For J.C.'s translations from the Spanish of Ivón Gordon Vailakis
For another review by J.C. Todd
For a review of Agosín's Rain in the Desert by Rebecca Seiferle
To visit Sherman Asher
J.C. Todd's work can be found online at:
"Why I Teach Poetry," an on-line supplement to the PBS special Fooling with Words with Bill Moyers, Fall, 1999 is located at www.pwnet.org
J.C. Todd is a Contributing Editor of The Drunken Boat
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Santa Fe, New Mexico: Sherman Asher Publishing, 2001. $16 paper.
***** The bilingual anthology Miriam's Daughters: Jewish Latin American Women Poets gathers together twenty-eight Jewish-Latina who offer their visions of diasporic culture. Edited by Marjorie Agosín, a prolific writer, anthologist and human rights activist, this collection is organized around four themes: lineage; religious traditions, rituals and prayers; post-Holocaust memory; and images of Jerusalem. The translations from Spanish and Portuguese are, for the most part, competent and engaging; occasionally they are remarkable in conveying the original poems into fully imagined poems in English, particularly in the clarity of Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman's translations of the poems of Luisa Futuransky and Alejandra Pizarnik's “Linterna Sorda/ Deaf Lantern,” in C. D. Wright's and Lida Aronne-Amestoy's taut rendering of Myriam Moscona's “Jardín de Auschwitz/Auschwitz Garden,” and in Stephen Tapscott's impeccable tonality and diction in his translations of Gloria Gervitz's poems, especially the selections from “Yiskor.”
***** Like Moses' sister Miriam, whose presence Agosín evokes in the “Foreword,” the poets anthologized here are bearers of memory, similar to the grandmother of Jacqueline Goldberg's “Luba I ” as translated by Joanne Friedman:
***** Surprising images of the convoluted layering of culture occur in the best of these poems, culled from eleven Latin American countries. This characteristic alone makes Miriam's Daughters an important anthology for Jewish, Latin American, comparative literature and women's studies. Furthermore, transculturation contextualizes holocaust memories in unexpected ways in poems such as Sarina Helfgott's “Los Trenes/ The Trains” and Angelina Muñiz Huberman's “La Cascada de la Muerte/ Cascades of Death.” Equally valuable is the mix of poets who are better known in America, such as Behar, Huberman, Ana Maria Shüa, Alejandra Pizarnik and Agosín herself, with poets who are not as well-known, such as Helfgott, Elvira Levy and the Sephardic poet Julia Galemire.
***** Despite its breadth and ground-breaking focus, despite the virtuosity of some of its poetry, this anthology contains a few troubling inconsistencies and omissions which, had they been included, would have assisted readers in locating more work by the poets. First is an inconsistency in attribution of source; in some of the poets' biographies publication acknowledgement for the Spanish originals is noted; in others it is not, nor is the omission explained. Thus the reader cannot gauge whether a poem's appearance in the anthology is a first publication, nor can she depend on the biographies to trace prior publication. A selected bibliography of journals and collections in which these poems originally appeared would have been a helpful addition to an anthology which intends to collect and preserve a genealogy of transcultural voices. Finally, brief biographies of the translators would have honored their role as agents of cross-cultural connections and the endless variation and hybridization of idea, image and expression that is, of itself, among the finest gifts of literature of diaspora and literature in translation.
***** These are points of scholarship, however, not of poetry. With Miriam's Daughters Agosín has illuminated a new and necessary area of Latin American and Jewish studies. One hopes that the anthology will stimulate interest in the work of the poets that leads to increased scholarly attention and further translation.