lucy says (WLT Translation Prize Runner-Up - Poetry)

June 26, 2018
translated by rowena galavitz
Photo (left to right) - Translator Rowena Galavitz (courtesy of  Emerson Richards) and author Paula Ilabaca Núñez


Hell hang the hearts
Black and dull as the night

“Cherry-Coloured Funk”
Cocteau Twins

she said my violence will be this unseemly care she said
my dress
and wept sequins frozen avenues
the city’s gestures and streets disclose a drawing
she said a drawing while she dozed she said
and devils watched from under her bed
this city no
this city and its throne my violence is cement she said on her throne
my violence is cement and she reigned over all things

the lucid city
sequins frozen avenues
most of the shapes on her face were minuscule
they assumed frames and endless echoes
it happens with her voice her hair her whole potential creature
the horrific detail in the corners of her mouth she said
my poor mouth and the mud that spattered it
my poor face each day more lightless and strange
in the mirror of the powerful room a detail
shown in the hand so clearly a detail with mud
in the desire of the angel who covers her sleep with pores
poor lucy poor
spread your legs and scream

my violence is so beautiful she said my violence is so beautiful
the way her figure is made she said
the remaking of her figure was an example of a drawing
in the slumber of night the angel the mud simply happened
calibrated the blade in mud calibrated her brain in the shape of brown wings
the swamp readied she said facing the city the swamp readied
a concrete fact an apparition the mud the angel
it’s ludicrous to have a back where wings emerged
to be sleepy to doze on one’s side to crawl from puddle to puddle
lucy city angel swamp
the cicada’s muddy fury
floats in the swamp grows distant and my city
and these streets and my dress and sequins left behind she said
left behind she said my misery mine in this mud
she said mud angel angel say drawing if I beg
the ends of my voice are becoming mud
the ends of your wings say mud say neck say waist say
the swamp swallows us dry
with its gargoyle mouth

Translation from the Spanish

About her entry, Ms. Galavitz wrote that Paula Ilabaca Núñez “started writing poetry at a time when visual and corporeal arts were impacting the way poetry was performed in Chile. The long poem from which these three translated works come, la ciudad lucía (2006), forms part of a trilogy about the stages of women’s lives. In this poem, Ilabaca Núñez explores adolescent subjectivity, sexuality, and vulnerability. She does so by paring down language—punctuation, capitalization, vocabulary—thus obliging herself to reutilize words, particularly nouns. These restrictions and repetitions work to build a momentum that reflects urbanity’s harshness and patriarchy’s cruelty. At the same time, the beauty of the poem’s sounds and imagery juxtapose with implicit sexual violence. As you read these poems, notice how they walk you through menacing city streets until your voice is running out of breath.”

Chilean poet and novelist paula ilabaca núñez won the Pablo Neruda Young Poetry Award in 2015. Her published poetic works include la ciudad lucía (2006), la perla suelta (2009), completa (2003), Estados de mi corazón: cuadernos de viaje (2010), and Ínsulas (2012). Ilabaca Núñez’s novel, La regla de los nueve, was published in 2015.

Courtesy of Emerson Richards

While pursuing a doctoral degree in religious studies and comparative literature at Indiana University, rowena galavitz is also completing a certificate in literary translation. Galavitz previously worked as an artist and a translator in Mexico. Her translations include Picasso to Plensa: A Century of Art from Spain and Escombro.