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Thania Muñoz D.

Translator’s Note: Agustín Hidalgo Johnson 

Agustín Hidalgo Johnson’s poetry invites you to be a guest. I have been his guest myself, and have been reading his poetry for almost 20 years now. I was a young reader of his poetry while I lived in Chile in 2005. His writing, and other poets of his generation, introduced me to the poetic scene of the city of Santiago that year. I was the Mexicana, getting to know the city by going to public readings, literary workshops, and reading my classmates’ poetry during class breaks, because somehow, Chile’s reputation of being a country of poets was joyfully true. During my stay in Chile, I read drafts of his poetic projects, heard him read his poems around the city and in the workshops he led for teenagers. Even as a young poet, Agustín's poetics were already solemn; he talks to the past, but looks into the future in tones that echo this intentionality. Agustín Hidalgo’s lyricism has a deep connection to everyday Chilean vocabulary and localisms. As a translator, this was one of my biggest challenges. Although I am familiar with the trickiness of Chilean slang, trying to make sense of it in English was difficult. I had to consult old dictionaries to figure out etymologies and look for videos on social media platforms to make sure my translations had a grasp of current usages.  


Agustín was also interested in me exploring his poetry without his help or too many explanations. Although I was able to consult him while I was revising, he preferred I explore his poems through my translations. This was his request, and I thank him for his trust in my work. He decided only to help by explaining his overall process of writing Recibir a las visitas via WhatsApp voice messages. Recibir a las visitas / To Welcome Visitors is a playful tribute to Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha / El Ingenioso Hidalgo de Don Quijote de la Mancha. As it is also a play on his own last name, Hidalgo's poetic imaginings of Don Quixote's grand adventures take place in rooms, in lonely bedrooms, where adventures happen, and rascals make these claustrophobic adventures threatening. Who likes unwanted visitors? The selection translated here concludes with a poem about Gabriela Mistral’s house and its many visitors. He wanted me to translate this one, and I think by translating it, I understood why. This poet’s house, rooms, objects, books, stories, are like welcoming a reader, a guest, to his poetry. So welcome. Would you like some tea?  

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