Translation as Call and Answer

Translation as Call and Answer

Elisa Taber and Violeta Percia talk about the imagination, the mystery of silence, and our heart

«When you say that while thinking of something, a word that seems more precise comes to you in English, that is how it is: perhaps that word in English brings a meaning towards Spanish that completes it or augments the words of the language which receives the other. In this way, the Spanish allows itself to be questioned by the English word which opens determined images, and so it seeks new paths to think itself through this other language.»

Violeta Percia is an Argentine poet, translator, and researcher living between Buenos Aires and Río Negro. Her complementary creative and academic work centers on the theory of poetic language, in direct dialogue with the history of documentary images, interculturality, and translation. She is the author of the novel Como nubes (2021), and the poetry collections Clínica enferma (2003) and Poesía del Tanti Rao (2019). Her translations include Ideorrealidades by Saint-Pol-Roux (2013) and El narcisismo del arte contemporáneo by Alain Troyas and Valérie Arrault (2020). A selection of poems from Poesía del Tanti Rao is available in English translation here. She is currently a researcher and professor in the Literature BA program and Comparative Literature MA program of the Universidad de Buenos Aires.

Percia uses writing as a medium for deep listening. Her words do not hear their eloquence but attune to others; specifically, contemporary poets in indigenous languages. Dialogue as a means for accessing thoughts between languages and cultures, without reducing epistemic difference, is at the core of her creative and academic work. Her conversation practice is reminiscent of lyric ethnography. Care with language is prioritized and multiple interlocutors are on equal planes. Whether merging essay and interview in a reflection on the writing of Mapuche poets Faumelisa Manquepillán Calfuleo and Liliana Ancalao, and the Wichí poet Lecko Zamora, or ruminating on the Shipibo concept of “Tanti Rao” in her eponymous poetry collection, Poesía del Tanti Rao, Percia channels other ways of knowing and being in the world in the terms of those they pertain to. Her intervention is subtle yet clear, she listens to the languages made mute by national literatures.

Our own correspondence over the past five months centers on the indigenous conception of imagination as an organ of language that does not seek fantasy but reality, what exists but exceeds the sensory or rational. The latter references what is mysterious, intellect approaches mystery as a prismatic light cast on reflective surfaces, it dazzles and aggrandizes the speaker by telling her what she wants to hear; silence approaches mystery as a direct light cast on darkness, it humbles and abandons the speaker by making her understand her insignificance. Percia also spoke of our heart, a communal organ in this case, which is humanitarian, merciful, and kind, leading us all to make our shared home more just. Silence is the condition for listening. It is interrupted in conversation by words that simultaneously learn and teach. Yet, the lesson is simple and difficult: only utter the kind word that emerges as truth from silence.

Elisa Taber (ET): Is there a connection between Saint-Pol-Roux’s poetry collection, Ideorealidades, which you translated from French into Spanish, and your own, Poesía del Tanti Rao? Do the concepts of “ideoreality,” defined as “prismatic soul,” and “Tanti Rao,” translated from Shipibo—the Shipibo-Konibo people reside in the Peruvian Amazon—as “medicine of tranquility,” resemble each other? I sense that you present both as the transition of the individual into something broad and enveloping. Could you redefine these concepts in your own words and explain how your work ranges between these seemingly opposite poles? Perhaps I am mistaken in my comparison, we are all contradictory.

Violeta Percia (VP): Ideorealidades is a collection of poems that I was commissioned to select and translate. It was a project that an editor that I respect very much had envisioned; he had met the poet and was enchanted though unable to read him in French, so he proposed I translate him. There were almost no translations of Saint-Pol-Roux into Spanish and he had an interesting body of work with very symbolic images. He is a poet who belonged to the Symbolist movement and the poetic vanguards of the French fin de siècle, a very fertile age for poetry towards the end of the nineteenth century, and the implications of this movement’s conception of the word and the verb are still poorly understood.

Saint-Pol-Roux was part of a generation of poets that began with Baudelaire, the Parnassians, Mallarmé, Verlaine, that continued with Lautréamont, Jarry, Valéry, and was heavily influenced by “the Mystery,” i.e., that excess of life, nature, and being or what exists that cannot be captured, dominated, and formalized by thought. This mystery belongs to the occult. It is a rationalist and idealist conception of the strength of thought, due to which I understand it as a mystery that challenges God’s reign over consciousness. For these poets and for European modernity, paradises are artificial, as Baudelaire said in his book on opium. The supernatural or surreal (surnaturalisme and surréalisme) are nurtured by the ghosts of reason, of the monstrous, of what insists beyond logic, of what resists order, of what moves in the dark. It is Poe’s raven, something that makes consciousness explode. The enigma, inseparable from creation. The imagination, which is a fundamental notion for these generations of poets, emerges there, from the overinterpretable. These mysteries definitively originate in disobeying the literal (simple) teaching, in resisting the literalness of the text (and that text par excellence is the Bible); they come from the overinterpretation of the libraries, interpretation that takes place without experiencing dispossession, without fasting, without being out in the open, without desert, in short, definitively, without God (or occupying his place).

The notion of ideoreality originates there, and so does the “prismatic soul.” It references a soul whose light is intercepted by the prism, a soul with many facets, multiple reflections, that builds other forms from those reflections. But the intelligible is given by the will and the power of man. And the metaphors, the eidos, the image or the eidetic capture of being, of its truth, depend on this human will to interpret and to create, everything is nuanced—a color and its possible correspondences or symbolic meanings. In this way, faith is deposited in the progress and the invention of the human. That is also the origin of a certain passion for the great construction, but those stones from the great palaces, without obedience, without dispossession, become stones to stumble over. Saint-Pol-Roux’s ideas, as I see it, must be inscribed in that context and in those thought practices that are often built on convoluted paths that entrap thought, confuse what is easy, entangle what is simple, Ariadne’s thread destined to lead us out of the labyrinth, to help us abandon the perpetual tauromachy that is the dialogue with the beast, the animal.

The mystery in the East—and, I believe, in indigenous worlds—is a mystery that speaks in the light, that seeks to illuminate only what needs to be illuminated. The light that comes from the spirit, unlike a prismatic light, is clear and direct, it does not dart: it illuminates where nothing is visible, where it is necessary to see. It does not aim to defeat the beast, it contemplates itself before it and is filled with mercy. It is clarity that emerges when the heart becomes skin, the road known by walking barefoot, the sky that opens in silence, in darkness.

My poetry, my thought, is akin to that search and these forms of sincere thought, open, without possession. It is in search of this word: the word that dispossesses itself and continues traveling, that, once dispossessed, continues making sense.

Henry Corbin says that the creative imagination of the ancient Sufi people is the vision that illuminates, that teaches, and that, most importantly, is not the product of individual reason or the creativity of an I, but concerns an arrival that lacks what arrives (the interpretation) and who awaits it (the interpreter). It is something imminent, it is the imminence of a truth. It is a very different imagination from that of idealism; like the imagination of indigenous peoples, it only seeks to illuminate what is necessary.

The mystery of silence, like medicinal plants, if ingested humbly (I mean, seeking a beneficial aspect, its benevolent breath), like working the earth and walking out in the open, these are things that test you. The other mystery, the mystery of the intellect, the altar, the book, these blind, convince, capture, flatter, punish, or reward you. Anything you undertake in order to aggrandize yourself tells you what you want to hear. Unlike the mystery, the desert abandons you: it silences you, forces you to understand what you are in its ultimateness, in its smallness, the comprehension of the eternal in what lasts less than an instant; it overflows you with the necessity to thank, to obey, to never lose one’s sense, to never lose the capacity to be sensitive, to feel what you feel, to be sensitive to what has senses, to feel with all of them (the senses, those that feel). The cult of mystery of the occult and of magic does not do this: it gives you individual meaning, imbues your existence with an apparent meaning, in exchange for this deceit it offers you the temple filled with merchants (to whom you must attend).

I believe the difference between my book Poesía del Tanti Rao and the book by Saint-Pol-Roux lies in the origin of their images: the kind of imagination knowledge surges from, but also the sky it opens to and to which it shows its meaning.

I believe this is how Poesía del Tanti Rao and Ideorealidades differ. Though they share interest in the word through the images and the force of poetic thought, they are not two projects that emerge from the same conception of the word, they have distinct origins. I believe this poetic thought is a way of knowing or understanding what cannot be discursively shown, or proven argumentatively, but which instead emerges as truth from silences, a truth that is experienced in the call. These works have that in common. But they differ in terms of attunement. My writing does not grow from the same soil as modern Western poetry, French in this case. It creates a sorority with the poetry of the ancient Semites of the Qumran desert, of the knowledgeable peasants that speak the language of plants, of the monks that learn the word of love in the habit of persistence; all of whom appreciate in the whiteness of the plain grain of rice the taste of the lesson in which lasting pleasure is found. I hope this has answered your question.

«I believe what is beautiful about translation lies in these processes, in these understandings: in this capacity to create understandings (or attunements). In this sense, it seems lovely to me for a language to alter another, but I propose thinking of that alteration as an interjection, as a call, as an answer.»

ET: Comparing the approach to mystery in the poetry you write and translate to a prismatic or direct light, respectively, is chromesthetic, i.e., the association of sounds with colors. Regarding your writing practice, what are the origin and end of your images? Is an auditory-centric rather than ocular-centric imagination possible? If so, how would you describe an aural landscape? Does the difficulty lie in the limits writing imposes on sound in general terms, as well as orality, or in contradicting the West’s perceptual and epistemological bias for vision over other senses?

VP: I don’t know what the end or the fate of a poem is. What I do know is that what we say depends on the eye from which we see things. We can have a compassionate, humble, grateful gaze; a benevolent and reproachless gaze; or a narcissist, selfish, and competitive gaze. Our visions, our thoughts depend on the way we see things, and the way we see things also reveals what is in our heart. Our heart is the place where we are located, it is from there that we see the world; if there is a hurricane in our heart, we will turn everything on its head, everything we see will be tormented and precipitated; if there is an unbreakable consciousness of who we are, we will stand strong and be better able to withstand any affront. So, we do not know where an image reaches, but we do know what moves it; like an arrow in the Zen art of archery: the archer does not focus on the target, but on the tranquility (and the knowledge) in their heart, the good, calm heart of the archer matters as it gives the arrow its direction, determines its trajectory. It is the firmness of the heart that the good archer must use. That is why silence is so sacred, because judgments and the way we judge have a cost, they are not free. What gratitude is there in saying something offensive, or in stressing something that hurts the other? Sometimes having the need to say, stress, justify certain things, speaks to our need to exercise a power we in reality do not possess, our need to situate ourselves in a privileged position before the lack or scarcity we point out in the other: we are observing our own incompleteness. The true path consists of assuaging pain and suffering with a kind word, and not boasting about it (these two things must be linked, one does not exist without the other). When I speak of the conditions of listening, I speak of the silence necessary for comprehension that moves our ideas and concepts forth from the scene of the conversation, that simultaneously learns and teaches.

Hearing and sight are two forms of the same thing, two temporalities of the same thing, two manifestations or states of one thing. And they resituate each other, they call to each other, because a sound is not where we see it, and what we see is no longer as we hear it. And what anticipates itself as an image travels in sound. I am not sure I am interested in concepts like synesthesia, perhaps because I find them to be tautological, explaining what is already evident without saying anything; they are spectacular concepts, they say nothing to me.

Some things are simple; our thoughts, ideas, and resistance to certain realities make them complicated. As I see it, the imagination is a sense of language: it is an organ of language. How it is used must later be determined/put into practice. Like language, it can be speculative and based upon illusory things or it can be a way of knowing. In the latter sense, the imagination I speak of has nothing to do with invention, it is not a fantasy. Instead, it is connected to the creative imagination of Sufism, the significance of which is well described in the works of Henry Corbin. It is what has a place as an image in thought, it is also what we conceive of as a vision—it is a living image, not a flat image, by which I mean that it is autonomous, it speaks. And it has a place as an image in thought, or, in other words, it is something that becomes perceptible to the senses as an image, once we have managed to detach ourselves from every expectation, from every intention, and to impose ourselves by sheer will. It is not an image that we create through reason, with our will, it is not a subjective, fickle image. It is not me imagining my ideal home, it is me entering an empty space, leaving everything I carried with me outside. Then, the imagination becomes a way of knowing, like prayer: then, I can see the world, I can speak to the world, I can feel how it speaks, how it thinks. And it is connected, in the last instance, to the clearest illumination: experience that ceases to be accidental or subjective and becomes knowledge. And I would add that it becomes knowledge when the aporia, or that which has no way out, or that which is unanswerable, suddenly finds its path beyond all reasons, all resistances, all impediments. Everything can be set back on course even if it seems impossible.

I am unsure of what you mean by your last question. What contradiction and difficulty are you referring to? In any case, perhaps it is true that when we speak of the West we say very little now, and it is more a term that confuses, that generates errors and can make us fall into sterile racial and ethnic disputes, into false battles for legitimacy of meaning and for the meaning that we want to attribute to that which we designate as civilization or humanity. In fact, it would be convenient to speak of a Western thought that turns its back on the East, understanding the East as the promised land, the new land, the one which promises a new day in the rebirth of our hearts. In that sense, the West is the Pharaonic empire of the world, that builds its reasoning based on science and technology, on ambition and desire, on the strength of death, oppression, and accumulation, turning its back to God (on whose true path or in the search for whom one finds that promise of reparation for all those injustices). In Europe there have been many mystics, poets, and people that have looked to the East, Luther or Saint John of the Cross, to mention a few; and in the cardinal East (or in the non-Western worlds) there are also many injustices, many who have perverted the path of God, who accumulated distrust, disputes, selfishness, or who used the law to sow fear and oppress others. When I speak of a modern Western poetry, I refer to a poetry whose history reclaims the thought inscribed in modern History (conceived of as a universal history, the meaning of the world). This thought is Hegelian and rationalist, whereas the postmodern is desiring, cursed, narcissist, and consumerist, these set the stage for the contemporary identity battle. Both directions of thought share the idea of a road that does not point to the kingdom of God (one that has many homes, not just Jerusalem), but to the realization of the personal, the imposition of one’s own reason, of a law that believes it is superior to life, and of a desire that considers itself superior to the law.

ET: Your metaphors for imagining—dispossessing yourself of everything before entering an empty room—and writing—strengthening the heart before shooting an arrow—underscore doing away with what does not matter, materially and mentally. What you say is reflected in how you say it, evidencing what poetry teaches: that saying what you mean to say depends on the words. However, while writing these questions to you in Spanish, at times I find the right words in another language, English. While reading a self-translation into Spanish of a work of Amerindian literature, do you find a minor difference between the intended meaning and the chosen word? Do you consider this disjuncture intrinsic to translation? How do you understand the relationship between translation and poetry in reference to precision? Are you interested in one language altering another?

«Our thought, like the word, has a body of images, and it also inhabits that body, which is in and of itself a form of language. The imagination moves within that body of senses and meanings, which are images. It opens a world there. Inhabits a world there.»

VP: Ridding oneself of what does not matter is right, but not only that. Perhaps it is also necessary to be rid of (or detached from) what does matter to you. Therefore, the idea of what matters can be deceiving, if we do not ask ourselves what matters most to us (what holds most importance at the end of the day), or, in other words: which are the thoughts we dedicate our energy to, which are the thoughts that govern us, that we serve. As for the imagination we have been talking about—the imagination understood as a function of language that allows a certain pedagogy and a specific way of knowing—the issue is being lightweight in order to be able to understand the images that present themselves to our senses, the images of what we are, of what surrounds us. We must be unburdened to read those images, or to open our eye and our heart to them. To wander unencumbered by attachments and ideas so that our vision may be elevated above our selfhood, and so that we may distance ourselves from what we have learned (in such a way that our senses are renewed, suspended, open to comprehension and to compassion). To rise and see in the distance, open oneself to the gaze. Our vision must not look at itself in a mirror, but must instead become a polished mirror capable of reflecting, without prejudice, what is seen in it. That is the aware and knowing imagination that I am interested in. Other forms of imagination—and, of course, there are others—can fall into fantasy or speculation (and this is not as interesting to me because they can entangle us, send us on tortuous or trivial paths). When I think of a heavy imagination, I think of a self-centered, referential, and deceitful imagination that confuses and fascinates, that seeks to seduce: a narcissist imagination. What can be learned from this kind of image? Instead, for me, imagination as a means of knowing is not moved by the force of speculation or fantasy, but instead, it is of the order of a vision that is an arrival—which is not reducible to what arrives nor to what is determined or limited by someone who awaits that which is arriving. It is a vision that does not belong to anyone or anything, and what it brings takes the form of the satori: an illumination or demisting of the eye, which allows one to see again with the eyes of the heart (and not with the blinded eyes of a world history with one unique direction).

I believe that words are always correct when the heart is calm, polished. Perhaps it is not a matter of finding the right word, but of a word that arrives just in time. I feel that what must be said, the saying, the teaching, or let us call it “the word,” opens a path in every language in some way when it has a meaning, and more so when it has a healthy experience that sustains it. And the way of saying, the form, is also how the word is felt—how it resonates. What is at play is the quality of generating an attunement so that word can be said and heard. That is why I am interested in what Walter Benjamin said, that somehow meaning is like a vase broken into thousands of pieces which reconstructs itself through all the ways of saying it, and the invisible glue, or the golden glue of the kintsugi (the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by filling the cracks with resin and powdered gold) is the translation. There, the way of saying it, at times, forces languages, and a language finds greater precision in another voice—in one word from another language or in the way of phrasing of the other language—, then the translator forces her language towards the light of the other language so that the saying encounters the expression that contains its meaning. When you say that while thinking of something, a word that seems more precise comes to you in English, that is how it is: perhaps that word in English brings a meaning towards Spanish that completes it or augments the words of the language which receives the other. In this way, the Spanish allows itself to be questioned by the English word which opens determined images, and so it seeks new paths to think itself through this other language. I believe what is beautiful about translation lies in these processes, in these understandings: in this capacity to create understandings (or attunements). In this sense, it seems lovely to me for a language to alter another, but I propose thinking of that alteration as an interjection, as a call, as an answer. Because ultimately, a single order that is modified (or altered) does not exist, but instead there are several possible orders that can be interconnected, as peoples that meet in a metaphorical place and find a shared, metaphorical meaning.

The question of the self-translation of contemporary poetry written in indigenous languages is very special, because the poets that write in indigenous languages often write in autochthonous languages that use other forms of writing and other modes of feeling and thinking language (and images) that do not traverse alphabetical writing. Some of them are languages for which alphabetical language comes across as forced or provokes a failed meeting of the language with its speakers; I think that these poets write by way of multiple languages. Their poems are often conceived bilingually from the beginning, as a bridge. Fredy Chikangana, whose name in Quechua is Wiñay Mallki, considers himself a chakaruna: a bridge between the realities of the present and the teaching of his ancestors, between confusing words and the medicinal words of plants, between the visions of a good thought and contemporary societies. Then, the poem engrains its heart in the indigenous languages and from there it brings visions, thoughts, songs, and sounds that open meanings and senses. It is like becoming familiar with a territory through other senses, conceiving other skins, other geo-consciousnesses. And in the end, it is like repairing the vase of meaning, where it is necessary to relearn the words of the territory, where the life of the estuaries and the estuaries of life rest—where, though it is not easy, many languages still know how to reach. These poets who self-translate their texts and write bilingually, to me, in a way traverse senses and meanings that are invisible to the Spanish language.

ET: Reading you here, in this correspondence, I feel that there is something that cannot be said. As though the words only allow for an approach, not a possession, of the essence. In part this is due to the tranquility and care with which you write. A calm that respects the silence without becoming mute. How do you define the necessary? What is the source of gravity for the weightless body that seeks imagination as a function of language? What is the simple object that fantasy and speculation entangle?

VP: I read how you feel about what we’re speaking of, and your questions make me think of the resistances. I feel that things can be said, always have been said, the problem is rather who wants to listen? And then, the miracle of being understood. Are we capable of listening to what our dead, our ancestors say, or have they stopped speaking to us? Are we capable of reading reality with great clarity, with the liberty of the heart, and of traversing it, making use of a metaphor that allows us to navigate, that allows us to shelter others? We live in a society that deafly heeds its desire to forget.

I do not know if there is an essence, or if it is possible to have something like a possession in these territories of being and language. Existence is volatile, and it is changing all the time—and it is also changing all the time in our heart, which is traversed by the passing of our life, by the fleetingness of our loved ones’ passing, by the contradictions and injustices of life in this world, and those of our desires and needs. Existence is volatile, and we must at some point stop to look and see ourselves. But we must also see which things we will carry in that passing, in the current. Ask ourselves if we can carry with us the fights, anger, unwellness, whims, and anguishes, or if all those things will make us return once and again to that which makes us suffer, if they imprison us in what we cannot revert, precisely because it has already happened. We must see why we hold onto certain things. That is what is necessary. What cannot be otherwise. And it is also necessary for that which is, for it to somehow be. The river necessarily finds its path, the force of the river’s current always finds a way to open its path.

What is the source of our gravity, our weight, that which weighs us down? I ask myself, do we exacerbate or alleviate a state of confusion, pain, difficulty, injustice? What contributes clarity? Which thoughts are truly our own during the tempest? Who will feel solidarity and say: get up and walk?

«I don’t know what the end or the fate of a poem is. What I do know is that what we say depends on the eye from which we see things. We can have a compassionate, humble, grateful gaze; a benevolent and reproachless gaze; or a narcissist, selfish, and competitive gaze. Our visions, our thoughts depend on the way we see things, and the way we see things also reveals what is in our heart.»

And yet even gravity is simple. I think that simplicity begins with acceptance. With not denying what is there, what has been triggered. Accepting reality is the first step towards trying to understand it in its complex and difficult conditions, and towards finding a path.

I do not believe that there is anything that cannot be said, but I do think that there are things that should not be said, that must be overlooked, as though letting them pass, or passing by them. This is part of acceptance and unburdening. Sometimes pausing to address something, insisting upon it, underscoring it, wanting to convince someone that we are right or that we tell the truth, turning around to point a finger at ourselves, all of this leaves us encircling something absent, or something whose importance does not quite come through in dialectic discussion. There are causes that are not reducible to our interlocutors’ opinions or beliefs.

Twisted thoughts tangle us in their own meanings, they detain us with their conditions, with their obstacles, often in their mistakes, in their pain. At other times, they grant us entrance into the palaces of the ego, sumptuous, attractive, in which we finally find ourselves alone. They do not allow us to see what comes to meet us, what is happening. One who speculates and fantasizes does not think with the heart, but with the head. Thinking with the heart allows for compassion (the shared passion, sharing the bread as much as the burden), the co-inspiration (breathing with others in one same inhalation), the communion (being one with all other beings, in the heartbeat or the breath of the world), the compassion (the capacity to look with one’s heart at the neediest, to feel in one’s own heart the need or misfortune of the other).

It may be necessary to clarify that when I refer to fantasy I am not thinking of the literary fiction or film genre, but of illusions, of believing in something that in some way is not, of wanting to see something a certain way. Considered in this sense, fantasy is an idea that blinds us, mentally, to the present, that deprives us of the necessary opening to understand the arrival of existence, and at the same time allows us to see who is like us, though does not allow us to see what it means to be alive. There is something in speculation that is a turning in circles, a becoming bogged down in the fight for strength. It is what contemporary global society is taking us towards: the permanent struggle between two models. But said this way, that push has no solution, it is infinite. It is the rope that two forces pull on, one from each end. The dialectic has something of this. Seen this way, speculation is a waste of energy, an arrogance of language. A return to the known, seeking to pronounce judgment and justify oneself, seeking to establish identities. Whoever takes this stance can be right or not, know the law or not. That is not what is at stake; instead, it is a question of whether being right or raising one’s voice to punish one who has not obeyed the law really matters so much. Or whether, instead, there are situations or instances that deserve other ways of seeing, other contemplations, other criticisms, other reparations. Making exceptions. Perhaps that is the origin, being able to save a contradiction, a mistake, a failure, something meaningless, an injustice. The imagination or poetic language allows for that other, new space of exception; I feel that perhaps they are more adequate for connecting with that thinking of the heart.

Our thought, like the word, has a body of images, and it also inhabits that body, which is in and of itself a form of language. The imagination moves within that body of senses and meanings, which are images. It opens a world there. Inhabits a world there.

Feel what one writes, breathe the here-and-now that words emerge from, because their intentions reside there, and it is the origin of our way of seeing the world, how we interpret it, how we inhabit it.

We can return again and again to the same things, but in the end, the meaning of our work, of our words, becomes lighter when we are lighter, it insists and resists when we resist or insist. Spinoza said that nobody knows what a body can do. Perhaps extending that statement, we can allow ourselves to be interpolated by the fact that nobody knows what consciousness drags with it, what excess the body drags along with it: its whims, narcissist choices, fantasies. And what we, as humanity, are dragging through the world with our attitudes. What our attitudes, which make up the body of our humanity, drag along with them in that symbolic body of feelings and meanings that we create and feed, and towards which we are driven. What are we trampling underfoot and destroying or poisoning and sickening on the path we create by walking?

ET: I came to your writing through your teaching, your syllabus for “Shores of an Ancient and New Word.” You referred to the condition of attunement as a silence that simultaneously teaches and learns. Who taught you to listen?

VP: I thank Pedro Favarón, Argentine-Peruvian poet and doctor, because he showed me the path to finding peace in the heart, the tranquility necessary for understanding and listening, for knowing how to retrace the tracks of the mind, for setting out on the road of life. Thanks to him, I also learned that we cannot, though it weighs upon us, appoint any one person as shepherd to this road, we must learn the freedom necessary to think clearly and transparently, and not enter into disputes with people. I learned from my ancestors to listen in the desert, to speak a language through faith, to offer blessings and express gratitude. My grandmother and grandfather taught me to love poetry and music. I also learned from Jair Villegas Betancourt, a great scholar of biblical texts, to read with love, without personal ambition; he showed me that the best teacher feels honored to be a disciple, that is the way love will always find its path.

Violeta Percia is an Argentine poet, audiovisual artist, and writer. She is a researcher and professor in the BA literature program and MA comparative literature program of the Universidad de Buenos Aires, currently her work centers on the theory of poetic language, in direct dialogue with the history of documentary images, interculturality, and translation. She coedited Traducir poesía (2014). Translated, edited, and wrote the prologue for Ideorrealidades (2013) by Saint-Pol-Roux and El narcisismo del arte contemporáneo by A. Troyas and V. Arrault (2020), among others. She wrote the novel Como nubes (2021), and the poetry collections Clínica enferma (2003) and Poesía del Tanti Rao (2019).

Elisa Taber is a writer, literary translator, and PhD candidate at McGill University, living between Buenos Aires and Montreal. She is the author of An Archipelago in a Landlocked Country (11:11 Press), and translator of Horacio Quiroga’s Beyond (Sublunary Editions) and Miguelángel Meza’s Pyambu (Dream Pattering Feet) (Ugly Duckling Presse), forthcoming. Elisa is also Co-Editor of SLUG and Editor at Large at Seven Stories Press.  

Originally published on Hopscotch Translation
Tuesday, May 18, 2021

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