The Ofi Press Magazine

International Poetry and Fiction from Mexico City

Ulalume González de León: 5 Poems Published in Translation

Poems by Ulalume González de León (Uruguay)

Translations by Terry Ehret (USA), Nancy J. Morales (USA) and John Johnson (USA)

Published in The Ofi Press issue 49

Telegramas para Jorge/ Telegrams for Jorge

 Telegramas para Jorge

 

1. (Proyecto- Wittgenstein)

 

“Compartamos

kilómetros de disparates…”

 

2. (Al amigo poeta)

 

Tienes la edad del mundo

y ni un minuto menos.

Pero te ves más joven.

 

3. (En que pido posada)

 

Estar sola es perder el sitio,

andar a la intemperie.

Dame un aquí en tu cuerpo.

 

4. (Tu amiga atolondrada)

 

En mi prisa por crecer

eché alas y raíces:

qué voy a hacer?

 

5. (Contra el frío)

 

Amigo desnudo:

te voy a escribir

un poema envolvente.

 

6. (Marvell)

 

Let us roll all our strength and all

Our sweetness up into one ball

Telegrams for Jorge

 

1.  (Project- Wittgenstein)

 

“Let’s share

miles of nonsense…”

 

2. (To my poet friend)

 

You are as old as the world

and not one minute less.

But you look younger.

 

3. (In which I ask for shelter)

 

To be alone is to lose one’s place,

to wander in the elements.

Give me shelter here in your body.

 

4. (Your scatterbrained friend)

 

In my hurry to grow

I shed wings and roots:

what am I going to do?

 

5. (Against the cold)

 

Naked friend:

I’m going to write

a poem to cover you..

 

6. (Marvell)

 

Let us roll all our strength and all

Our sweetness up into one ball



Brull nonsense/ Brull nonsense

Brull nonsense

 

Se parte en dos el silencio

la luz se vuelve al revés,

y sin manos, van las manos

a buscar quién sabe qué,

y en el minuto de nadie

pasa lo que nunca fue…

 Brull nonsense

 

The silence breaks in two,

the light turns upside down,

and hands-free, the hands go

searching for who knows what,

and in the minute of nobody

that which never was happens…

Cielo entero/ Entire sky

Cielo entero

 

Un pájaro corta

el viento o el tiempo

 

El vértigo en mí

que no tengo alas

pero invento pájaros

 

Cada uno pone

la mitad del cielo

Entire sky

 

A bird cuts through

wind or time

 

A giddiness in me

that I have no wings

but invent birds

 

Each one wearing

half the sky


      
Viejo y palabras/ Old and words

Viejo y palabras

 

Ya no puedo inventar el mundo solo:

voy a morirme

                        en mí

                                   con mis palabras,

un ramo seco ni siquiera bueno

para el más chirle té.

Agotado su jugo jeroglífico.

 

Estoy viejo.

                    La prueba:

ya no puedo arrojar una palabra búmerang

que regrese cargada de otredad.

 Old and words

 

I can no longer invent the world alone:

I am going to die

                             in myself

                                             with my words,

a dry branch not even good

for the most insipid tea.

Its hieroglyphic sap exhausted.

 

I am old.

                The proof:

I can no longer hurl a boomerang word

that returns charged with otherness.

Acibernética/ Acybernetic
 Acibernética

           

No

       no nos respondíamos

 

Las preguntas lanzadas rebotaban

y volvían distintas

casi irreconocibles

pájaros migratorios

                                 siempre otros

 

Podíamos usarlas en seguir preguntando

 Acybernetic

 

No

       we were not responding

 

The hurled questions kept bouncing back

and returning different

almost unrecognizable

migratory birds

                           always others

 

We could use them to keep asking


 

About the Poet and Translators

 Poet

Ulalume González de León was a poet, essayist, and translator of remarkable intelligence and invention. She was born in 1932 in Montevideo, Uruguay, the daughter of Roberto Ibáñez and Sara de Ibáñez. Her parents gave her the incantatory name Ulalume, inspired by the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe and the musical names of African-Caribbean ocean deities. At an early age, she was introduced to many poets and intellectuals who were guests in her parents’ home, among them Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, Gabriela Mistral, and Juan Ramón Jiménez.

She studied at a French lycée, and, by the time she was fifteen, had earned a government scholarship to study literature and philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris, finishing her studies at the University of Mexico. In the 1960’s and 70’s in Latin America, she was an inspirational leader of a generation of women writers experimenting with language and challenging the traditional identities of women, marriage, and relationships. She published essays, stories, and poems, and worked on the editorial boards of  the journals Plural and Vuelta, under the direction of Octavio Paz. She also translated the work of Elizabeth Bishop, Ted Hughes, Lewis Carroll, and e.e. cummings.

González de León’s poetry earned her many awards, including the Xavier Villaurrutia Prize, the Flower of Laura Poetry Prize in 1979 (the Center for International Studies) and Alfonso X Prize. Recognizing the visionary quality of her work, Octavio Paz called González de León “the best Mexican poet since Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.” She died in 2009 of respiratory failure and complications of Alzheimer’s at the age of 77.

Translators

Terry Ehret has an M.A. in Creative Writing and is one of the founders of Sixteen Rivers Press. She has published four collections of poetry, most recently Night Sky Journey from Kelly’s Cove Press. Her first collection, Lost Body (Copper Canyon Press, 1990), was inspired by González de León’s work and was selected by Carolyn Kizer for the National Poetry Series. Other awards include the California Book Award, the Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize, a nomination for the Northern California Book Reviewer’s Award, and five Pushcart Prize nominations. From 2004 to 2006, she served as the poet laureate of Sonoma County, California, where she lives and teaches writing.

Nancy J. Morales, a first-generation Puerto Rican American, earned her B.A. from Rutgers College, an M.A. in teaching English as a Second Language from Adelphi University, and a Ph.D. in education from Teachers College at Columbia University. She has taught Spanish language and literature at Dominican University, the College of Marin, and Sonoma State University.

John Johnson is an award-winning poet whose work has appeared in many print and online journals, including BOXCAR Poetry Review, Clade Song, Triggerfish Critical Review, and Web Conjunctions. He has been studying Spanish language and literature with Colors of Spanish in Petaluma, and letterpress printing with Iota Press of Sebastopol, producing chapbooks and bilingual broadsides.