Quality translation

I’ve had some pretty neat projects this past year and a half in the world of literary translation. First, the publication of three poems from acclaimed Spanish poet Fernando Valverde’s 2004 book Razones para huir de una ciudad con frio, and most recently a short story (and winner of the 2010 Nuestra Palabra competition) by Cuban-Canadian Ihosvany Hernández González.

Here are the links:

Snow covered landscape

Elegy for the sea

Vocation and exploration

The man with a mission


As promised, I did write an article about my time at the ALTA (American Literary Translators Association) annual conference.  From meeting talented writers and translators all the way to performing my own nerve-racking poetry recitation, it was a rewarding experience. Anyway, if you want to know more check out the article on Diálogos online forum.

Here it is: my translation of Federico García Lorca’s “Your childhood in Menton” which first appeared in its original, in Poeta en Nueva York, published in 1942.

Enjoy, and comment! What does it make you feel?

Just as summer is winding down, things are getting busy here! I’ve had a few interesting projects on the go these past few weeks, and while unrelated, they will all culminate in an exciting trip to Bloomington, Indiana, where I’ll be attending the ALTA (American Literary Translators Association) Annual Conference from Oct. 16-19. These three days will be full – practically from sun up to sun down – with workshops and talks on all number of issues, problems, and joys of literary translation. I am admittedly nervous, the sort of pressure you feel at a high-quality all you can eat buffet, with a limited time period. I will not, alas, be able to attend all the workshops that I’d like to, and indeed, I will be well advised to study the program diligently.

I am new to literary translation and it will be an honour to learn from those more experienced than me.  With any luck, I might make some lasting professional connections in the process. In any event, expect an update when I get back telling all about my experiences and what I’ve learned!

This talk of literary translation brings me to the next update: one of my projects this past while has been to work on a translation of a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936), a famous and highly influential Spanish poet, who was murdered in 1936 by Franco’s forces for his being homosexual and for his supposed, but unconfirmed, political affiliations.

Because of their year of publication, all of Lorca’s poems are in the public domain, so I did not need to secure rights (as I did for my previous publication on Diálogos forum). I ended up choosing “Tu infancia en Mentón” which appeared in Lorca’s Poeta en Nueva York, published posthumously in 1942.

Martin Boyd, of Diálogos Intercultural Services, kindly agreed to publish my translation in his literary forum. After four drafts and countless emails, we have arrived at a version that we are both happy with. Translating something that has already been translated (in this case many times), has its difficulties. As the most recent translator, it is not recommended that you look at previous translations, so as not to taint your own interpretation/voice. Several theories exist on this, and I won’t get into it, but suffice it to say that at some point in the process it is good to look at other versions. I did so after my second draft. Are some parts of my translation identical to older versions? Of course! The contrary would be impossible as there are only so many ways to say any one thing. But it’s also amazing to see the differences in tone, style, word choice, and the more risky juggling of lines, between the various versions.

I am very happy to announce that this weekend “Your childhood in Menton” will appear on Dialogos online forum.

Keep your eyes open for it, and for more updates on my trip to Bloomington next month!

My translation of “La apariencia” by Spanish poet Fernando Valverde has now been published on Diálogos Online Forum. The original appeared in his third book of poetry Razones para huir de una ciudad con frío (Madrid, Visor libros, 2004). Please post your commentary on Dialogos or on this page, and stay posted for more on the literary front!

I’m excited to announce my first publication in the field of literary translation! This Friday my translation of a poem by young, critically acclaimed Spanish poet Fernando Valverde will appear on the Diálogos Online Forum (www.dialogos.ca/forum).

It is an honour to work with such a talented and accomplished poet as Fernando and to be the vehicle by which his art reaches the anglophone audience. Please check it out, comment on it! I look forward to your feedback and discussion.


What do Samuel Putnam, Mikhail Lozinsky, Constance Garnett, and Hitoshi Igarashi have in common? Have you heard of Cervantes’ Don Quixote de la Mancha, Dante’s Inferno, Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses? All works that have been widely translated and critically acclaimed, lauded as some of the greatest literary works of their time or of all time. Their translators and re-creators, however, have remained in obscurity (even in the tragic case of Igarashi’s murder).

On September 30th, the feast of St. Jerome (Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus [347-420AD]), who is famous for his translation of the Bible into Latin, we celebrate International translation day. It is not a call or a beg for fame or recognition on the part of translators; instead, it is an opportunity for deep gratitude toward all who have facilitated cultural exchange in its myriad forms.

Without these people, not only would our world be less known, less global, we would all be culturally impoverished, knowing nothing of the beauty resident in the minds of others. I am reminded of Ortega y Gasset, who suggested the impossibility of a perfect translation, yet who in the same breath proclaimed its necessity.

So on a personal note I would like to extend my gratitude and appreciation, especially to the translators who have allowed me to read works I would otherwise have been unable to read.
Thanks for your work and your creative abilities; you have made us all richer!