Poetry News

From English to Galician & Back: Chus Pato & Erín Moure's Translational Biopoetics

By Harriet Staff


At BookThug's blog, Chus Pato and Erín Moure have a great conversation about their forthcoming title, Secession/Insecession, an "homage to the acts of reading, writing and translating poetry. In it, Chus Pato’s Galician biopoetics of poet and nation, Secession--translated by Erín Moure--joins Moure’s Canadian translational biopoetics, Insecession." Got it? Here's an excerpt:

Chus: I feel enormous happiness, and gratitude. For a writer, translation is the best of fates and if, on top of translating, the translator-poet writes a new book in response to her translation and reading, I can only be glad. To me, the very spirit of poetry is “I read what you write and I write / You read what I write and you too write.” I can’t conceive of a poet who writes totally on their own; I have never thought of the poet as an absolute and isolated individual: we write poetry so that poetry circulates, so that you, so that I, so that all the six grammatical persons —I, you, she, he, we, they— write and read. Here, in this case, Erín, you’ve succeeded in demonstrating this, which is to say, that the being of the poem, its core, is this communism, this community of poetry that is never fusion or communion but is an exposure to the limits. I can’t be anything but thankful. This book is a gift, an offering that comes and goes from Europe to North America and back, from Canada to Galicia, from English to Galician, from you to me, from me to you, and from both of us to all those who set eyes on this writing.

Erín: In a recent interview, you spoke with the poet Elvira Riveiro. Your image or elaboration there of how the tree flees from the word “tree” is very powerful, I think, and is for me an image not only of poetry but of translation. It invokes, for me, the image of my mother who never wanted to be buried in a graveyard, who said we could find her in the trees. Can you comment on the difference between a poet who exists in secession, in the cut, and a tree that flees the word “tree”?

Chus: I spoke with Elvira, yes, about the tree, but I could have used any other word, any other body: rock, bird, the human bodies with whom we cross paths every day, our own body, an airplane. I was trying to address two questions, one: that words do not create the world and two: that by using words we are able to live in the falsehood of thinking that we dominate what we name, while what occurs in reality is that the ontic (that which is not language, that which is not sense/meaning) never stops apprehending, speaking, through the use of words. If we arrive at meaning, it is through language, but things do not need meaning in order to exist. Our need for meaning is alien to them; they are the insensate. They are that which has no need of sense or meaning; they are neither word nor silence, they’re mute. I conceive the poem as that word which assumes this folly, takes on this insensate that we don’t want to acknowledge and that lays seige to us for it keeps on confronting us. In response to the first question, I spoke to Elvira of the tension between contraries, in this case the tree (insensate and mute) and the word “tree” (meaning and articulated sound from homo sapiens-homo sapiens). The poem doesn’t abolish contraries in a dialectical synthesis but keeps them separate; the poem must be able to speak this tension, speak that which is dislocated.

In my view, a poet is one who ends up closely resembling what they write; as well, the poet holds onto the impossible harmony between sense and the insensate.

Originally Published: March 13th, 2014