Kenji Liu’s debut poetry collection does not start quietly; rather, it breaks into the world, denouncing the United States’ attempted erasure of migrants through legalese that alienates non-English-speaking people. The collection begins with the birth of the speaker in Kyoto, Japan, and spends layer upon layer puzzling the violences that the colonial center wreaks against the periphery. Liu’s overarching metaphor for intersectionality and assemblage of identities is the onion without a full and “real” center.
Today, creators of the Transborder Immigrant Tool announced the release of their book containing the code and poems that power this inventive and potentially life-sustaining tool. Developed by the Electronic Disturbance Theater while in residence at B.A.N.G. lab at University of California, San Diego, the Transborder Immigrant Tool is a mobile app developed for use on inexpensive phones that offer immigrants crossing the U.S./Mexico border on foot navigation to water stations in the desert using visual and sound cues. Once a traveler activates the app, the phone locates the nearest water cache using GPS and begins guiding the user towards the water using a compass and poems.
One of the powers of translation is that it (as act and as actual work) causes us to examine identity formations, the formation first and foremost of our own identity as translators: what we are absorbing, how our cultural structuration as public beings effaces memory in the work that is translated, in fact, destroys the work in the act of translation. Or risks such destruction. It is that bad, my friends: it is that bad. Or that good.
Translation tears a strip off me, a bark, a coalesce of snot and varnish and spit. It takes months to grow my skin back.
In this regard, one of the crucial challenges to translation today in 2012 is the work done on indigeneity, poetics and translation, by the incredible writer and thinker from the austral regions of the Americas, from Chile, the south of Chile (which is like our North in its impact on human memory, inhabitation and bearing), Andrés Ajens.