentary is in the poem, but it isn’t the poem. There’s some real brilliance in many parts of this, & also some real food for post-modern, -colonial, -language, -etc. thinking: ‘but this is my language too / I can share this language’.

And the game(s) they played together:

Oana Avasilichioaei & Erin Mouré. Expeditions of a Chimaera (Book Thug 2009).

A fascinating, funny, & deliberately troubling collaboration (w/ a few other poets thrown in, not all necessarily ‘real’) exploring the impossibility/ possibilities of translation. The various sections take on poems by, or made up for, a Romanian poet, early Romanian poems by Celan, & various writings by the two ‘authors’ (as the whole question of identity & its pronouns is also queried/quarried throughout). That even as one (possible) poem is excavated, translated back & forth between languages, its variations often stunning, even beautiful, is an argument for (not against) translation as a poetic act, & one in which the whole concept of ‘originality’ (& the ‘original’) is tossed, airily, aside. Although the book is a kind of lark, it is also deeply serious, & a definite argument about the whole game of writing, translating, etc. Brilliant, as one might expect from these two.

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