Translator's notes

Open Letter

By Yohanna Jaramillo

I came across Yohanna Jaramillo’s poetry online, a er a recommendation from the poet and translator David Shook. I was struck by Yohanna’s writing from the off . I wrote to her to ask if I might translate a couple of her poems and began work on the two that appear here. My Spanish is pretty fluent but I’d only ever translated political texts before. There was a real sense of discovery in working on Yohanna’s poems. I got a ‘meaning’ from the poems quite quickly but soon realised that there were things I hadn’t quite caught and knew little about. I researched Mexican political issues but some of the more scientific language had me stumped – even in English. I went back to Yohanna, always working in Spanish, she helped to fill in my rather poor knowledge of all things scientific, then I redrafted the poems. After putting the new drafts aside for a while, I read them aloud, reworked them several more times, then sent them to Yohanna explaining what I thought the poems were saying and asking for any corrections. She asked a friend to read the poems too and came back with some suggestions. We batted ideas backwards and forwards, I edited the poems again, then sent her final versions.

I’ve really enjoyed doing these translations, these are the first that I’ve done, and I’d love to do more. I’d welcome suggestions of other poets I might work with. The rhythms of Yohanna’s poetry have stayed with me. I very much hope other people will enjoy reading her work, she deserves a far wider audience.

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