Translated from the Spanish
by Catherine Hammond
Spain´s National Poetry Prize Winner
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We’ve been waiting so long, so expectantly for the poetry of Olvido García Valdés to appear in English translations that convey her signal importance to contemporary poetry in Spain and to international literature. She is one of the great ones. García Valdés taps a mode as essential as the Virgilian pastoral. She pressurizes and opens vents in the syntax, inciting eruptions in logic, emphasizing somatic connections between flesh and world. Characteristically, she braids underdetermined phrasal strands, agencies, points of view, and conceptual and emphatically sensual registers. While absence and negation are key themes in her work, the poems can be sharply funny and they come, against the darkness of our times, to assert a convincing spiritual buoyancy.
With an ear keenly tuned to García Valdés‘ complex music, translator Catherine Hammond often leads with the verb in English, tuning to the Spanish and keeping the agency of the verb open, recreating the stripped down and exigent quality of the original, a quality intensified by the Spanish poet’s tendency to juxtapose fragments without subordinating one to the other. This is an important book. You’ll know that as soon as you begin to read the poems. —FORREST GANDER
PRAISE FOR OLVIDO GARCÍA VALDÉS’ POETRY
“There were those who compared her to Santa Teresa, others who said she was too serious, even sullen, and there were people who swore her pride was chilling to those who met her. I looked for a photo of her. I found one where she appeared with a group of writers, but it was a blurry reproduction. (…) Finally I went to a bookstore in Barcelona to look for one of her books, but they told me her most recent books had sold out, and there was no photo in the only one they had. (…) That night I read ella, los pájaros (‘she, the birds’) in one sitting, a collection of Olvido’s poems that dazzled me in the way only true poetry can. Long after that, when I was in Blanes and far away from Toledo, I read caza nocturna (‘night hunting’), the most recent book by Olvido García Valdés (Ave del Paraíso, 1997) and my admiration for her grew even more, if that were possible.” —ROBERTO BOLAÑO, AUTHOR OF 2666
“To read Olvido García Valdés is to become aware that in the midst of so much absurd speed, something remains.” —EDUARDO MILÁN, POESÍA Y POÉTICA
“Olvido García Valdés’ elliptical, allusive poetry finds much of its force in omission, and Catherine Hammond’s translations beautifully capture its taut silence and stark power.” —SUSAN HARRIS, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, WORDS WITHOUT BORDERS
“A deep sensual response to nature, its smallest creatures, Blind voles sniffing, and its plants, acacia pianist of the breeze, informs this challenging, painful, and uplifting vision of our condition in this world. Olvido García Valdés may be seen as a more tormented Spanish sister to our own Mary Oliver, sharing a precious, precise attentiveness to what exists. How fortunate that Catherine Hammond has brought the sensitivity of these poems to us in English at last.” —ALEXIS LEVITIN, SUNY DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR, SUNY PLATTSBURGH
“Olvido García Valdés is a poet marked by two exceptional traits: the particular truthfulness of everything she says, and the frankness with which she says it. As she herself observes of Patti Smith: her voice comes from deep within her and burns in her throat. In her writing we see the variations of this process: amazement, doubt, strength, abandonment, stubbornness, fragility, anger, affection, clarity, and loss. Though she often speaks of pain, she does so to penetrate the cracks of its mystery, never to slip into pathos. Unflinching like few others, she confronts what most would rather evade.” —JOSÉ MIGUEL ULLÁN, EL MUNDO, VALLADOLID, SPAIN
“The spatial otherness constitutes an aesthetic effect of the affective component of Olvido García Valdés’ work, transforming not only the way we think about poetic language in the new millennium, but also disrupting the very surface of the body; that is, the corporeal parameters within which we define ourselves in relationship to others.” —ENRIQUE ÁLVAREZ, FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY
Poet, essayist and translator, Olvido García Valdés was born on December 2, 1950 in Asturias, Spain. She holds degrees in Philosophy from the University of Valladolid, and Romance Philology from the University of Oviedo. She resides in Toledo, Spain.
Her poetry collections, except for her most recent Lo solo del animal (2012), have been published together in one volume, Esa polilla que delante de mí revolotea (Poesía reunida 1982-2008). She has translated into the Spanish Pier Paolo Pasolini’s poetry books, and in collaboration, a wide anthology of Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva. She is also author of the biographical essay, Teresa de Jesús, texts for art catalogs and numerous works of literary reflection. She was co-editor of the literary magazines, Los Infolios and El signo del gorrión. Her poetry has been translated into many languages. She has directed and coordinated several courses, seminars and cycles of contemporary poetry. She was part of the project, Estudios de Poética. Un lugar donde no se miente. Conversación con Olvido García Valdés, by Miguel Marinas, was published in 2014. Among other awards, in 2007 she was awarded the Premio Nacional de Poesía (National Poetry Prize) for her collection Y todos estábamos vivos (And we were all alive).
Catherine Hammond has a BA in Spanish from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and an MFA in creative writing from Arizona State University. Poems translated from Olvido García Valdés’ collection And We Were All Alive / Y todos estábamos vivos appear as a chapbook, House Surrounded by Scaffold, from Mid-American Review. Hammond translated Mexican poet, Carmen Boullosa, in a volume of selected poems which was a finalist in Drunken Boat’s book contest. She has also published work from Venezuelan poet, María Auxiliadora Álvarez, and fiction writer, Ricardo Menéndez Salmón, from Spain. These translations appear in American Poetry Review, Words without Borders, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Field, and many other national magazines. Hammond’s own poetry has been anthologized in Fever Dreams: Contemporary Arizona Poetry from University of Arizona Press, in MARGIN: Exploring Modern Magical Realism, and in Yellow Silk from Warner Books. She has three Pushcart nominations. Hammond lives in Sun Lakes, Arizona, with her husband Troy Morrow.