Nicole Wanders by the Riverbank
(translation by Lawrence Schimel)

This poem is drawn from Fabián O. Iriarte’s collection Las confesiones, first published in Argentine by Huesos de Jibia in 2012 and forthcoming in my English translation this autumn by Entre Ríos under the title The Confessions.

While Fabián and I have not yet met in person, I’ve been reading his work for many decades, and was drawn to the poems in this book, which are both erudite and sexy, sophisticated but playful, unquestionably queer in both content and how they tackle and subvert language. The fact that Fabián is himself a translator is evident not just in how he plays with language but the multilingual nature of the poems themselves, something I tried to preserve in this poem, which features the francophone Canadian poet Nicole Brossard and quotes lines from her work.

My goal in translating this collection was to try and recreate not just Iriarte’s erudition and all the cultural and literary references, but also the poet’s playfulness and exuberant delight in language, in its sounds as well as its meanings.

Nicole Wanders by the Riverbank

l’avoir là où elle passe
rivière creusant sa métaphore
—Nicole Brossard

She walks, a bit lost, between the shores
of the tongue and the borders of the river.
Does she tie her tongue, or is it the tongue that ties itself?
Does she tremble, or cause trembling? I can’t see her
well, can’t hear her well. Does she follow
some trail, some delirium on the riverbank?

A foreigner, she finds simultaneously
familiarity in the foreign. And vice versa. Or are these
tunnels, echoes, caverns of meaning,
steps, going up and down, stumbling?

I watch her. She is thinking:
“au milieu des mots amovibles
je traduis moeurs inédites” …
For example, the tongue on the seeds of capital Os,
of great interjections and exclamations,
sex inverted.

As if imploring her own irreverent blasphemous
prayer, “a single word from you would be enough
to translate me.”

There where the page is torn, where
something tears, where the voice breaks, 
that’s where she wants to be.

Nicole de Paseo a Orillas del Río

l’avoir là où elle passe
rivière creusant sa métaphore
—Nicole Brossard

Camina, un poco perdida, entre las orillas
de la lengua y los bordes del río.
¿Ella traba la lengua, o la lengua se traba?
¿Tiembla ella, o hace temblar? No la veo
bien, no la escucho bien. ¿Es que sigue
alguna huella, algún delirio en la ribera?

Extranjera, encuentra a la vez
familiar lo extraño. Viceversa. ¿O es que son
estos túneles, ecos, cavernas de sentido,
peldaños, subir y bajar, trastabillando?

Yo la observaba. Ella iba pensando:
“au milieu des mots amovibles
je traduis moeurs inédites”…

Por ejemplo, la lengua en pepitas de O mayúsculas,
de grandes interjecciones y exclamaciones,
el sexo a la inversa.

Como rezando su propia plegaria
irreverente blasfema, “una sola palabra tuya bastará
para traducirme”.

Ahí donde se desgarra la página, donde
algo se rompe, donde la voz se quiebra,
ella quiere estar.

Fabián O. Iriarte (Laprida, Buenos Aires,1963) holds a PhD in Humanities from the University of Texas in Dallas and teaches comparative literature and English-language Literature at the National University of Mar de Plata. He is the author of over a dozen collections of poetry, including Devoción por el azar, Litmus test, El punto suspensivo, and Pocas probabilidades de lluvia. The Confessions, forthcoming from Entre Ríos, will be his first book published in English translation. He lives in Mar del Plata, Argentina.

Lawrence Schimel (New York, 1971) is a bilingual (Spanish/English) writer who has published over 120 books as author or anthologist. He has won the Lambda Literary Award (twice), a Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and numerous other honors. He is also a prolific literary translator, in both directions, of over 130 books. Recent translations include: into English: Hatchet by Carmen Boullosa, Destruction of the Lover by Luis Panini, and Niños: Poems for the Lost Children of Chile by María José Ferrada; into Spanish: Nos llamaron enemigo by George Takei & Bluets by Maggie Nelson. He lives in Madrid, Spain.