Translator as fulcrum: a point central or essential to an activity, an event, a situation. Clearly the model applies to any bilingual reading that depends on a translator to quarterback the event for an audience with limited or no ability to understand the writer’s original language.
However, this entry takes the notion of the fulcrum differently. Daniel Borzutzky has been developing a fulcrum poetics, one located among the activities & events & situations where poetry and translation balance off, moving against and with each other.
There has been some relevant news about Juan Luis Martínez’s work circulating for a while. Scott Weintraub, an academic of the University of New Hampshire, has published in Santiago, Chile, and the US two important books of essays discussing a crucial discovery concerning Martínez’s posthumous publications.
If you are interested in contemporary Chilean Poetry, and you haven’t heard the name Juan Luis Martínez yet, then something is terribly wrong: you’ve been missing a lot. The good news is we are going to fix that right away.
Juan Luis Martínez was born in Valparaíso, in 1942. Son of the general manager of a reputable local steamship company, and a woman of Nordic origin coming from a very traditional family, he spent most of his life between the cities of Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, and Villa Alemana (Germantown!). As soon as he started high school, he abandoned his studies to embrace the bohemian lifestyle of the late ’50s in Valparaíso.
The great Nicanor Parra turned one-hundred years old last September. Obviously, nobody has wanted to miss the opportunity to celebrate and honor the world-renowned anti-poet. Local and foreign media have been publishing extensive biographies, reviews, and special notes on Parra’s life and work (some examples here, here, here, and here). Also different institutions in Chile have organized activities such as exhibitions and collective readings. The Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center (GAM) installed a photo exhibit labeled as his “first visual biography,” organized an international seminar about anti-poetry, and launched the book “Nicanor Parra or the art of demolition” by the British poet and scholar, Niall Binns. The National Council for Culture and Arts organized a collective reading called “National Parra-phrase” where people were invited to simultaneously read the poem “The Imaginary Man” (watch a video here), and Diego Portales University put together a remarkable exhibition of his visual work, installations, and his famous “Artifacts.”
Halfway through the 60s, art in Chile had developed mainly on two fronts: one with a critical and international vocation that included the experiments of conceptual art, and another, more committed to the political context. When the military coup happened in 1973, political art was completely removed from the picture. Pinochet’s dictatorship began to impose a regime of censorship and persecution, which strongly affected the local cultural scene. With many artists and authors imprisoned, tortured, assassinated, and exiled, the national artistic production was practically paralyzed.
Visual poetry is an odd egg: it never seems to extinguish. It continues at the periphery, way back in the corner of our literary eye. Possibly surprising is that many poets around the world have a thriving fascination with text as visual material. Perhaps vispoets stare at words longer than most, but their work is enmeshed in the design elements found in the alphabet and in symbols generally.