Selections from Flashes (After Reverdy): Carlota Caulfield
Born in Havana, Cuba, into an Irish-Catalan family that moved through Ireland, Gibraltar, England, France, Spain, and Cuba, Carlota Caulfield has written nine prize-winning books of poetry, including Oscurità Divina (Divine Obscurity), At the Paper Gates with Burning Desire, The Book of Giulio Camillo (a model for a theater of memory), and Juegos metálicos para juguetes abandonados (Metallic Games for Abandoned Toys), which received the First Hispano-American Poetry Prize “Dulce María Loynaz” in 2002. A selection of her poems, A Mapmaker’s Diary, was published in 2007 by White Pine Press as a bilingual edition co-translated by Mary G. Berg and the author. The narrative voices in Caulfield’s work are ever in motion, ever curious, constantly redefining themselves, trying on new identities as they journey restlessly between cities and between centuries in her omnivorous rereading of cultural texts and pictorial images. Caulfield writes passionately about a wide range of cultural centers, artists and texts, exploring subjects from Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machines to Remedios Varo’s images of traveling women. What links the previous writings to the prose poems of Flashes (After Reverdy) is her poetic voice as “a watchful eye” that is fascinated by details in the everyday world.
Inspired by the French Cubist poet Pierre Reverdy (1889-1960), Caulfield sees herself as both an insider and an outsider in Flashes (After Reverdy), as she enters or observes an extraordinary variety of spaces. Her personal journey through life expands in these poems into a fascination with details. The traveler stops and dissolves seemingly into her new landscapes with myths, magic, and humor. Smells, sounds, and colors are protagonists that invite the reader to inhabit these writings.
The poet’s recorded journey is such a personal and intuitive one that its transfer into another language would be perilous without input from the author. Fortunately, over the years we have worked together on these texts; we trade texts and amend them back and forth. Sometimes the Spanish changes, more often the English evolves into a reading and an interpretation that often seems elusive as we set out to consider the words. For the translator, it has been an extraordinary adventure in learning to inhabit words that may at first seem very strange, but that come to be powerful (and often uncannily familiar) evocations of unconsidered perspectives.
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