What They Say About Witness: Poets, Translators, Educators, Readers, and the Media Praise New Translation of Mario Benedetti


Finalist, Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize

Witness was one of six worldwide finalists—and the only volume of poetry—for Oxford University’s international Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize

Novelist, poet, playwright and translator Adam Thorpe, Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize Judge, Public Remarks at Award Ceremony

Witness by Mario Benedetti is the first major appearance of this important Uruguayan poet in English. The translator Louise B. Popkin worked closely with Benedetti and is a scholar of Latin American poetry. This formidable expertise, coupled with affection, shows everywhere in these highly sensitive renditions of poems that intertwine the personal and the political: Benedetti’s state of exile and his brushes with Uruguay’s military regime result in a body of work that does not flinch from life’s tendency to shatter dreams of better things. Popkin’s English versions allow the peculiar sadness and nostalgia of the poetry to shine calmly through.

Louise B. Popkin speaks at the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize award ceremony

Louise B. Popkin speaking at Oxford University
Photo credit: April Pierce

Additional remarks by Oxford-Weidenfeld Judge Rebecca Beasley, giving context for the shortlist selection

The novel unsurprisingly was the dominant form, but there were some excellent translations of poetry this year, and we read more drama than we have done in recent years, which was very welcome.

Choosing just six translations from 135 entries took some time and considerable thought and discussion. I will let Adam talk about the shortlist in more detail, but suffice to say that from the many, many excellent translations we read, these six stand out for their remarkably adept, creative versions of their sources, sources which presented considerable challenges to the translator. They are different kinds of challenges—humour, the multiple nuances of poetry, shifting tones, complex characterization.

Back Cover Blurbs

Margaret Randall, US poet

Louise B. Popkin, who spends long periods in Uruguay, knew the poet, heard him read, consulted with him, and has studied his work and entorno, gives us the first really satisfying, accurate, and deeply-felt English translations that capture Mario’s poetic voice throughout all its periods and range. She pays attention to local usage and brilliantly recreates the spoken quality of these poems. Popkin’s is a true labor of love, but it is much more than that. I believe Mario, at long last, would be thrilled. I am.

Claribel Alegría, prizewinning Salvadoran/Nicaraguan poet

It gives me great pleasure to see the work of Mario Benedetti, one of the great poets of our language, made available to US readers in Louise Popkin’s wonderful translations. Louise’s carefully crafted adaptations of Mario’s poems convey all the wisdom, nostalgia and irony that inform his verses in language that retains their musicality. Anyone who has translated poetry will appreciate what an accomplishment that represents.

Sylvia Lago, Uruguayan novelist and President, Fundación Mario Benedetti

This collection of Mario Benedetti’s poems, translated into beautiful English by Louise B. Popkin—a close friend of the author’s and an insightful interpreter of this work—deserves our grateful admiration. The reader who savors each poem, each strophe, each line and image, can truly delight in these texts by our great poet, rendered with love, sensitivity and exceptional skill by a first-rate translator.

Excerpts from Published Reviews and Press Coverage

Print and Internet Publications

Midwest Book Review

…Deftly translated by Louise B. Popkin, “Witness” is a core addition to any international collection of poetry…

(Click here to read the full review)

Benedetti: A Lifetime Believing the Unbelievable

Review by Clifton Ross in NACLA Report on the Americas, Fall 2012

With the publication of Witness, one can only hope that another great Uruguayan writer will now gain a larger audience in North America …

Witness is a poetic chronicle of passage through the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st, in which the poet’s personal life reflects the larger social, political, and historical changes of the world. Indeed, his work is so integrally connected to the time and locale that it almost seems to be drawn and boiled down from the editorial pages …

In these poems, Benedetti confronts the problem of the man-made inhumane world, which he would later dedicate his life to fighting …

In pieces like … “I’m Off With the Lizard,” the translator shows her great skill as a poet (the key to translating a poem, after all, is to make a new poem in the target language). She translates “Me voy con la lagarjita / vertiginosa / a recorrer las celdas” as “I’m off with the slithery / lizard / to dart through the dungeons.” Such turns in the target language, where music can be made from a somewhat flatter original, are rare gifts bestowed on translators who listen to their own muse …

[S]ome of his most beautiful poetry comes out of the pain of one torn from home and left to wander the world …

As an old man who remained a faithful poet and revolutionary to the end…he maintained that “maybe happiness is nothing more / than believing we believe the unbelievable.” And perhaps that is Benedetti’s lasting gift: His humane vision allows us to believe the unbelievable to be possible.

(Click here to read the full review)

Excerpted from “Contra despojos y desvíos—Sobre el sofisticadísimo arte de la traducción” by Raquel Garzón, editor, Eñe Magazine (weekly supplement to the popular Argentine daily newspaper, Clarín), translated by Louise B. Popkin

Popkin is the translator of Witness: the Selected Poems of Mario Benedetti, a new anthology published in the US by white Pine Press with a prologue by the feminist poet Margaret Randall, for whom this collection represents “the first satisfying, accurate and deeply felt English translations of the Uruguayan author’s [poetry]… Her translator’s prologue (shouldn’t every work in translation include one?) sheds light on the tiny details of craftsmanship that require attention: when to be literal and when to look for similar expressions in the readers’ language, how to preserve a colloquial register…

Is poetry really untranslatable as some would argue? Is something inevitably lost [in translation? Bilingual editions can be amulets that keep things accurate and on course.  Fortunately…this one does.

To read the full article (in Spanish) on the Clarín website, please visit

In a private note to Louise (used with permission), Garzón wrote, “Me alegra sobremanera que le vaya tan bien al libro. Tus traducciones son realmente magníficas!” Translation: I’m really delighted that the book has been doing so well. Your translations are truly magnificent! 

Review in World Literature Today

Benedetti was one of Uruguay’s most beloved poets and activists. This anthology of his work, lovingly translated by one of Benedetti’s closest associates, spans his career and demonstrates both his profound understanding of his fellow Uruguayans and unwavering devotion to the advancement of human rights.

Excerpts from Sylvia Goldman’s review in Contratiempo (English translation follows):

Cuando Popkin traduce “trasluce”; hace visible una luz que nos es inaccesible, entreabre una puerta y nos muestra la hendidura por donde entrar. Su traducción es también un doble acto de excavación; por un lado saca a la luz a
una poesía apenas traducida al inglés, por otro lado saca a la luz lo que el español tiene de herida abierta. Su tarea es cultural e “iluminadora” en su sentido más profundo; no solamente nos da la lengua del poeta, sino que deja que su propia lengua materna sea interrogada por él. […]

Se trata de una traducción concienzuda y metódica. […]. Cada palabra aquí traducida forma parte de una batalla ganada, un triunfo sobre la facilidad del cognado. Así, “No te salves” se traduce como “don’t play it safe”, evitando su correlato en inglés para salvar tanto el mensaje como el tono coloquial de esta poesía.[…] Popkin “does not play it safe,” va al encuentro no sólo del sentido, sino también del ritmo, del registro y del tono del original.


Popkin’s translations are “translucent”. She shines an otherwise invisible light [on these texts], cracks open a door and points the way in, […] doubly excavates them, […] giving us access to this seldom translated poetry and laying bare […] open wounds. Her work is both cultural and “illuminating” in the deepest sense: not only does she render the poet’s language; she allows it to interrogate her own […]

This is painstaking, methodical translation […]—each word rendered into English is a triumph, a battle fought and won against facile overuse of cognates.  For example, by rendering “No te salves” [not as “Don’t save yourself”] but as “Don’t play it safe,” she “saves” both the message and the colloquial diction of the original. […] Popkin does not play it safe. She goes not just after meaning, but after rhythm, register and tone […].

Click here to read the full original review, in Spanish.

Review at Talented Reader: A Literary Journal

By George Ovitt

…Benedetti’s Spanish is lively and idiomatic and attuned to the speech patterns of ordinary people–it is difficult to translate, but thanks to Louise B. Popkin and the good people at Buffalo’s White Pine Press, we now have a generous, lucid, and accurate version of some of Benedetti’s poems–he was enormously prolific, publishing eighty books, including poetry, plays, song-lyrics, and many novels (which I hope Ms. Popkin will consider translating as well). I love poets who are engaged with the world, whose political passion informs their writing. We have few such poets in North America, and their work is generally marginalized in our search for the merely entertaining and our discomfort with art that doesn’t affirm our way of living and thinking. But Mario Benedetti’s work demonstrates the richness of poetry that derives its life from this world, with us, the poetry of workers and of ordinary people who need bread and poems…

(Click here to read the full review, including several poems)

Excerpts from Anna Rosenwong’s review in Quarterly Conversation, #32, June, 2013

[F]urnish[es] readers with potent tools for a thoughtful engagement not merely with individual poems, but with the shape of Benedetti’s poetic oeuvre and legacy…[V]ery occasional explanatory notes…are deftly used to clarify specific local references that would otherwise be lost on the foreign reader, as well as to highlight allusions to major writers…

To trace the arc of Benedetti’s poetic contribution in Popkin’s translation and alongside her notes is to get a glimpse into the high wire acrobatics of literary translation in general and the poignant trade-offs of translating so influential an author in particular. In her initial note, Popkin discusses the challenges of bringing important work to a largely nonspecialist but educated audience, consciously struggling to balance the foreign and familiar without condescending or making the work something it is not…

[T]o her great credit, Popkin’s reflections point to and take ownership for such choices, at the same time as they do not insist on them as definitive, but rather underline the productive possibilities of divergent approaches…

Click here to read the full review


On Wisconsin Magazine

The haunting cover of Witness: The Selected Poems of Mario Benedetti (White Pine Press) draws the reader into the words of a man who was a powerful voice for social justice and a literary light in his native Uruguay. This volume, translated by Louise B. Popkin MA’63, PhD’73, is the only collection of Benedetti’s work prepared for the English-speaking world that had the late poet’s active support and direct input. Popkin teaches Spanish at Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education.

Bookshelf, Fall 2012

Arlington  woman a ‘Witness’ to Latino poet

by Monica Jimenez, Arlington Advocate

Popkin sifted through Benedetti’s 28 collections (some 2,600 poems), picking out his best-loved texts and her own favorites, striving to represent his diverse themes and styles, and searching for “English-able” pieces — ones that could be translated successfully.

Creating a translation both true to the original and meaningful in English meant not only choosing which nuances to sacrifice so others could be preserved, but also capturing sound, musicality and rhythm, said Popkin, who often went through a dozen drafts of one poem and spent upwards of seven hours on a single verse.

Click here to read full article.

Review at

Benedetti: The Well Loved Poet the U.S. Should Come to Know

By Yago S. Cura

…Benedetti’s poems are the ones young boys in Montevideo plagiarize the most to their girlfriends. His poems are the ones on the lips of taxi drivers, sanitation workers, and salarymen. That is why, Witness: The Selected Poems of Mario Benedetti, translated by Louise B. Popkin, is such a gem. Witness not only brings Benedetti’s best work to light for a discerning American public, it does so through a translator that knew and had a working relationship with the author while he was alive. A personal relationship with an author does not a translator make, but Popkin travels frequently to Uruguay and knows the Uruguayan dialect and several of the registers Uruguayans utilize on a daily basis. Thus, in terms of proximity to source language, Popkin’s translations are on some next-level, high-fidelity ground.

Reading Benedetti’s poems is like listening in on a phone call to Montevideo, or ear hustling a pavilion of Uruguayan ingenues. Benedetti’s poems are colloquial and direct in ways all poets aspire to emulate, but rarely can…

Witness: The Selected Poems of Mario Benedetti (White Pine Press, 2012) is the definitive, comprehensive tome for enthusiasts of Latin American poetry, but the translations are so seamless that poetry fans writ large are bound to take notice and hopefully a revival of Benedetti’s work might ensue.

(Click here to read the full review at

Harvard Gazette

Six fresh books worth perusing

By Sarah Sweeney

Largely unknown in the English-speaking world, Uruguayan poet Mario Benedetti is regarded as one of Latin America’s most important voices.…[T]ranslator Louise Popkin met Benedetti in Buenos Aires in the ’70s, where the poet was exiled for opposing the Uruguayan dictatorship. “I started translating him at his request,” recalled Popkin. “He was very accessible and enormously respectful of my role as translator, though occasionally he’d get irritated over the number of questions I asked. But those conversations typically ended in laughter: I’d remind him that as a living author, he deserved to be consulted. I really miss being able to ask him for help.” Benedetti died in 2009, and “Witness” features Popkin’s translations, as well as the original versions in Spanish.

(Click here to read the full articleWitness is the third of the six books written up.)

Named to World Literature Today‘s List of 75 Notable Translations of the Year

Click here for full list.

NETA News (newsletter of the New England Translators Association)

“The Poet Mario Benedetti. A Conversation with Louise Popkin”

By Ken Kronenberg

Extended interview with Louise B. Popkin on Benedetti’s life and work, and on the experience of collaborating with him

In the Fall, 2012 NETA News (PDF download).

“Challenges and Choices in Literary Translation”

Marian Comenetz reports on Louise B. Popkin’s presentation to NETA in January, In the Winter, 2013 NETA News (PDF Download)

Radio and Television

“Translated By…” with Yago S. Cura on World Wide Radio

Louise B. Popkin discuss Benedetti’s life and work, her friendship with the poet, and her translation in this hour-long interview—click here to listen.

Interview highlights:

Mario’s poetic voice is the voice of spoken Uruguayan.  And you have to live for years, as I have, in Uruguay, to have that in your ear and to know how to try to approximate that in English. One major difficulty of translating Mario is that he’s a quintessentially Latin-American Uruguayan, Southern Cone writer, who has an uncanny ability to connect with his public. And I wanted the translation to convey the power of that connection.  But my readers are speakers of American English, so how do you do that without North-Americanizing him too much?  That was the greatest challenge I faced.

One of the issues was having to maintain the orality of his work […].  And one thing that implies is that most of the time, cognates –i.e., those words we have in English […] that go back to the same word in Latin as a Spanish word Mario used— those cognates almost never work.  The easy way out, and the way most translators take, is simply to use cognates […] That raises the register,[…which is] distancing, by definition…

The other really major challenge has to do with his tendency to pun, and the plurality of meanings that often—and I think not always consciously—shows up in his texts, where a word he uses will sort of reverberate in different directions, and there’s no single English word that covers the entire semantic range he’s covered. So I have to choose which piece of it to prioritize. When he was alive…we’d have hilarious discussions [about passages that could be read in a number of] … different ways. [He’d complain that none of his] thirty other translators into thirty other languages ever asked as many questions as I did. To which I would reply, “Well, you’re a living author, aren’t you? Am I not supposed to treat you as one?”  […] And of course, the problem now is, he can’t help me decide any more.

“Here and Now,” segment by Jim Kates, hosted by Robin Young on WBUR-Boston (NPR affiliate)

Eleven Great Books Translated Into English,”

Jim Kates, literary translator, former President of the American Literary Translators Association and Director of the nonprofit Zephyr Pressreads a stanza from one of the poems and briefly discusses Witness at approximately 5 minutes and 45 seconds into the segment:

“She’s catching the kind of rolling sound of the Spanish, here.”

“Edición Central,” Uruguayan national television show on TNU (TV Nacional Uruguay) Network

María José Borges interviews Louise B. Popkin, in Spanish, about translating Mario Benedetti and about being a Finalist for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. Eight-minute interview. Click here for Louise’s segment by itself. And click here if you prefer to see the entire program (Louise’s interview starts at 45 minutes, 38 seconds).

“De Diez a Doce,” Radio Uruguay

María Inés Obaldía interviews Louise B. Popkin, in Spanish, about the challenges of translating, on Uruguay’s national radio station. Segment begins with Mario Benedetti reading one ofhis own poems.

Endorsements: What Others Say About Witness


Margaret Randall, poet, translator, and author of the Introduction to Witness, upon seeing the published volume (private letter to Louise B. Popkin, used with permission)

…Spent half the night with WITNESS, savoring the strength of your translations.… They are perfect. The ease with which you move between the Spanish and the English, but not just in terms of the language, more importantly in terms of the culture. I don’t believe anyone who doesn’t know Uruguay and the rioplatense culture as you do, perhaps no one who didn’t know Mario as you did, could have achieved what you have achieved. And clearly there is something else at work here, some sort of magic connection that imbues the English with the unique sensibility that characterizes all of Mario’s work…

Perhaps it is these “liberties,” always carefully chosen and never gratuitous or based on mere whim, that so consistently give me pleasure reading your translations. They are one of the marks of a great translator, I think. I read and reread and hear myself uttering “yesss!” and “that’s it!” literally out loud.… What a magnificent job you’ve done…published by someone who obviously cares about it and did a beautiful job in terms of its physical presentation.

WITNESS is really beautiful: a wonderfully produced, handsome, and inviting volume… huge to hold in the hand but somehow also easy to snuggle up with! I love its clean look, the typeface, all of it. I look forward to savoring every poem. I keep thinking how pleased Mario would be. You must be too. This is a great labor of love and brilliance.… I love the cover. The window emerging from darkness… a perfect metaphor for Mario.…

Customer reviews from (for full reviews, click here)

Outstanding translation of Benedetti’s poetry

5.0 out of 5 stars

By Yoru

This is an outstanding translation of Benedetti’s poetry. I was born and raised in Uruguay and I know the many nuances a given word or phrase can have in our dialect.… The translator is obviously aware of all these subtleties and has done a terrific job.… Having seen so much incompetent translation of this poet’s work over the years, this book is a breath of fresh air.


Benedetti touches the heart

5.0 out of 5 stars

 By Snowman

I was overwhelmed by the brilliance of the translations as they place the poems into the best possible English (colloquial or formal as needed) for absorbing them fully. Loving care has been taken with this Uruguayan poet’s sensibilities…That [the poems] still throb with life as they make their way into a new language is a triumph of feeling as much as it is of…perfect word [choice].… This is not a word-for-word but a sense-for-sense re-creation of the best of Benedetti [by his] chosen translator.



5.0 out of 5 stars

By Sandra Goldflus

As a Uruguayan and an avid reader of Benedetti’s poetry, I can say with certainty that this anthology is truly “Benedetti in English.” It’s incredible how well Popkin’s translations and the texts she has chosen capture the essence of one of Latin America’s greatest contemporary authors. I absolutely recommend this book.


Witness, selected poems of Mario Benedetti

5.0 out of 5 stars

 By Matilde Martínez

An excellent selection of the works of one of Latin America’s most outstanding poets.… [Benedetti] gives…poetic voice to the everyday man…in language…so deceptively simple, so apparently plain and familiar, that his poetry resonates in the reader’s soul almost like an echo of his or her own thoughts and feelings…
Popkin has translated Benedetti’s poetry with enormous sensitivity. This has undoubtedly required large amounts of research and hard work.… [But her mastery of] the very language the poet has expressed himself in: Uruguayan colloquial Spanish…is the product of years of living in the same city as Benedetti, walking along the same streets, speaking to the same people, and living with intensity the recent history…that shaped [so much of] Benedetti’s work.… She has succeeded not only in translating Benedetti’s poems, but also in [capturing] Benedetti’s…own voice in…English.…

A must-have. A book to read and to come back to, to be kept on your bedside table…[not to] sit on a shelf.


Great Book

5.0 out of 5 stars

By Estelle Disch

I love surprise in poetry and frequently find it in Benedetti’s powerful emotion, his metaphors, and his humor.… If you know Spanish, the process of comparing the two versions is likely to take you into a joyful exploration of language. Popkin’s skill at comprehending a phrase or idea and making it poetically effective in English is impressive.… A substantial collection of Benedetti’s prolific poetry is finally accessible to an English-speaking and bilingual audience.… I highly recommend this book.


A wonderful introduction to modern Uruguayan poetry

5.0 out of 5 stars

By Joan Bond Sax, Ph.D.
I am slowly going through Witness, poem by poem, reading the Spanish out loud for the sound of it (I don’t speak Spanish but I translate from French and Italian) and then reading the translation and figuring out the meaning from the translation. It is a wonderful way to approach Spanish, or any language for that matter. One can only do so when one has the privilege of a wonderful, approachable modern poet conveyed by a faithful, sensitive, skillful translator.


Customer reviews from (for complete reviews, click this link, then scroll down to the individual review and click on “see review” for complete text)

By James Berkowitz

…Each poem is like digesting a literary meal of words and language. Rereading each one three, four, five times, then switching to reading in Spanish I’ve been spending great moments with this book during the past eight months at many intervals. The translation flows superbly and the informative notes provide wonderful insight to the culture and how Benedetti was drawing from inspiration using words within the context of each notable poem. Props to Louise B. Popkin for her word choices that could not be put into English.

This collection is relentless from youth until the year within in his death displaying his poignant gift of the poetic and written word. Benedetti’s soul sings from beginning to end and with age continues to delve deeper within the wells of his soul. I’m delighted to have connected with such brilliant writing and highly suggest this book for anyone interested in discovering the work of a poetic titan.

By Mario Svirsky

A terrific translation of Benedetti’s poems, one that shows the translator’s knowledge of not just the Spanish language, but the local Uruguayan dialect, and her intimate knowledge of the political context and local culture. I’m from Montevideo, Benedetti’s home town , and it’s a pleasure to see his work so carefully handled.… Benedetti had long deserved an accurate and sensitive translation of much of his poetic work. “Witness: The Selected Poems of Mario Benedetti” is just that; it’s the real thing.


By Jeremy

Benedetti’s poetry is vivid, striking, and full of sincerity. His poems, like so many of his short stories, are, above all, about individuals, be they lovers, exiles, clerks, urban denizens, or victims of political oppression.… Witness is a distinguished collection (and translation) of poems from one of Latin America’s most important literary figures of the past century. Mario Benedetti was as fine a writer as they come; one assuredly deserving of a far greater audience.


By Roy

I think his poems are great … even in translation. This is a very nice compilation, arranged chronologically with an Introduction and Notes that let the poems speak for themselves.… His political poems are moving and to the point, especially: “Che” and “Money-changers.”


More Comments from Private Correspondence with Translator Louise B. Popkin (in all cases, reproduced with permission)

You Deserve a National Award

By Joseph Thomas Snow (Professor of Spanish Emeritus, Michigan State University), Madrid, Spain

You deserve a national translation award for this and I hope you get one.  The kudos richly deserved will light your path to the next brilliant and passionate translation. You have a gift for poetic insights…

Your translations are majestic.… Three “got to me” for different reasons…. “Shelter” and “Prisoner Looking at His Son” are so true to real feeling; and “Outdoor Poems” is ravishingly lovely, especially the last metaphor of bird flying into the words.  Kudos on the rightness of the translations, as well.

Victoria Furio, translator & interpreter

Oh, Louise!  I just found out about your acclaim in World Literature Today !!  […]  Well deserved!  That’s so wonderful!  […] Not only is the rating an honor, but the whole process of doing the anthology is such a deeply meaningful, shining span of time in your life, no? I am grateful for this moment of “Good,” for you and for Mario, and for all that it represents.

[…] This work is your crowning glory!


Elizabeth Lozano, Instructor of Spanish, Boston University

You have been a wonderful mentor and inspiration. Now, I can admire you as an exceptional translator as well. Your book of Mario Benedetti’s  poetry was greatly needed. It is a beautiful and meaningful work of love. It is important, alive and ironic.

I look forward to using some of the poems in my classes at Boston University in the near future.

Personal, Political, and Lyrical

By Michael S. Popkin, attorney and ballet critic, Dance View

…The contrast is fascinating between the very personal and traditionally lyrical pieces at the start of the book, and how personally the political faith becomes interpolated into lyrical experience in the poems…in the middle.… Politics [here] is burningly personal, an element mixing with traditional lyrical experience.… This is, to a USA-person, quite a shock aesthetically. Challenging. His complete candor, authenticity, and evident honesty makes one reach out to encounter this..…


Benedetti Deserved a Good Translation

By Lydia Umaschi, Argentine translator and writer

You’ve done a wonderful job, fulfilled all my expectations, and can be very proud of the effort that you’ve put into this; because paradoxically (but this is a good paradox), [the effort] isn’t noticeable. The language flows naturally and the musicality and meaning have made it through intact. This was worth doing; Benedetti really deserved a good translation… 


Unstifled Poetry, Light and Full of Music

By Natalia Klimova, Russian and Ukrainian interpreter and translator

…Undeniable, unstifled poetry. I absolutely loved “Down with Drawbridges”, with its elegance, imagery, irony, contrasts and sharp turns of flow – that was the most poetic political statement I’ve ever seen. I absolutely loved “Don’t Play It Safe” – so full of passion, and so understated. And many others.… [This] translation is light (or very intense), and full of music.


An Act of Love

By Ruben Svirsky, Uruguayan translator

I began to read, initially with interest and then with fascination, the wonderful job you’ve done with Mario’s poetry. I’ll never refer to the two of us as colleagues again: that would be like the guy in the butcher shop on the corner referring to a neurosurgeon as a colleague, because both of them work with knives…

Your translation is much more than a faithful recreation of Mario’s work: besides being full of ingenious solutions, I feel that it’s an act of love.


Natural, Flowing, and Beautiful

By Jacqueline King, journalist and activist

I am blown away by this book, Louise. It is truly amazing. Benedetti is such a powerful poet and you are such a wonderful translator!! I never heard of him before, which is not surprising since I know very little about Latin American literature. And of course I don’t speak Spanish, so I can’t know when you are translating literally, when colloquially, etc…but all I can say is, the result is natural and flowing and beautiful.


Extraordinary, Incredible, Monumental

By Rudy Heller, Colombian translator and Director, Heller Language Solutions

This is an extraordinary piece of work, incredible and monumental. The precision of your translations, or rather, the faithfulness to the original concepts, is worthy of praise and admiration.… Mr. Benedetti must be very grateful, watching it all from his new lodgings.



Recommending It to All My Colleagues

By David Hildner, Professor of Spanish, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Congratulations on a beautiful book and [on] “capturing” Benedetti so well.… The “liberties” you take make perfect sense in the context of the poem[s]. I will…recommend your book to all my Spanish American colleagues and other lovers of poetry.



By J. T. Snow, Professor of Spanish Emeritus, Michigan State University

…Your translations are majestic.… Three “got to me” for different reasons…. “Shelter” and “Prisoner Looking at His Son” are so true to real feeling; and “Outdoor Poems” is ravishingly lovely, especially the last metaphor of bird flying into the words.  Kudos on the rightness of the translations, as well.


Comments Following Louise’s Book-launch Reading at Schoenhof’s Foreign Books, Cambridge, MA

I heard people commenting [after your reading] that you had even managed to capture the rhythm and music of the Spanish in your translations. Anyone who bothers to compare the originals with your versions can only say, “Wow!” [But] I’m sure the poems would survive in English even if they weren’t identified as translations of Benedetti’s work.  They’re extraordinary … I just know Don Mario went to bed smiling that night.
—Rudy Heller


Dear Louise,

I trust you … are savoring the memory of this wonderful event. Thank you for participating so fully with me in organizing this very special moment in honoring Mario Benedetti. The translated readings were superb and so were the ones in original Spanish! Thank you for introducing me to Mario Benedetti through your lovely translations! … It was lovely to meet so many of your colleagues and friends. Everyone was happy and at times deeply moved…it was truly a celebration!

—Eleni Sacre, Manager, Schoenhof’s Foreign Books


I’m reading the Mario Benedetti poems one at a time, having taken the book from the pile on my bed table after your very powerful reading on Saturday. Thank you, thank you for this translation. I feel like I’ve discovered someone wonderful and new to me, which doesn’t happen very often. I’ve already thought of three people to pass on the news of your excellent translation, which I will do next. And each poem is magnificent or heartbreaking or full of laughter or thunder in its own unique way.  So glad you did it, so glad we came and listened.

—Peggy Clarke

Comment Following Louise’s Presentation to the New England Translators Association

The results of your preparation were super evident! You were intensely on task, sharing comments on a wide range of topics pertinent to the lovely translations you crafted. You communicated most effectively that your close connection with Benedetti was central to your vision, and your desire to do right by him shined through. The goal, as you said, was not to clarify or interpret or improve, but to render poetry that has struck a powerful chord with the Uruguayans you have come to know and love while making it accessible to English-speaking readers. Dealing with local cultural references and with playfulness and puns made the work far more challenging and the success of your efforts all the more satisfying.

I am so very glad we persisted in making arrangements for this session, which definitely had a different feel to it than the Schoenhof’s reading. Here you were really addressing translators, and I hope you were as pleased as I was by the number of attendees (including six participating remotely), their rapt attention, and the quality of their questions. It is my distinct impression that everyone was very pleased with this session.

Thank you again for exposing so many of us to Benedetti’s world.

—Marian Comenetz, Programming Coordinator, NETA

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