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Readings webjournal


Commentary for Translated Acts

- Chus Pato

translated by William Rowe

For me the poem has the highest speed of all the arts, by speed I don’t mean time, time that a poet takes to construct a poem but time as intensity: it’s that intensity of the language, an intensity which wraps itself round the one who confers upon language that sign of velocity. However, its way of travelling, of reaching other languages is extremely slow, an amazing slowness if we compare it with the virtual simultaneity of the journey of visual arts or music or even the novel, since the novel forms part of the mechanism of the literature industry of which poetry is an extreme limit and indeed a manifest discomfort.

The poem needs translation to arrive and not any translation but the one that could be said to be almost a new piece of writing in the destination language, an act of love on the part of the translator and that quite naturally will form part of her/his own work if s/he is a poet.

I conceive of the poem as an extreme figure of (the) language, as the maximum distance between things and the language of humans. But precisely because this distance is one in which the language as used, the language of the communicative pact, breaks up [se desata] and escapes  from its conventions, the language of the poem comes to coincide with the living, with the creatures of the world, which is nothing other than to find the measure [cuadrar con] of what will allow of no subjection, of what is free in (the) language, and then: mouth, breath, heart, belly and head are truth, a linguistic truth, and become unforgettable, not because we have to remember the words of the poem, but because that unforgettable thing that the poem brings together is the reality that constitutes us as linguistic beings.

The poem is that language that opens a crack in the language of instrumental reason, in the language of pact and consensus, which is a language of idols, in that crack idols explode and (the) language opens to the world.


The poem is a meaning that exceeds linguistic meanings, it’s a state of linguistic exception that can name all that you may wish to name, but that always says: mouth, breath, heart, belly, head.

To translate a poem therefore requires carrying over from the language of origin to the language of destination that crack, that freedom, that absence of bonds and to move the body, the senses, the mind of the one who reads in her/his own language the extremes, the frontiers, the limits of another language, the one in which the poem was written. In my view that is unquantifiable wealth, it’s a gift in the sense of something given, something that without belonging to us we can enjoy for ever and share with others.

So for me the work of a translator of poetry has the same value as that which is realised when the poet writes a poem; a journey into the depths, the extreme limits, to the overflowings [desbordamientos] of our linguistic capacity, which is always a political capacity.

Translation is that which makes it possible for me to be here today, with you, to read the poems I write and to speak, so that we can see each other and speak, this is something really out of the ordinary and of enormous value to me.

I would like to speak to you a little about this translation and its translator Erin Moure, tell you the story of it.


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