Letter from the Editor
Only 3% of books published in the United States are translations. Needless to say, the literary world and mainstream media have essentially closed their doors to works being produced in other countries and in other languages. Our intention, in initiating this journal, is to open a window. This issue represents the first of what will be many opportunities for contemporary readers to find work from all over the globe that they may not have had access to before. It is also our goal to encourage young writers to consider translation as an integral part or their creative writing and reading. Alchemy is a space for cultures and writers to intersect.
Translation is an art in and of itself. As Jerome Rothenberg has put it in his book, Writing Through: Translations and Variations: “There is a thin line between translation and composition.” As a poet, I have used source texts and imitated other poems and writers. I have found poetry on flyers, postcards and Google. Basically, I have taken other people’s words and ideas—and translated them into something new. Creative writers are translators. Translators are creative writers. This is why Alchemy has set out to include creative as well as traditional translations.
When we announced the journal, I was pleasantly surprised at the positive responses we received. Students, faculty, and staff at UCSD were eager to take part in the project and lend their support. The number and quality of submissions from the U.S and abroad was overwhelming, and it was a wonderfully difficult task to make our final selection for this first issue. Here is what the inaugural issue features:
Dariush Azimi’s translation is inspired by a poem originally by Puerto Rican poet, Julia de Burgos. Burgos has been considered one of the greatest female poets or Latin America. The poem, Bitter Song, invites us to feel the “loving caress of futility” and to ask ourselves “to be or to not want to be?”
Susan Hogan offers her take on a poem by the Russian absurdist Daniil Kharms. “Kharms” was a pseudonym that Daniil Ivanovich Iuvachev adopted in high school for its appealing proximity to the French charm. A Most Delicious Cheese Pie reminds us how difficult it is to conquer temptation.
Ricardo López translates a piece from the Mexican writer and critic, Álvaro Enrigue. The short story comes from a collection of stories Enrigue wrote while he was living in Washington D.C. The story, Affront, gives us a glimpse into the life of garbage man, Drake Horowitz.
Diego Martin brings us a variation on a short piece by another Mexican writer, Juan José Arreola. ENER-G echoes Arreola’s use of satire to comment on the world of advertising and consumerism.
Magdalena Mullek’s contribution comes from a larger work by the Slovak writer Július Satinský. Satinský’s Letters from the Other World is a collection of letters from the Other World written to Satinský by various famous figures. This particular letter comes from Dostoevsky.
Anita Sagástegui introduces us to René Desparte, a Haitian poet, who became a controversial figure for his rejection of the Negritude movement. Anita’s translation of Creole Son of the Francophone World takes us through the vibrant imagery of the French Caribbean from its “coves and cobalt bluffs” to the “little cod cakes” while claiming “a history that is ours at last”.
Mia You translates a poem by contemporary South Korean poet, Chung Ho-seung. Korean literary scholar, Kwon Yong-min describes Chung Ho-seung as “ a poet crouching down and singing with a soft voice”. The translation of South Han River tells the story of a ferryboat that has been frozen in the river.
Meagan Youngdahl has contributed two poems by acclaimed Swedish poet and translator Tomas Tranströmer. In 2011, Tranströmer received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Turbulent Meditation transports us into an ocean during a storm while Weather Painting captures a village in October.
Lastly, Alexander Zeleniuch has provided us with the cover art for our first issue. This selection comes from a series of photographs from his travels while he studied abroad in Buenos Aires.
It has been exciting to be a part of creating a space where borders don’t exist. On behalf of Alchemy and staff, I present you with our inaugural issue, and look forward to seeing more work by talented new translators in the future.
Allie Moreno, Editor-in-Chief