Enrique Solinas and Márgara Averbach
Nouha Gorani Homad
The following selections from two Argentinian authors, Márgara Averbach and Enrique Solinas, deal with loss. Since I know the two authors personally, their poems are that much more touching. I have felt their pain up close, and I have tried in these selections to convey the evocative quality of their poems.
Translating poetry has always been particularly challenging for me. I’m usually more comfortable with narrative.
For these selections, I was fortunate to have the authors themselves collaborate with me in the rendering of their works into another language. I had already collaborated with Márgara over the translation of her novel Una Cuadra [Grass between the Cobblestones] into English, which was a fascinating experience. With Enrique, this was the first time that I translate his work. Below, I have appended the back and forth about the poems, and the changes they suggested as the translation unfolded.
In 2008 I met Enrique Solinas in Buenos Aires. I was at the time visiting my daughter in Santiago de Chile and she had surprised me with a trip to Buenos Aires to revisit my old haunts. My daughter, Gida, and I met up with Jorge Paolantonio and Enrique for dinner in the Palermo neighbourhood to talk about Jorge’s Ceniza de orquídeas which I was in the process of translating for the New York City based publisher, Jorge Pinto Books. In conversation, Enrique told me he wrote poetry and gave me a copy of his poems. I found the poems hauntingly beautiful, very tender and gentle just like him. When Jorge died suddenly in July 2019, Enrique was devastated. The loss he had sustained was beyond words. The following poems are selections from his dedicatory to Jorge.
Señor de los pájaros y otros poemas
a Jorge Paolantonio, in memorial
« Señor de los pájaros,
donde las canciones y los poemas
el color del sentido. »
Lord of the Birds and other Poems
to Jorge Paolantonio, in memoriam
‘Lord of the birds,
The translations are beautiful, thank you very much, Nouha. Jorge loved you, he always kept you in mind. You were a great friend to him.
|Poema para tu cumpleaños
Estas palabras nunca serán
lo suficientemente certeras
para decir todo lo posible.Celebremos la vida esta noche,
he visto tu rostro
bajo el cielo estrellado.
He sentido el amor.Hago una corona de flores,
la coloco sobre tu cabeza,
tanta belleza me emociona.Como esas canciones de infancia
que en el recuerdo se repiten
una y otra vez,así estarás,en mí,por siempre.
|Poem for your birthday
My words will never be
Let us celebrate life tonight,
I make weave a crown of flowers,
Like those songs of childhood
So will you be,
‘Certeras’: ‘seguras’, is good. So yes, strong, in the sense of firm is ok.
a Mascha kalékoLa primera vez que morí fue
cuando murió mi madre.
El hospital era negro como el cielo
y su respiración cesó
como cuando el viento calla.La segunda vez que morí fue
cuando murió mi padre.
El hospital era claro como el sol
y todos teníamos la certeza
de lo que iba a suceder.Pero la tercera vez que morí,
aún sigue sucediendo.
Todo fue de repente,
enterré tu memoria
en mi corazón
y allí existe intacta.Ahora sé que no sé
–y esto es seguro–
si estaré muerto
y no me he dado cuenta
o si morí tantas veces,
pero tantas veces,
que ya no muero más.
for Mascha KalékoThe first time that I died was
when my mother died.
The hospital was as dark as the sky
and her breath failed
like when the wind is quiet breeze fell silent.The second time that I died was
when my father died.
The hospital was as light as the sun
and we all had the sure knowledge
of what would happen was to come.But the third time I died,
Still keeps happening.
It was unexpected in a moment,
I buried your memory
in my heart
and there it survives complete.Now I know that I don’t know
– and this is for sure –
If I have died
and I was unaware unawares
or if I died so many times,
but so many times,
that I cannot die again.
|Enrique, why the dedication to Mascha Kaleko? Is there a story behind that?
I dedicated the poem to this German Jewish poet because she has a poem called “The Famous Feeling”, which talks about three deaths, in a vague way. I took that poem and rewrote it: that is why I dedicated it to her. My poem arises from her poem.
I first met Márgara in the summer of 1997. We were both visiting scholars at Santa-Barbara University, California. After a dinner at the beautiful home of one of hosts the programme, a home in the mountains around Santa-Barbara, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, a guitar was produced. I offered to play a Zamba and asked Márgara if she would sing along with me. I suggested Luna tucumana. There were suddenly tears in Márgara’s eyes. She said she couldn’t possibly sing that zamba, it brought back painful memories of her father. We ended up singing Guitarrero, a less evocative song for her. In 2016, my daughter and I spend the day with Márgara and her family at their campo home in Ezeiza, near Buenos Aires. She told me that she had broken out of her habit of writing mostly prose. She was actually writing poetry now as well. Her collection of poems was very personal, mostly addressed to her ‘viejos’, her parents, her husband and her children, about loss and love. Several of those poems – three of which are translated here – are about her father.
Esta música se me clava
La que viene
Talking to Myself
This music seals stabs
|The only general thing is that my poetry has rhyme. When I translate poems into Spanish and they rhyme in English, I make them rhyme in Spanish… But I could never do it when I translate into English so it is OK if you do not do it… Only: maybe there should be an explanation about this. I think using rhyme or not is kind of a split in poetry nowadays. Most poets do not use rhyme. I need to do it.
(I would look for a more violent verb, “clava” is “me pone un clavo en los labios”)
(de nuevo, más violento)
(a papá)No sé por qué
levanto la vista.
El cielo está bajo.
Y yo me acuerdo, claro:
de vos, de mí (pero chica),
de tu dedo largo,
de tus palabras.
Un perro, ¿lo ves?
Discutíamos nubes y,
en ese rato sin tiempo,
vos eras casi alegre.
(For my father)I don’t know why
I look up.
The sky is overcast dark closing in. low
And I remember clearly vividly of course:
you, me (but a girl),
your long finger,
held above poised above,
A dog, do you see it?
We discussed clouds then,
And in that time moment outside of time,
You were almost happy cheery.
almost whole complete.
You were smiling.
is closing in low
|(quiero decir que da la impresión de que lo podés tocar con las manos, you can touch it with your hands).
(acá, “claro” es of course, evidently)
You did not come.