“Actual” translation

Actual-Vicente Huidobro
El cielo sacude sus camisas y cuenta los años en su voz
Cuenta las piedras lanzadas a su pecho
Y los árboles en sus sarcófagos torciendo los caminos
Piensa en su carne que se estremece
Al oír ese dúo de las noches tan diametralmente opuesto
Al oír las edades que tienen su edad
Como las flores de ida y vuelta
La noche se siente a oír su cielo
Debajo del agua que aumenta por el llanto de los peces
Y todos esperamos con los poros abiertos
La aparición de la belleza sobre sus pies de espuma
Entre dos relámpagos boca abajo.
Today – translation by Denise DeVries

The sky shakes its shirts and counts the years in its voice
Counts the stones thrown at its chest
And the trees in their sepulchers winding the roads
It thinks of its quivering flesh
Hearing that nightly duet so antipodally opposed
Hearing the ages that are its age
Like flowers to and fro
The night palpates to hear its sky
Beneath the water swelling with the fishes’ wails
And we all await with open pores
The appearance of beauty on its frothy feet
Prone between two lightning bolts.

Vicente Huidobro was a Chilean poet whose work was said to “bear the stamp of surrealism.” He was credited for bringing that movement to the Americas, where it influenced his compatriot Pablo Neruda.
Huidobro originated what he called an “aesthetic theory” of poetry called “Creacionismo” or Creationism.” He claimed that creationist poetry is universal and universally translatable, “since the new facts remain identical in all languages,” while the other elements that prevail in non-creationist poetry, such as the rhyme and music of the words, vary among languages and cannot be easily translated, causing the poem to lose part of its essence.*
“Easily translated” is an exaggeration, as I found when I read his poem, “Actual.” First, the title is a false cognate for an English word and has no exact equivalent. It can be translated as “current, present-day, or contemporary.” I chose “today.” Then there’s the possessive pronoun “su,” which can be “his, her, its, or your…” so I chose “its.” On it went with the rest of the poem: sarcophagi or sepulchers…fishes’ tears, sobs or wails…etc.
It was a nice puzzle to wake up my mind for the week.

*Source, Poet’s Glossary, Edward Hirsch



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