Where do you draw boundaries between a translator’s research and the collecting of stories about the poet? Stories expand on the truth while distorting the truth. Hearing them is an inevitable part of the translation process — or at least it has been for me, because I have translated materials over time from a series of writers with links to the same city, which means that my interpretations are partially influenced by the city's shifting artistic community.
Soleida Ríos (b. 1950 in eastern Cuba) is a remarkable poet from whom comparatively little work is circulating to date in English. There may be a further delay in terms of book projects in translation, for Ríos lost a translator when Barbara Jamison tragically passed away.
The death of a translator is a reminder of the small, mortal scale of possibility embedded within these our “global” landscapes. It’s also a cue to remember, with Esther Allen, that “the translation of a text often depends largely or perhaps wholly on contextual factors that have less to do with the work’s intrinsic value (whatever that might be and however you might measure it) than with encounters between individuals and the shifting cultural and political contexts within which those encounters take place.”