Celestial Bodies

Karen I. Ocaña

A word-for-word translation renders Cuerpos Celestes as Celestial Bodies. These poems speak in many and varied ways to what it means to be embodied, psychologically and physically, and how this subjective and objective embodiment affects and modifies perception of other celestial bodies, eliciting all manner of emotion. These poems are inscribed at the fluctuating, overlapping and sometimes mystical hinge between physical existence and celestial being.

Cuerpos Celestes

by Gloria Macher

Gloria Macher’s first poetry collection, published by Verbum in 2021, is entitled Desplazamientos. « Cuerpos Celestes » was the working title. The literal translation of Desplazamientos is Displacements.

Foreword: translating like an author

To translate one has to understand, interpret and adapt a given text. This involves, necessarily and importantly, writing a new text. Translation involves authorship.  Readers of successful translations are reading literature.

As an author, the translator understands the original work well enough to transpose its art, and create a new work of art.

The new text is composed of a whole new set of signs and sounds, a complete new set of rhythms, as well as a brand set of meanings. This new body of graphemes, phonemes, lexemes, —signs, sounds and significations has to work in creative and harmonious ways, preserving and renewing the vibrancy of what this new body is simulating.

Translating is simulating, not copying.

A translator simulates the effects of the original by means of many and varied linguistic and literary operations, which draw on the translator’s understanding of poetry and philology, as well as other fields of knowledge, allowing the new text to come alive in its new language context.

As a poet translating Spanish poetry, my aim is to write new poems in English. Seeing how this comes about, there are moments of doubt, moments when one feels like a failure and many moments of wonderment and jubilation when the results go beyond one’s expectations.

It’s important not to shy away from inventing, innovating and supplementing, since these procedures can be what it takes to produce desired literary effects that go a long way to delivering a poem rivaling the original. It’s not a matter of surpassing an original, it’s a matter of writing the poem the original was made to be.

My translation of ten poems selected from Gloria Macher’s manuscript, Cuerpos Celestes, includes footnotes to give the reader a sense of my translation process. The notes engage with, address and comment on a variety of moments, challenges, difficulties and joys: lexical, philological, artistic, emotional, traductological (and more).  Hopefully, these notes, meditating as they do on the turning points in artistic production will give readers some idea of what went into the production of both Cuerpos Celestes, (published in 2021 as Desplazamientos) and Celestial Bodies.  This is not the final word, just a glimpse, a foreword.