For those who were unable to make it to the event in Atlanta, we'd like to make the same opportunity available to you by providing the videos of each reader, as well as the pamphlet of side-by-side translations which appear and can be downloaded here. Our first video is from Chilean poet Carlos Soto-Román.
I want to be able to present poetry that is difficult for people to understand, stuff they've never seen before because it's very far away from their way of thinking.
For the event we put together a whopping 73-page journal of side-by-side translations to provide each attendee, and we'd also like to make it available now for anyone who wants it.
Last month, we put together a little zine for a really cool festival in Atlanta called Atlanta Zine Fest. Since this year's theme was Girls in DIY, we thought we'd translate some of our favorite all-female, non-English-language poets and publish a text specially-made for the event. The booklet features translations from Spanish, French and Portuguese, showcasing authors from all over, including Angélica Liddell and María Mercromina (Spain), Esther García (Mexico), Laura Vasquez (France), Norah Lange and Olga Orozco (Argentina) & Marília Garcia (Brazil), not to mention super rad cover art by Lala Ferrero. Translated by the OOMPH editors from Buenos Aires and Rome, we somehow managed to get the text printed in Atlanta and hand-delivered to Laura Relyea at Vouched Books just in time for the Murmur-sponsored event (thanks Travis Broyles!)
If you didn't get a chance to pick up the zine at the festival, we've made it available online! You can read it below, or follow this link for a .PDF. Enjoy!
Gonzalez often draws the reader back to a vague or more direct sense of loss, through memory, nostalgia, or new kinds of spaciousness. Sometimes in his briefer pieces, enhanced by sparse punctuation, this space simply folds toward emptiness
Maybe the point of all the time we spend browsing the internet in a trance is to make us forget that what we really want is something to take us out of the boredom of life, so that when we find it, its newness and excitement are that much stronger. At least, that's what I felt when I came across Clarice Été's "every girl is dangerous." The poem had a rare sense of urgency, coherence, and power. Everything seemed so right that I wondered why this piece wasn't already a classic. I thought, "Everybody needs to read this."
Even a cursory glance at Estrada’s poetry reveals the main thematic preoccupations that characterize her work: the night, women, fire, magic, and the written word.
Fuegos nocturnos was published when Lucía Estrada was 17 years old. Since then, she has emerged as one of the most celebrated contemporary female poets in Colombia.
If you walk toward the northwest corner of Plaza Miserere, in the center of Once, one of Buenos Aires' more neglected neighborhoods, you come across a smaller plaza, filled with photos, flowers, statues of the virgin mary, shoes hung from clotheslines, sad and angry letters, and a large plaque with the word "JUSTICE" etched across the top. This is the memorial to the 194 victims of the fire at the República Cromañón nightclub on December 30, 2004. It was one of the deadliest fires in world history and caused a backlash which exposed widespread government corruption and eventually led to the resignation of the city's mayor. Anybody who was young at the time seems to be directly connected to, or only a few steps removed from, at least one of the victims. The event, which could have been easily prevented, is still fresh in the minds of the city's inhabitants and if you go to the memorial the anger and sadness can be felt as if it happened yesterday.
Marina Mariasch gave one of the best readings at last year's International Poetry Festival in Rosario, Argentina – or so I'm told. But I missed it because I was day-drunk and day-angry sitting on the steps outside, too tired to get up because a bunch of bros staying in my hostel kept me up all night, and I wanted everything in the world to go to hell. I regretted it immediately, since I liked Marina after meeting her the night before when she was happy about the free meals provided by the festival and trying to figure out a way to eat them without having to talk to anybody else. Two of my favorite things are free food and being an insane recluse, and my conclusions after leaving Rosario: never stay at a hostel again, check out Marina's poetry.
As soon as I read the title of Ana Claudia Díaz's "The theorem of backs" I knew I was going to translate it. Poetry is such a vague and sprawling thing and I've always been a little insecure about whether I really "get", or even "like," most poems, but pieces that deal with the body always connect with me right away. When you talk about the body you go right to the root of experience. You start out with a solid and universal thing that leads to all the subjectivity of the world.
Last month, I recommended The XUL Reader (Roof Books, 1997) as further reading for A Short Primer to Latin American Poetry in the Spanish Language. The reader is part of a larger project, spearheaded by Ernesto Livon-Grosman, called XULdigital, which aims to archive work from the historically significant Argentine journal XUL: Old and New Sign (1980-1997). Additionally, through an essay collection in Spanish and English called 5 + 5, it provides critical context to the project of the "Poetics of the Americas" in a continental sense, calling for both the reevaluation and redefining of "American literature" to encompass work from both continents. The entire project is digitized in an easily-digestible format, sponsored by the O'Neill Library at Boston College, providing access to a facsimile edition of the Reader, and a downloadable .pdf of the essay collection---an invaluable resource for those interested in contemporary experimental Argentine poetry, translation, and transnational poetics in general.
I'm not entirely sure how, or when, I first stumbled across ANCIENTS. I think poet Brandon Shimoda originally told me about it; the journal features an old photo of his grandfather Midori Shimoda on the cover. Anyway, I got the last copy. It came in the mail one day, thick as a steak: a photocopied reproduction of a stack of 100 pieces of paper originally assembled and printed in 2013, featuring drawings, film stills, poems, travel notes, and translations by artists and writers from around the world, such as contemporary poets Corina Copp, Phil Cordelli, Leopoldine Core, Dot Devota, Sandra Doller, Brenda Iijima, Bhanu Kapil, Lucas de Lima, Lynn Xu, Karena Youtz, and a host of others.
I first came across Malén in a video of her reading a poem about being a lonely Argentinian in New York. I thought this was cool since I was a lonely New Yorker in Argentina. I thought, "I should meet this person some day." I still haven't met her in person. I read a lot of stuff on her blog a few months ago. I went to the release of her latest book, Looking Up Drugs On Wikipedia (Buscar drogas en wikipedia) and didn't talk to her because, since I stopped drinking, all I want to do in social situations is stand in the corner and act like I'm not having a panic attack. But I liked her reading enough to want to do my first column of translating non-male-identified authors with a work of hers. I tried to buy the book two times but it was "sold out", then I remembered this piece that appeared on Playground a few weeks ago and it felt perfect, since this is especially one of those nights where I would prefer a flattened computer existence to my real life. The strength of this poem is its unembellished honesty. Dramatic overtures about love and loss seem unnecessary, and would come across as trying too hard. Complicated emotions are best stated directly. Malén shows a restraint, a directness, a subtle control of flow that give her work a rare depth. With this piece I like to imagine that if I put the original through Google Translate, it would come out almost identical to the translation below. It's a miracle situation where the meaning would not get lost because the meaning is said so precisely. I like to imagine that it would come out perfect in any language, that even though the narrator is resigned to loneliness, there is a desire to communicate, and even if the brain is not the computer, it is still sending out a message that can be received by anyone.
Frustrated by my almost complete lack of knowledge of Latin American literature, I set out to study the literary tradition and its correlating historical and cultural contexts in order to process and distill a large amount of information into an easily-digestible survey. Aware of the dangers of canonization and its inherent nature of exclusion, not to mention the actual parameters of the region, encompassing 20 countries and over 500 existing languages (not to mention dialects), I want to say, as a disclaimer, that the purpose of this project is to simply introduce Spanish-language Latin American poetry to an English-speaking audience, thus constructing a foundation to build upon and fill in over time. To say least, I feel like I've only scratched the surface.
Over the course of the next year, we're going to open the floodgates with poetry from Latin America. Last year, we launched OOMPH as more of an idea than a press, but after spending a year settling in Buenos Aires, improving our Spanish, and crafting our purpose as a journal, we're ready to hit the ground running.
It's been nearly a month since OOMPH's collaboration with the Letters Festival in Atlanta, and although there were some technical difficulties, overall I think it was a huge success. Those in Atlanta were able to hear Argentine poets Juan Salzano and Daniela Regert read their work, and Buenos Aires got a taste of Atlanta poets Bruce Covey and Amy McDaniel. There were some audio troubles on our end but Bruce and Amy's readings were projected live while Alex Gregor and I read their work from a fluid setlist prepared beforehand, in case of such an emergency. Each respective venue was packed and attendees received a pamphlet featuring side-by-side translations of selected poems from each reader. None of this would have been possible without the help of Scott Daughtridge and Stephanie Dowda, who curate the Letters Festival and the Lost in the Letters reading series, and those who attended the readings; also, Alex and Evan Leed's work translating the poems included in the pamphlet, and Irene Loewy's contributions and thoughtful advice. Additionally, we'd like to thank Noland Bo Chaliha for helping us with our website over the past few months. Below is a .pdf of what was handed out, along with an embedded text. We want to extend our gratitude to Juan, Daniela, Bruce and Amy for working with us to get these poems translated, it was very much a collaborative effort. I'm writing this so Alex doesn't have to thank himself, because I think he's too humble to do so and would purposely overlook it. However, both of us, and a ton of other people, worked very hard on this project and we're excited to present these poems to you.