Anomaly #28 :: Translation

Translation at Anomaly is back and anomalous as ever.

We chose to open the new issue with Neus Canyelles, because she gets us. The award-winning Mallorcan writer needs to be better known in English—and surely will be soon—and we’re grateful to Marlena Gittleman for bringing us Canyelles’s “The Overcoat, by Nikolai Gogol.” Those quotation marks are in the right place. Alongside 15 others in the collection, Canyelles recasts Gogol’s “Overcoat” along semi-autobiographical, deeply subversive, and thoroughly charming lines.  

We stay in the Iberian realm for the outsized impact of the compact poem that follows, but travel to the 11th century to encounter a Hispano-Arabic form that is itself about encounter: the Muwashshawah. As translator Mary-Jane Holmes tells us, these poems were written “almost exclusively by men in Hebrew or Arabic,” but then the poet would “borrow” a woman-authored final stanza that served as a response. Holmes makes pointed reference to this tradition of appropriation when she titles her translation of Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Arfa’ Ra’suh’s poem “And the Girl Sings,” seeking to place the two voices on even ground. What the “girl” has to say cuts right through this reader, a millennium later.

Next, Anomaly indulges its penchant for irreverent and experimental translations of hallowed work. In this case, we’ve got Erika Luckert’s take on Rimbaud’s May 15 letter to Paul Demeny, in which she slyly accepts the poet’s call for “derangement” by revealing the strangeness beneath his metaphors while also upending his vision of the always-and-only male poet.

Another favorite around these parts is collaborative translation, and we found a beautiful example in Waild Abdallah’s partnership with Andy Fogle. Together, the Egyptian professor and the U.S. poet have been bringing the stunning work of Farouk Goweda to an English readership. “This Country No Longer My Country” is a gripping elegy for Egyptian immigrants who drowned in their passage to European shores, while “Who Said Oil is Worth More Than Blood?” delivers a chilling critique of U.S. intervention in Iraq. These are poems of lament, elegy, and rebuke from a powerful voice we would do well to listen to.

In a first for us, our next selection features a translator and translatee who share a name: Karan Madhok’s translations of ghazals by his grandfather, Amrit Lal “Ishrat” Madhok. Grappling with the strictness of the ghazal form and the gulf between Urdu and English literary expectations led Karan to send us two versions of each piece: “The Poem (a literal translation) to bring the ghazal to the English reader, and The Ghazal (a formal translation) to take the English reader closer to the original Urdu.” Energized as we are by the sight of translation in motion, we couldn’t resist sharing this peek with our readers.

Finally, we bring you Bolivian poet Paura Rodríguez Leytón, as seen through the eyes of Janet McAdams. McAdams describes having had to “lean back fully” into the “dream-landscape” of these shifting, vivid pieces, trusting them rather than trying to wrestle. Rodríguez Leytón’s work succeeds brilliantly in the tumbling, philosophical, surrealist mode so many strive for and fail at. The poems’ sure-footedness and potency make me want to read far beyond the three bright flashes included here.

Anna Rosenwong, Translation Editor
April 2019

Anomaly #28 Translation Team

María José Giménez, Assistant Translation Editor
Allison Grimaldi-Donahue, Associate Translation Editor
Kira Josefsson, Assistant Translation Editor
Anna Rosenwong, Translation Editor