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Julián David Bañuelos

Translator’s Note: Cristalina Parra

My admiration for Cristalina Parra began while working on an anthology of Chilean poets. During that time, I had just finished translating Nicanor Parra’s first collection when I came across his granddaughter, Cristalina Parra. Her first collection had just been published, and I took a deep dive into their work. The speaker of these poems dances between languages, life and death, transience, and memory. When you learn the steps of this dance, or rather, when you learn to balance yourself, the poet’s keen self-awareness, skill of documenting, and ability to craft vessels of language reveals itself in every poem. Cristalina pens her world and traverses the tightrope connecting hers to others’. Her world connected to mine: worlds lleno de grief, amor, transience, and poetry.

As I began translating, the influence of Nicanor and the Chilean poetic legacy was evident. Cristalina had learned many things from them, but none more important than the habit of carrying a notebook and a pencil to document and reflect. The speaker of these poems is an extension of the notes taken during the year Nicanor died and the year Cristalina left Chile to study art history at the New York University headquarters in the United Arab Emirates. These translations proved difficult at first; the helplessness of piecing together a puzzle with missing pieces began to set in until Cristalina reminded me to let go of the reins, to follow the speaker through their terrain, to feel the music of the Spanish language, and to combine it all with my own world. The translations of the following poems are grown from the originals’ form and language. And since they are cuttings, the translation themselves are in part translations of myself, of Cristalina, and of society.

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