After reading Secession / Insecession, I was brimming with questions. Erín Moure graciously fielded my questions and provided some compelling answers! Read our exchange here:
Kristen: So much of Secession / Insecession reads as a relative deterritorialization. You translate and move around Chus’s text, as a jazz musician would improvise on a key. Can you describe your process of translation, improvisation, and composition?
Erín: I really love this observation of yours, the word “deterritorialization” and your references to key, movement, improvisation. Well, I translate as anyone does: to try to capture the music and soundscape of the poem, while dealing with denotative meaning of each word as strictly as possible, its weight and relation to other words in the text, to the phrasal structure, line breaks, etc. That’s the text on the recto side, the English translation of Chus Pato. But all translations are necessarily deterritorialized! Mine go through a Canadian body acculturated as a Canadian of a certain era and upbringing. I translated this book of Chus’s 3 years before deciding, with her permission, to write my own text. It was a ploy to get the book published in Canada, where I live, to share with my fellow Canadians.
For my own texts, I decided to respect Pato’s acceptance of the body’s affective relationship with text it receives, and when I wrote I elaborated on something that some part of her text triggered for me. At the same time, I wanted to address issues of language, nation, translation, poetry, the role of the poet out of my own background as a post-war child in Canada, a country democratic and booming when Spain was under a dictatorship and people just emerging from the years of hunger. I just wrote and wrote, and later, carved, cut, rewrote each text to make it one word less than Chus’s.
Kristen: You describe that you write your poems “in the continual fold of the event” (Secession / Insecession 10). Do you believe, then, that each poem is ever in a process of becoming, that it is evolving as does the event? Or do you feel that each work is a fixed representation/vision of a particular perspective of that event?
Erin: The former! Again, thank you for your observation! All poems continue to evolve as new readers are different, and change them. And any one representation of an event eliminates others, makes them impossible if the representation is fixed, which is a kind of censorship. So better that the poems keep moving.
Kristen: Your affinity for Chus Pato’s poetry brings up the concept of “access.” Chus herself describes her writing in the Galician language as “a language without sovereignty.” Can you briefly describe your thoughts on the necessity of the accessibility of poetry? After all, you translate Chus’s poetry so it can be accessed by a North American audience. What are your personal thoughts on this subject?
Erín: Chus’s language, Galician, is without sovereignty because it has a country, Galicia, but Galicia is not sovereign; it is part of Spain. Regarding accessibility of poetry: it’s hard in our country when the Canada Council subsidies extended to the small literary presses that publish poetry do not extend to publications of Canadian translations of foreign poets. This means it is very difficult for Canadian poets who speak and write and read in more than one language to bring their readings and choices into the conversations in their culture. The state authorities are not consistent, though. Under Public Lending Right, a translation is a creation. And in the readings and travel grant programs, a translator is considered a creator. But not in the case of the actual publication of a work of poetry. These are old habits, and I hope they will change. I myself am tired of being an “astronaut”. To be a translator of a non-Canadian poet or to be an astronaut, you have to emigrate your work and energy and passion away from Canada.
Without access to the conversations of the world in poetry, we are left with other nations’ choice of poets to translate, and we do not actually embrace the conversation in doing our own work. This lack of access harms us.
Poetry is not one thing, is multiple, moving, shimmering, changing. It is, for me, work in language as a limit case, at the limits of language and of what language can articulate or bear, but it is not that at all times for every poet. Yet accessibility means allowing yourself as reader of poetry to be changed by language of another, of the other. It is wondrous food. It fuels and carries us.
Kristen: In your conversation with Chus Pato, she said: “the poet holds onto the impossible harmony between sense and the insensate.” How do you feel that this harmony (or the balancing between the entities of sense and insensate) manifests in Insecession?
Erín: I think Chus means that the poet doesn’t try to resolve the contraries but presents them, tensing on a cord, in a way. It’s this non-resolution (for resolution is dumbing down), which involves a sustained effort, that we call the sublime. It feeds us for it offers us possibility. In Insecession, I imitate Chus by trying to present my life and relation to poetry without explaining or dialectizing either, i.e. without the synthesis of Hegelian dialectics. (There are other kinds of synthesis that the mind can perform, of course.)
Kristen: You and Pato both discuss the role of education in the creation of poetry. Both of you suggest the necessity of reading as integral to the creation of writing. Other than Chus Pato’s work, could you name a few specific texts/pieces of media have been inspirational and educational for your own oeuvre?
The poems of Rosalía de Castro; I learned so much from them about rhythms and invention in translating her Galician Songs. We need to go back and reread our own 19th century I think, while reading works from other cultures alongside.
The work of Lisa Robertson in poetry and art essay; R’s Boat, say, and Lisa Robertson’s Magenta Soul Whip, and her essays, Nilling. Norma Cole. Rachel Blau Duplessis. Oana Avasilichioaei. Andrés Ajens. Caroline Bergvall. Phil Hall. Uljana Wolf. Christian Hawkey (particularly in his evocation of Georg Trakl, Ventrakl, a brilliant book). Rachel Levitsky’s The Story of my Accident is Ours, which is another way of saying Neighbors. Xabier Cordal. Robert Majzels. Nicole Brossard. Virginie LaLucq. Myung Mi Kim. Daphne Marlatt.
And earlier, Federico García Lorca, in poetry and theatre; César Vallejo in poetry. Fernando Pessoa. Gertrude Stein. Alfred Jarry. Audrey Thomas. Paul Celan. Beckett. Violette Leduc. PK Page. Phyllis Webb. Clarice Lispector. Miklós Radnóti. Eli Mandel. Susan Howe. Jack Spicer.
The views expressed in this BookThug blog entry is held by the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BookThug.
Kristen Smith received her Bachelors of Arts in English at Mount Allison University (Sackville, New Brunswick). In 2006, she was awarded the Graham Atlantic Writing Prize for her collection of poetry, Voices. Additionally, Kristen was selected as one of six poets internationally to participate in the Writing With Style program at the Banff Centre, Banff, AB (2012). In both her creative and her academic writing, Kristen explores themes of absence, nostalgia, and belonging. She currently studies at Ryerson University where she is completing a Master of Arts in Literatures of Modernity. Kristen lives in Toronto with her husband.