Translator's notes

Visitations, or a supposedly gentle poem

By Ana Luísa Amaral

Ana Luísa’s poems are resolutely female, but she casts her net very wide in terms of subject matter: from tender poems about her daughter to thoughts provoked by finding a crumb lodged in the pages of a secondhand book to musings about Galileo, the theory of relativity and the larger themes of loneliness, loss, and death. She is a writer immersed in her own culture, but steeped, too, in the poetry, for example, of Emily Dickinson and Shakespeare (she has translated the poetry of both), and in the world of the Bible and the Greek myths. The result is a poetry that takes equal pleasure in the physical and metaphysical. ‘The most perfect image’, for example, is, on one level, an account of the end of a relationship, but it also takes us through the actual writing of the poem we are reading, which grows and flows and finally rises phoenix-like out of the fire of painful experience. I am usually a prose translator, and one of the great pleasures for me in translating Ana Luísa’s poems from the Portuguese has been the discovery that I don’t necessarily need to understand everything in order to translate, that, as with Emily
Dickinson’s poems, certain lines or images can seem u& erly opaque and yet somehow still brim with meaning. The task of the translator is to try, if possible, to carry that same meaningful opacity into the translation.

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