Media Room

For review copy requests, contact White Pine Press publisher Dennis Maloney (wpine@whitepine.org)

Story ideas

Working with a celebrity poet
The nuances of translating poetry: getting it right in the target language
Poets as human rights activists and poetry as a force for social justice
Chronicling the 20th century: Mario Benedetti as a witness to his times
Benedetti and the poetry of exile
Human rights and life on the run: Benedetti in Uruguay and in exile

 

Possible Interview questions (you are welcome to add your own)

  1. How did you get involved in the translation world?
  2. What else have you published?
  3. How did you meet Mario Benedetti and become his translator?
  4. Benedetti has been translated before—what makes your book different?
  5. How do you explain Benedetti’s mass appeal as a poet, and why doesn’t the US have poet-heroes?  What does it take for a poet to become a national hero?
  6. Why do so many writers face government repression?
  7. What is the role of writers in social justice struggles?
  8. Where can we get a copy of Witness: The Selected Poems of Mario Benedetti

 

Listen to Louise B. Popkin discuss Benedetti’s life and work, her friendship with the poet, and her translation with Yago S. Cura on World Wide Word Radio

Book cover

Book cover: Witness: The Selected Poems of Mario Benedetti

Book cover: Witness: The Selected Poems of Mario Benedetti


 

Picture of Mario and Louise together

Poet Mario Benedetti and his translator and friend/translator, Louise B. Popkin, in Benedetti's Montevideo apartment

Poet Mario Benedetti and his translator and friend/translator, Louise B. Popkin, in Benedetti’s Montevideo apartment

 

Press releases

A Towering Latin American Voice for Justice…Finally Accessible to US Readers in a New Collection

Lines would stretch for blocks when he spoke, performed or even signed his books… students carried his words in their backpacks and sprayed them on public walls…he was besieged by autograph seekers whether eating with friends at a local cafe, attending a mass demonstration, or struggling to get to a wedding on time…his work was set to music by more than 40 songwriters…he received dozens of major awards both for his writing and for his work on behalf of freedom and against torture—and when he died, a nation and a continent grieved. Schools were closed so the children could join the crowds in the streets for his funeral.

His honors included the internationally prestigious Reina Sofía Prize (Spain), the National Prize for Intellectual Achievement (Uruguay), the Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral medals (both from Chile), and even Amnesty International’s Golden Flame award, among many others (full list available on request). Yet, to most US readers, his name is not yet familiar.

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009) was one of the strongest voices against dictatorship and one of the great 20th-century literary lights in his native Uruguay. And now, for the first time, an American translator has prepared a major collection of his poetry for the US with extensive input from the author.

Witness: The Selected Poems of Mario Benedetti, with an introduction by Margaret Randall, published by Buffalo-based White Pine Press, with support from the Uruguay-based Fundación Mario Benedetti as well as the National Endowment for the Arts, and New York State Council for the Arts will be released on April 16, 2012. ISBN: 978-1-935210-31-3, $20.00

funeral after funeral
they came and went
clinging to the hands of the survivors
and so early on started learning
about knocks at the door
knots in the throat
how they’d have to not cry
be the outcasts at school
—a stanza from “Childhoods” by Mario Benedetti, as translated by Louise B. Popkin

Popkin, a widely published translator, faculty member in Spanish at Harvard’s Extension Division and close friend of Benedetti’s, began this anthology of 134 texts spanning Benedetti’s entire seven-decade career in close collaboration with the poet. As the only translator of Benedetti’s poetry into English who worked directly with him, she has captured their meanings and his voice in language that reads as beautifully as does the original Spanish.

Journalists interested in interviews: Popkin can be reached by email at lpopkin@mariowitness.com  and/or using the contact form (see last section) and will supply further contact information upon request. For review copy requests, contact White Pine Press publisher Dennis Maloney (wpine@whitepine.org).

 

White Pine Press Announces New Translation of the Uruguay Poet Mario Benedetti

Witness: The Selected Poems of Mario Benedetti is the first collection of Benedetti’s poetry in English translation to draw on thirty of his published collections from 1948 – 2009, thereby presenting the full range of his poetic voice. Benedetti (1920 – 2009), who is regarded as one of Latin America’s most important writers of the 20th century, and who is equally at home in fiction and in poetry, is not well known in the English speaking world.

In her introduction to this volume, Margaret Randall says “Louise 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.”

And Claribel Alegría has the following to say about Witness: “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.”

Mario Benedetti (1920 – 2009) is regarded as one of Latin America’s most important writers of the 20th century and one of Uruguay’s most prolific writers. He excelled in all literary genres: novels, short stories, poems, plays, essays, political articles, and polemical songs. Benedetti’s seemingly inexhaustible creative power parallels his constant activity to improve the sociopolitical situation of his country.

Louise B. Popkin resides in the Boston area, where she teaches Spanish at Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education.  She also spends several months each year in Montevideo, Uruguay, and her translations of Latin American poetry, theater and fiction have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Among the writers whose work she has translated are Mauricio Rosencof, Mario Benedetti, Idea Vilariño, Eduardo Del Llano, Claribel Alegría, Eduardo Galeano, Leo Masliah, Mempo Giardinelli, Amanda Berenguer, Hugo Achugar, Hiber Conteris, and Teresa Porzcekanski.

Poetry / 6 x 9 / Trade Paper / ISBN 978-1-935210-30-3 / 384 pages / 20.00 / Pub date: April 16, 2012

WHITE PINE PRESS PO Box 236                                                                                                   Buffalo, NY 14201                                                                                                                                                                                                                 www.whitepine.org

 

Contact/Request an Interview

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Subject

Your Message

 

For review copy requests, contact White Pine Press publisher Dennis Maloney (wpine@whitepine.org)

Excerpts from Published Reviews, Press Coverage, and Recognition

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)

 

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.

English

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 [what it contains of] 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 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.

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 Newstaco.com

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 grind.

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 newstaco.com)

 

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.)

Recognition

Finalist, Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, Oxford University

Witness was one of six worldwide finalists—and the only volume of poetry—for Oxford University’s international Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. To read public remarks at the award ceremony from two of the judges, please click here.

World Literature Today’s List of 75 Notable Translations of the Year

Click here for complete list.

New England Translators Association

Three-page interview, “The Poet Mario Benedetti: A Conversation with Louise Popkin,” in the Fall 2012 newsletter (PDF link), and chosen to address the group’s January 2013 meeting.

WBUR-FM (NPR-Boston)

Named as one of 11 Great Books Recently Translated Into English by translator Jim Kates (link to audio segment)