Four Prose Poems by Ennio Moltedo, translated from the Spanish (Chile) by Marguerite Feitlowitz

Newspaper, Miguel Tejada-Flores

Translator’s Note

Ennio Moltedo, revered as a “poet’s poet,” has been compared with Cavafy for his allegiance to a place at once mythic and mundane, with Char, for the inventiveness of his political poems, and with Saba for his mastery of extreme concision. Night, from which the poems here are excerpted, was written during and against the Pinochet dictatorship, but not published until that regime had ended.


42

The great bloodhounds of information—linked in smoke and newsprint—bite or caress or muzzle according to instinct and interest in the liberty of bones.

Immortal in the fray and charmed by the golden light of cliché they reproduce the order of the day and present (to the powers that be, looking out from the balcony or boat or skateboard, “so you can know them better”), interminable lists of precepts and prescriptions relayed by chorister-conductors or the remains of friezes and casts released from the vault, that have returned a little cracked and crazed from the tyrannical twilight, with an expression of what happened here and I haven’t lost anything because nothing has happened between us we’re all one family—right?—all in tune, and once again they’re swallowing everything and turning themselves into lynxes in the shadow of the bloodhound, the guardhouse and the news. 

42

Los grandes sabuesos de la información—cadenas de humo y letras—muerden o
acarician o enmudecen según el instinto e interés por la libertad de huesos.

Siemprevivos bajo la mezcla y encantados a la luz de la lamparilla y el lingote del
lugar común reproducen la orden del día y presentan (a la autoridad constituida, 
asomada al balcón o buque o patineta, “para que ustedes los vayan conociendo mejor”),
listado interminablemente de preceptos y recetas a cargo de cantantes-conductores o 
restos de frisos o yesos librados del aparador y que vuelven del crepúsculo autoritario
un tanto cuarteados y emplomados y con expresión de qué ha sucedido aquí y nada
he perdido porque nada ha pasado entre nosotros que somos una familia—¿cierto?—
en sintonía, y empiezan otra vez a tragarse todo y hacerse linces a la sombra del
sabueso, la caseta y la noticia.


43

Haven’t you been dreaming of a brilliant voyage?
Why don’t I blow you into the beyond, critic: through a tube or a good stiff straw, you’d stream into the heavens, flashing your guide lights and giving off sparks.
A rocket, something new, for the future, a navigator floundering with skirts in the wind but, finally, floating ink tinting the best page for an absolute reading among the stars, and a last farewell from those of us standing fast in the land of humans.

43

¿No has pensado en un viaje iluminado?
Te soplo, crítico: con tubo o fibra recta pasarías de golpe al cielo llevando
luces de navegación y echando chispas.
Un cohete, algo nuevo, para el futuro, navegante inadecuado con faldas al viento
pero, al fin, tinta flotante tiñendo la mejor página para una lectura total entre 
los astros del sistema y el adiós de quienes permanecemos en tierra de hombres.


44

Protect me, God, from pedagogical meaning, and let each day surprise my sight with the breeze that blows—in no style—past the corner.

44

Protégeme, Díos mío, del sentido pedagógico y deja que cada día me sorprenda 
viendo pasar—sin estilo—el viento por la esquina.


47

It’s fine that you zoom off on the clouds riding high in your saddle of smoke singing songs in another language that the wind carries far away.
It’s fine that you’re thinking of poetry and of the friends in your tribe and that you all get high and write like someone performing their task in the spectacle now to be seen on every corner.
It’s fine the coffee and beers and the book under your arm and the diploma proving you completed the workshop and the interview and the profile of the stupid celebrity and the odious clouds that—you say—don’t sufficiently rise or fall—as in the videos—to climb or perch on.
But who can accomplish something new and genuine if there isn’t any clarity on what happened yesterday and we don’t know how to read the space between ourselves and others?

47

Está bien que arranques montado sobre nubes y asiento de humo y cantes canciones
en otro idioma y así se las lleve, lejos, el viento.
Está bien que pienses en la poesía y en la tribu de amigos y con yerba escriban como
quien cumple su tarea durante el espectáculo de turno en cada esquina.
Está bien el café y cervezas y el libro bajo el brazo y la matrícula del taller completa y
la entrevista y el perfil de la tontona y las odiosas nubes—dices—no rentan ni bajan
lo suficiente—como en los vídeos—para trepar, para encaramarse.
¿Pero quién puede realizar algo nuevo y verdadero si antes no hay claridad sobre lo
sucedido ayer y no sabemos cómo informarnos del espacio entres unos y otros?

✶✶✶✶ 

Ennio Moltedo (1931-2012) spent his life in the small Chilean coastal cities of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. He published fourteen collections of poems, collaborated with visual artists, and won numerous prizes, including the National Poetry Prize. As director of the University of Valparaíso Press, he championed the work of experimental poets (such as Pablo de Rokha) and prose writers (including María Luisa Bombal).

Marguerite Feitlowitz’s translations of Ennio Moltedo are supported by an NEA Translation Fellowship. Night, from which the poems here are excerpted, is forthcoming from World Poetry Books. She has published five volumes of translations from French and Spanish, including Small Bibles for Bad Times: Selected Prose and Poetry by Liliane Atlan (2021) a memoir and poems by Salvador Novo, and plays by Griselda Gambaro. She is the author of A Lexicon of Terror: Argentina and the Legacies of Torture. Her work has appeared internationally in numerous journals and anthologies. Feitlowitz’s awards include Fulbright Fellowships to Argentina, a Bunting Fellowship in nonfiction, and a Harvard faculty research grant. She teaches literature and literary translation at Bennington College.