Monday, May 1, 2023

Poet in Spain

Poet in SpainPoet in Spain by Federico García Lorca
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stunning to explore Spain's explicator of poetic duende in this new translation from Sarah Arvio reviewed by Dwight Garner in The New York Times:
"Lorca’s poems from Spain are a poetry of dreams and journeys and glimpses from balconies, of sunbaked meadows and realms of erotic yearning. He went to the well often for the same elemental imagery: the sea, the wind, the moon, flowers and trees. His mind worked feverishly enough to induce hallucinations."

Having a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish, I was troubled by some of Translator Sarah Arvio's decisions to drop punctuation. Garner offers samples:
Lorca has been tamped down. His poem “Cazador” (“Hunter”), for example, begins with these words: “¡Alto pinar!” Arvio translates this, with a vast diminution in energy, as “High grove of pines.”

Lorca wrote in an exclamatory style that gave his work a flamenco brashness missing from some of these translations. García Lorca uses exclamatory sequences to mimic the effect of a chorus singing and beating their palms to the music of a flamenco performance.
Look at the first stanza of “Árboles” (“Trees”) from 1919:

¿Habéis sido flechas
Caídas del azul?
¿Qué terribles guerreros os lanzaron?
¿Han sido las estrellas?

Per Garner, "Arvio renders this in telegraphic yet somewhat lobotomized fashion:"

Were you once arrows
falling from the sky
What terrible warriors shot you
Were they the stars

Lorca's fascination with 14th-century Persian poetry in The Tamarit Divan to his idealization of Andalusia’s Romani history in Gypsy Ballads may be questioned nowadays, but overall these English translations stand up and render the book invaluable to any English-speaker smitten by Lorca’s work. and

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