Silvina López Medin and Sarah Lawson in Conversation with Hilary Kaplan
In 2017, Ugly Duckling Presse (UDP), where we are both editors, published a chapbook by the Brazilian poet Marília Garcia, who just recently won the prestigious Oceanos Portuguese Language Literature Prize. Titled The Territory Is Not the Map, UDP released it as part of its Señal series for contemporary Latin American poetry. We met with Hilary Kaplan, Garcia’s translator, when she came to New York City for the book launch at NYU’s KJCC (King Juan Carlos I of Spain) Poetry Series. We were interested in talking with her about a book which—instead of obscuring the process of translation and the role of the translator—begins with the poem “A Departure with Hilary Kaplan,” exposing this very practice: “When you say / erase / do you mean / stop existing?” … “is departure simply / when someone goes out / or does it mean they’re / going away forever?” Garcia wrote this poem from a series of questions Kaplan posed to her about her translations, in the vein of Charles Bernstein’s “A Test of Poetry.”
In this book, both the poet and translator explore the limits of language and the confines of space. Garcia works with the actual and metaphorical distance between territories and points on a map, between a journey and the language used to write about it, and between languages themselves. In her poetry, there is no straight line from one to the other—there is displacement.
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