Antena

(Outside, glorious illusion)

A Collaborative Experiment in Discomfortable Writing

 

Original lines:

Virginia Lucas: Afuera la ilusión gloriosa cometa reventando el viento / diciendo en sacudidas; afuera la libertad

Rachel Levitsky: At the boundary / where they meet. // Rooms lost and stolen / dirty under the desk.

Improvised interpreted poem:

Outside,
glorious illusion
a comet exploding
in the wind
saying
shaken things—
out with liberty!
—lost things
under the desk.
Today I want
to feel. Today
I want to kill.
Outside. Outside
the prisoners
against the wall.
The repeated wall.
The wall
of repeated
action. The wall.
I want to get rid
of education.
I want to get rid
of bad manners.
Outside,
animals,
a wall. Today
I would like for us
to share
that thing
that is
to flee.

This improvised discomfortable text-generating experiment is based on a repeating, spiraling practice of collaborative interpretation and addition, for which we invented a few key constraints to guide us. We began with one text fragment in Spanish, chosen by one of us without the other’s knowledge: in this instance, by Uruguayan poet and queer studies innovator, Virginia Lucas. This text was immediately interpreted into English by the listener, who then added one text fragment in English—in this instance, by New York poet and recuperative strategist, Rachel Levitsky. After the reading and initial interpretation of each of our “found” texts, every time one of us “interpreted,” we added a line or two of our own devising, for a total of five sets of improvised “interpretations.” Our rules were that we had to take new notes on a new sheet of paper or cover our old notes every time we were interpreting (to avoid simply transferring notes and/or memorizing text blocks) and that we could return to the same original text by Lucas or Levitsky if we wanted to include more lines of theirs rather than improvised lines of our own.

While this experiment is grounded in interpretation techniques, it differs significantly from professional interpreting and in fact violates many of the central guidelines of the practice. In our professional lives, we would never perform live interpretations of poetry—it’s just impossible. Rather, if a speaker is going to read a poem as part of their presentation, we request that they provide a translation of that material to us in advance. Additionally, in almost all instances of interpretation, we’d be aware of the context of the speaker’s comments, which would usually follow a basic logic and create a fairly legible linear narrative; context and logic are turned upside down when we oblige ourselves to interpret improvised lines that may or may not have some relationship (often neither logical nor linear) to the preceding lines. Finally, in our practice as interpreters, we would never, ever embellish or improvise based on what we are interpreting—quite the contrary, we would do our very best to transmit the message as directly as possible, and as closely to what we heard as possible, with no omissions and no additions.

We broke key rules of interpreting. We invented new constraints for the experiment. The process was eminently discomfortable. And the result: a discomfortable text.

Editors’ Notes

Visit: http://antenaantena.org

Antena

Antena Antena is a language justice and literary experimentation collaborative founded in 2010 by Jen Hofer and John Pluecker, both of whom are writers, artists, literary translators, bookmakers and activist interpreters. Antena activates links between social justice work and artistic practice by exploring how critical views on language can help us to reimagine and rearticulate the worlds we inhabit. The essay “When We Said This Was A Space, We Meant We Are People”, available at The Conversant, documents Antena’s work at Project Row Houses in 2012. Jen Hofer is a Los Angeles-based poet, translator, social justice interpreter, teacher, knitter, book-maker, public letter-writer, and urban cyclist. Her translation of Negro marfil by Mexican poet Myriam Moscona, published as Ivory Black by Les Figues Press in 2011, won awards from the Academy of American Poets and PEN. She has published 8 books in translation and 3 books of poetry, in addition to a number of handmade books in DIY editions. Her poems, essays and translations are forthcoming from Dusie Books, Insert Press, Kenning Editions, and Litmus Press. John Pluecker is a writer, interpreter, and translator. His work is informed by experimental poetics, radical aesthetics and cross-border cultural production; it has appeared in journals and magazines in the U.S. and Mexico, including The Volta, Mandorla, Aufgabe, eleven eleven, Third Text, Animal Shelter and HTMLGiant. He has translated more than six books from the Spanish, and has published three poetry chapbooks, Routes into Texas (DIY, 2010), Undone (Dusie Kollektiv, 2011) and Killing Current (Mouthfeel Press, 2012).