Thoughts on Translation

When working on my translations I had trouble with the translation in terms of how to convey both the beauty and the message of the poem, which was difficult for me at first just from reading the Spanish, as Sor Juana uses syntax in ways that, as someone who is very familiar with, but not fluent in the language I struggle. It makes sense of course, because in English we also use complex syntax in poetry, but the difference here I feel is that the languages change syntax in slightly different ways. Sor Juana’s poetry contains many reflexive verbs, and because the third person and formal second person overlap greatly, I have to make judgement calls on who the poem is referring to in the context of the sentence. The verb forms are difficult because of this, and I have always had trouble with reflexive verbs, which compounds the problem. Furthermore, the poems often leave out a subject, or reference a subject that was in a previous line or stanza, and so keeping track of the persons can be difficult for me, especially since I am not a native speaker.

Another struggle I have with this poetry is that the poems do not have titles, and so I am in an ambiguous position in terms of creating one or sticking with just a number. The question of whether or not to title the poems is a conflict for me, because while I may wish to title the poems as my own, I wonder whether doing so would be claiming too much of what isn’t necessarily mine.

This of course comes back to the question of whether the translated work belongs to the translator, or the original creator. Then I wonder what Sor Juana would think about my translations, and I wonder again whether it is fair to change the words of someone long-dead.

Where is the line? Have I crossed it or am I just not there yet? Will I ever get there?

Or is it a line that doesn’t exist except in my mind?

These are questions that I think deserve further thought. I hesitate to say that the author is dead – especially as I am a creator of original works in addition to being a translator. So basically I’m not even sure what I think. I just have a lot of thoughts in a lot of places, and grappling with them is probably something I will be doing for a long time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The 2020 Boston Writing Workshop

Get Your Writing Published: October 3, 2020

Trish Hopkinson

A selfish poet

transgender & nonbinary resources

Deanna Writes About...

Another Perception of the World Around Us

Unapologetic Enthusiasm

Classics, Judaism, and All Things Nerdy

Roving the Two Lands

A former New Atheist following Wepwawet into Kemetic polytheism


For Your Entetainment

Own Your Content

Own Your Content is a campaign from & CreativeMornings, encouraging creatives to own their content, platform, and the future of their work.

Hachette Book Group

The Official Website of Talia Franks

Elodie Under Glass

in vitro veritas: science, feminism and the media

Dobby's Sox

The Boston Area Chapter of The Harry Potter Alliance



We Are Star Stuff

A blog about mythology, the stars, and the new mythology, comics.


Book reviews with an Asian Americanist lens

The Green Wolf

Artist & Author Lupa

The Druid's Garden

Spiritual Journeys in Tending the Land, Permaculture, Wildcrafting, and Regenerative Living

Love, Seamus

Dear reader, It’s me! Seamus. I am here to vent to you about my day or teach you a lesson! Enjoy your day. Love, Seamus

The Nerds of Color

Pop Culture with a Different Perspective


The Official Website of Talia Franks

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close