Monday, April 18, 2011

Pedro Salinas's Truth of Two and Other Poems

The next book in my research marathon is a second volume of translated poems by Eleanor L. Turnbull, this time with selections from La voz a ti debida and Razón de amor. Pedro Salinas gives his seal of approval to Turnbull’s work which she gives the name Truth of Two and Other Poems. The Johns Hopkins Press in Baltimore, Maryland publishes this volume in 1940 for the American public. Salinas does not make a foreword in this volume like he does in Lost Angel and Other Poems. (You can read my review of this book by clicking here.) The title for this volume misleads a little bit, because it comes from one of the titled poems in Salinas’s Razón de amor. In past reviews, I have indicated that readers who want to read in English La voz a ti debida (The Voice I Owe to You) or Razón de amor (A Reason for Love) need to refer to Ruth Katz Crispin’s Memory in My Hands: The Love Poetry of Pedro Salinas. To reach my review of Crispin’s translations, click here. To read my review of La voz a ti debida, click here. For those interested in Pedro Salinas’s interpretation of other poets, please refer to my review by clicking here. As for the current volume, there are certainly more selections than in previous compilations. Turnbull’s translations have a more official feel than Crispin’s or mine. (I admit that I have not had training in translation, so referring to Turnbull’s translations would be best for anyone looking for official translations of Salinas’s poetry.)

Since I have already discussed La voz a ti debida in another review, I will not discuss in detail this volume here. I will also not discuss phenomenological terminology here either.

A theme that I catch from reading these collections again is the motif of fruit and its juice. Although the poetic self and the beloved (and, to a degree, Pedro Salinas and Katherine R. Whitmore) come together and know each other in a fantastical liaison, the poetic self refers to el fruto (the fruit) like the one mentioned in the Garden of Eden. Though the relationship is illicit, he compares their love to that borne by Adam and Eve, with the exception that they part later on. The poetic self asks:

Di, ¿podré yo vivir

en esos otros climas,
o futuros, o luces

que estás elaborando,

como su zumo el fruto,

para mañana tuyo?

Tell me, shall I be able

to live in those other climes,
or futures, or splendors
which you are nurturing
for your to-morrow,
as the fruit ripens its juice? (20-21)

Turnbull’s translations differ from those done by Ruth Katz Crispin. Turnbull tries to repeat the rhythmic meter of the original while Crispin worries more about reflecting the essence of the original. Their theories of translation become apparent right away. However, some English translations can only be found in Turnbull’s volume. Here is Turnbull’s take on part of the first stanza of “Qué alegría, vivir”:

What a joy it is to live

feeling myself lived by another!
To give myself up humbly
to the great certainty
that another being outside myself, far away,
is living for me. (79)

Another poem that strikes my fancy shows how the poetic self reaches out with his third hand, or relies on touch to prove the existence of the beloved.

¡Qué probable eres tú!

Si los ojos me dicen,
mirándote, que no,

que no eres de verdad,

las manos y los labios,

con los ojos cerrados,

recorren tiernas pruebas:

la lenta convicción

de tu ser, va ascendiendo

por escala de tactos,

de bocas, carne y carne.

How probable you are!

If my eyes tell me no,
while gazing on you,
that you are not true,
my hands and my lips,
with my eyes fast closed,
resort to tender proofs:
the slow certainty of your
existence is mounting
by the ladder of touch,
of lips, of flesh and flesh. (126-127)

In Razón de amor, the poetic self takes a more logical route to poetic expression. He is not as impetuous as he is in La voz a ti debida. The poems take on more sullen expressions, because his beloved had decided to terminate the relationship. He explains why they have fallen in love and why it had to be so. Towards the end of Razón de amor, poems get longer and more complex. In “Verdad de dos” (“Truth of Two”), the poetic self elaborates in detail regarding the fruit he mentions in “Miedo. De ti. Quererte” (“Fear of You. To Love You”). In effect, he answers his own question he asks the beloved in La voz a ti debida.

Al nacer nuestro amor se nos nació

su otro lado terrible, necesario,
la luz, la oscuridad.

Vamos hacia él los dos. Nunca más solos.

Mundo, verdad de dos, fruto de dos,

verdad paradisíaca, agraz manzana,

sólo ganada en su sabor total

cuando terminan las virginidades

del día solo y de la noche sola.

Cuando arrojados

en el pecado que es vivir

enamorados de vivir, amándose,

hay que luchar la lucha que les cumple

a los que pierden paraísos claros

o tenebrosos paraísos,

para hallar otro edén donde se cruzan

luces y sombras juntos y la boca

al encontrar el beso encuentra al fin

esa terrible redondez del mundo.

At the birth of our love there was born for us

its other side, terrible, necessary,
the light and the darkness.
We walk towards it, both of us, never again alone.
Experience, truth of two, fruit of two,
knowledge from the Garden of Eden, bitter apple,
gained only in its total flavor
when ends the virginity
of the day alone and the night alone.
When cast on the rocks
of sin which is living, loving each other,
we must fight the fight which it behooves them
to fight who lose a paradise of light,
or a paradise of darkness,
to find another Eden, where lights
and shadows cross, and where lips
which meet to kiss shall in the end discover
that terrible roundness of the world. (270-271)

It should not be a surprise that I like Pedro Salinas and that I recommend readers to take a look at his poetry. I am satisfied, however, to know that English readers can find and read a more complete English translation of Salinas’s La voz a ti debida and Razón de amor. The only volume missing from this translation is Largo lamento (Long Lament), because Salinas does not publish this volume in his lifetime. Therefore, readers will have to go to Crispin to enjoy the last episode when the beloved completely removes herself from the poetic self, leaving him to wallow in his own thoughts and experiences. It is worth the effort.


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