Poetry News

Anna Deeny Morales Talks Translation With NEA

By Harriet Staff
Anna Deeny Morales

At the National Endowment for the Arts's blog, Art Works, Anna Deeny Morales talks about translating Raúl Zurita and Gabriela Mistral. "Anna Deeny Morales came to literary translation through fortuitous circumstances that would change the course of her career. While studying the relationship between 20th-century U.S. and Latin American poets for her dissertation, she was invited by faculty to translate several poems by Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, who would be in town to give a reading." From there: 

Deeny Morales, who grew up between Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, and is bilingual, accepted the challenge. Thus began a career in translation to complement her work in academia, where she teaches and researches Latin American literature, poetry, and philosophy.

Deeny Morales was recently awarded an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship to support her translation of Tala, the 1938 poetry collection by Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral. Although Mistral was the first Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945, she remains the least translated of Latin American Nobel Laureates. Below, in Morales’s own words, she tells us the reason for Mistral’s underrepresentation in the global literary canon, the importance of translating women, and why she thinks the music of poetry is nothing short of a miracle.

The Importance of Translating Women

I started translating women poets because I realized it was difficult for them to publish their work, and even more difficult for them to be published in translation.

But translating other women writers is part of a literary tradition of doing so. For example, in 1984, Diana Bellessi, an Argentine writer, published Latin America’s first anthology of U.S. women poets in translation. The writers Bellessi translated—Muriel Rukeyser, Denise Levertov, June Jordan, and others—then became part of Bellessi’s local and contemporary soundscape to be disseminated, thought about, and reworked. They also became part of an intellectual project in Argentina and incited genealogies beyond national affiliations of language and thought. Bellessi’s translations made this possible.

I want to participate in this tradition of publishing women writers in translation. Understanding, supporting, and disseminating their work through translation is a dialogue, a “dance,” as Bellessi called it, through time and distance.

Continue at Art Works.

Originally Published: October 12th, 2018