In honor of Litmus Press’ forthcoming collection of Leonard Schwartz interviews with female poets, we will offer an ongoing series of transcribed talks from Schwartz’s “Cross-Cultural Poetics” archives. This month we focus on poets’ innovative publishing projects.
Interview with Marta López Luaces, from CCP Episode #63: This Language. 2005. Transcribed by Judith Filc.
Leonard Schwartz: On the phone today from New York, I’m very happy to say, is the Spanish poet Marta López Luaces. She’s the author of the book of poetry Distancias y destierro, as well as Las lenguas del viajero and Los Arquitectos de lo imaginario, among many other works published in Spanish and is the co-editor of Galerna, a Spanish-language literary journal published in the U.S. She teaches Spanish and Latin American literature. Welcome, Marta López Luaces.
Marta López Luaces: Hi, thank you, Leonard, for inviting me.
LS: It’s great to have you on the line from New York to talk about your journal, Galerna, and the kinds of things you’re doing in it, because it’s quite distinctively a Spanish-language literary journal published in New York.
MLL: Well, Galerna was born from a need to bring together into a dialogue the different poets from Latin America, and also from the U.S. Because the good thing about New York is that there are poets from Peru, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, and many other Spanish speaking countries who are living here, and many of us, even though we live here, we actually find that the dialogue that used to be normal among Latin American and Spanish poets at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries disappeared after the Spanish Civil War; there was a disconnection. And we thought, here we are, in New York, all together, why not try to recreate that dialogue? And a journal is the perfect way to do it because not only the poets who are here, but also those who are in Latin America and Spain can contribute with their poems to this dialogue. And also English-language poets are translated and published in Galerna. The idea is to build bridges that transcend nationalities, and even languages, because we also try to include the minority languages within Spanish-speaking cultures (Guarani, Catalan, Galician, Basque) in translation into Spanish to show that these so-called Spanish cultures actually have more than nine languages. So it’s trying to build bridges between the different Latin American and Spanish poets, and also between the different minority languages and the Spanish language.
LS: So in effect you’re suggesting that in terms of new writing at least, if a poet in Venezuela wants to look at what writers are doing in Spain or in Peru or in Argentina, there are very few places to which this person can turn. That’s the function that Galerna serves, right? That writers across the Spanish-speaking and writing world can go to a place and find something that breaks through national boundaries.
MLL: Yes. I think that what happened, as I was explaining, is that after the Civil War poets became more constrained by their nationality. Even though some Internet journals tried to break through those borders, at least in the Spanish language the Internet is still not a literary tool. The printed journal is still the main way to create this dialogue. It is also very important to distribute the journal in Venezuela, in Chile, in Argentina for the different poets to get to know each other. Because if you traveled to different countries before, poets from Peru wouldn’t know poets from Argentina, Argentinean poets wouldn’t know poets from Spain, so the idea is that through this journal they may be able to get to know each other much better.
LS: So that’s Galerna. For anyone reading in Spanish and looking for writing from the Spanish-speaking communities across the globe, Galerna is really the journal in that respect.
Marta, let’s turn to your poetry. Some of your works have been translated recently. I’m thinking of the poem “Diana,” the poem “Nomad.” I wonder if you could take us into those poems and read them for us in Spanish.
MLL: Okay, I will read first “Diana”:
En contra de tu ser
la soledad en que crees
Todo en tí deshabitada
que la nostalgia traduce en distancia
Regresa a tus montañas
y de abismo
En tu contra
la cólera que se propaga
por el linaje del alma
erguida a tu falta
LS: You’ve been listening to Marta López Luaces read “Diana.” Here’s the English translation, translated from the Spanish by Juan Manuel López Ramos:
Against your nature
the solitude you believe in.
Within you is an uninhabited
that sorrow translates as distance.
Return to your mountains
and by abysses.
Against your nature
the wrath that spreads
through the soul’s lineage.
with pride at your failures.
How about “Nomad,” could you read that for us?
MLL: Okay. “Nómada”:
En las largas mesas del tiempo beben los cántaros de Dios. Beben hasta el fondo los ojos de los videntes y los ojos de los ciegos, los corazones de las sombras imperantes, la mejilla de la tarde. (Paul Celán)
Vengo de un pueblo condenado
a errar por tierras extrañas.
Tres días caminaron
a la sombra de Babel.
Heredo de su tiempo
un mapa y un cielo.
De mi raza
el rasgo de la ausencia me delata
y una certeza:
antes de la tormenta,
de las sequías,
de tu mirada,
de mi orfandad,
de aquellos fuegos,
y antes de las sombras que les precedieron,
había un antes
que la memoria me pide, rescate
Pero he llegado tarde
las lluvias han pasado,
los ríos regresan a su cauce,
se alzan las ciudades en el horizonte,
y se me prohibe la entrada
Aquí, a sus puertas
la resurrección del recuerdo
del yo que era
Entonces sus heraldos me piden que renuncie
a mis nombres,
y que disfrace la voz
por la fe de su idioma
(mi raza sigue en busca de la lengua
antes de la infancia).
LS: You’ve been listening to Marta López Luaces read her poem “Nomad.” Here’s the translation into English from the Spanish by Alejandro Monte Camp:
I come from a people who are condemned
to wander through strange lands.
Three days they walked
in the shadow of Babel
lost among the fog of its speech.
I inherit from their time
a map and the sky.
Of my race
I posses the trait of the absence that gives me away.
You ask me therefore to declare myself
beyond my blood
before the storm,
before the floods,
before the gaze,
before my orphanhood,
before the fires,
before the shadows that preceded those fires,
there was a before
that my memory asks a ransom for,
my accent cannot
return to its song.
I have arrived too late
the rains have passed,
the rivers have returned to their source,
the cities have raised themselves on the horizon,
and the entrance is forbidden to me.
Here, at its doors
I wait for
the resurrection of my memory
into an I that I was
And therefore you ask me
and to disguise myself with your voice
and declare myself beyond it all
Marta, thanks so much for that poem. It’s a really beautiful piece. Am I correct that your background from Spain comes from Catalan as well as Spanish?
MLL: Actually it comes from Galician.
LS: From Galician, okay. I was off base there! Could you speak about the Galician in your thinking and in the way you think about writing in Spanish and maybe even in this poem?
MLL: Well, I think that to be born in a place that belongs to a minority language within a Spanish culture, like Galician…and I was born also during Franco’s regime, so Galician was a banned language, so there was a contradiction, because even though my grandparents spoke Galician, and even my father did, the language was banned for me. So it was a language that was spoken in the house, but I couldn’t speak it. So I only spoke Spanish. And then I came to the U.S. and I had to learn English, so in my poetry the idea of language is never belonging to a language, because they were all banned for me, because Spanish is my language, but it’s a language imposed. Galician may have been my language, but I never learned it as a literary language. It’s almost an echo from my childhood. And then English as a professional language, which I use for work. So the idea is that these languages have always been within me and outside me, they never really belong to me, I guess? Almost.
LS: I see what you mean. Have you been able to publish writers who write in Galician in your journal?
MLL: Yes, I have published Chus Pato, who is a very good Galician writer. Arturo Casas also. So yes, we do publish minority writers who write not only in Galician but also in Basque, Catalan, and now Guarani as well, so we always try to have poets from all the minority languages in the Spanish-speaking cultures.
LS: And you publish them in Spanish translation.
MLL: Yes, we try to publish them in both languages, and we don’t include them in the translation section. There is a translation section for poems in French, English, languages that do not belong to the Spanish-speaking cultures. Those that do belong to these cultures, like Guarani, Galician, we include in the section for Spanish-speaking poets.
LS: I do see that distinction, and it seems an important one. What are you working on these days besides Galerna, any new work we should be looking for?
MLL: I’m working on another poetry book called Los arquitectos de lo imaginario, which loosely translated means The Architects of the Imagination, and it is actually written from other poems, poems that have become very important in my life, so I take words that I’ve read that have stayed with me, and from those words I start a poem.
LS: I can’t wait to see some of that work in the future. Marta, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us.
MLL: Thank you for inviting me.
LS: It’s been a real pleasure, and I hope we can have you back sometime soon.
MLL: Thank you.
Marta López-Luaces was born in A Coruña, Spain, in 1964. She holds a Ph.D. in Spanish and Latin American Literatures from NYU (2000). Since 2001 she has been teaching Spanish and Latin American Literatures in New Jersey. She has published three books of poetry: Distancias y destierros (Sgo. de Chile: Red Internacional del Libro, 1998), Las lenguas del viajero (Madrid: Huerga y Fierro, 2005) and Los arquitectos de lo imaginario (Valencia, Pre-Textos), and a plaquette entitled Memorias de un vacío (New York: Pen Press, 2000). A selection of her work appeared in English in the Revel Road’s chapbook series (2004) and in the literary journal Literary Review (New Jersey, 2003). Her work has been published in numerous anthologies of Latin America, Spain and the United States. She is the co-director of Galerna, a Spanish-language literary journal published in the US. She has just finished a collection of short-stories, La Virgen de la Noche.