Translator's Note: "After “Las Formas Puras,” After Lorca" by John Matthias
This poem is even less a “proper” translation than the Quevedo version that precedes it. It is dedicated to the memory of Anthony Kerrigan because Tony and I used to kill the time now and then doing what he called, after Lorca, some hechos poéticos, slowly improvised riffs or improvisations in which we’d feed each other a line from a text and the other would do something with it and then toss it back — which is not, by the way, what Lorca meant by the term. Kerrigan, of course, was one of the great Spanish language transla- tors of the twentieth century, who played these games with me now and then to amuse himself. We were down the hallway from each other at Notre Dame for about a decade. When I found “After ‘Las Formas Puras,’ After Lorca” in an old notebook recently, I realized that it derived from the hechos game with Tony some twenty years ago. I discovered its actual source in the last stanza of the third poem in Lorca’s Poeta en Nueva York, one of the “Poems of Solitude at Columbia University”: “Fábula y rueda de los tres amigos,” or “Fable of Three Friends to Be Sung in Rounds.” Only a few of the last twelve lines of the “Fable” are consecutively translated, and other lines are either imported from other Lorca poems or inventions based on Lorca’s words and phrases. Still, my working definition of “translation” is as broad as I can make it, and so by a stretch this hecho-derived poem belongs in a group of translations rather than a group of original poems.
John Matthias has published fourteen books of poems, most recently Trigons (2009) and Collected Shorter Poems (2011), both from Shearsman Books. He is professor emeritus at the University of Notre Dame and co-editor of Notre Dame Review.