Most of us have experienced being lost in translation at some point in our lives and we know how difficult it is to find the right words to express ourselves sometimes. But can you imagine how hard it is to translate poetry?

Our Spanish professor, PhD. Rafael Cabañas Alamán, recently presented the bilingüal poetry book So spoke Penelope/Así habló Penélope, written by Tino Villanueva and translated by Nuria Brufau, in the Centro de Arte Moderno de Madrid (video available online). Prof. Cabañas was chosen to introduce this Chicano poet and his latest work because he translated into Spanish and edited Villanueva’s most successful book, the award winning Scene from the Movie GIANT (Escena de la película GIGANTE), Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 1993.

After presenting Tino Villanueva as an outstanding Mexican-American poet, as well as a Literature professor in Boston University, professor Cabañas invited Villanueva to explain the origin of his latest book and together they read some poems in English and Spanish. The 32 poems in the book address different topics such as love, hope (lessness), despair, doubt, memories and the act of waiting, some of them already dealt with in Villanova’s previous works. For more information about So Spoke Penelope, read this full review.

Biography

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Although professor Cabañas is now mainly focused on teaching Spanish for Specific Purposes (he teaches SPAN-210 Spanish in the Workplace at SUMC and he is in charge of supervising Intenships in Spanish (SPAN-I210) and developing his own teaching materials, he is an expert in 20 Century Spanish literature. His most important publication is Fetichismo y perversión en la novela de Ramón Gómez de la Serna, Madrid: Ediciones del Laberinto, 2002 and he continues to research on psychoanalysis and criticism in avant-garde literature. Aware of the difficulties of literary translation, as he has experienced them himself, professor Cabañas has given several conferences in the USA, Rusia, Senegal, Spain and other European countries. Recently published in Berlin was “El desafío personal y la experiencia poética en la traducción al español de Escena de la película GIGANTE ”, book chapter included inTraducción a través de los tiempos, espacios y disciplinas, Frank & Timme, Berlin, 2013.

Here is an example of Prof. Cabañas’s literary translation from the book Scene from the Movie GIANT (Escena de la película GIGANTE), Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 1993.

Fallingrief of Unpleasure

The eye surrenders to the light and something begins
To go from you, as if you cannot but leave it: to

Wither on the floor, never to retrieve from darkness.
Like fragments of thought flashing, the slow burn of
Each frame rises into consciousness with the meaning

Of failed belief. A fallingrief of unpleasure grows
In you and something, call it the soul, deep is offended.
You want to go mad or die, but turn morose instead.

You lean back hard against your shadow and wish you
Could dissolve yourself in it, dissolve, fade to black.

La pesadumbre del desagrado

El ojo se rinde a la luz y algo empieza
A desprenderse de ti, como si no pudieras hacer nada más que dejarlo ir: a

Marchitarse en el suelo, para nunca ser rescatado de la oscuridad.
Como fragmentos de pensamiento destellante, el lento quemar de
Cada imagen se alza a la conciencia con el significado

De una fallida creencia. La pesadumbre del desagrado aumenta
En ti y algo, llamémoslo el alma, queda ofendido en lo más profundo.
Te dan ganas de enloquecer o morir pero, sin embargo, te ensombreces.

Te inclinas hacia atrás firmemente contra tu sombra y deseas
Poder disolverte en ella, disolverte, fundirte en lo negro.