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[note: Alejandra Pizarnik’s grave at La Tablada, Buenos Aires]

[note: Alejandra Pizarnik’s grave at La Tablada, Buenos Aires]


.
SÓLO UN NOMBRE
alejandra alejandra
debajo estoy yo
alejandra
.
JUST A NAME
alejandra alejandra
underneath I am
alejandra

.
ԸՆԴԱՄԵՆԸ ՄԻ ԱՆՎԱՆՈՒՄ
ալէճանդրա ալէճանդրա
ես տակը եմ
ալէճանդրա
.
notes:

I first translated this poem into English on November 24, 2005. Here are my thoughts I noted down:

How can three lines cause me so much stress, dither, pang? I have been struggling with this poem since Monday when I first discovered it. At first I thought the problem was me. My Spanish is, of course, muy malo. Alejandra’s line: debajo estoy yo seemed beyond my powers to comprehend. In the introduction to her translations Exchanging Lives Bassnett (2002) notes:

One of Pizarnik’s poems [Solo un Nombre] is famously untranslatable, a name poem that is effectively her epitaph in three lines … Not only does her name resist translation, so also do the three words of the middle line. Should it read literally: “below am I” or conversationally “I am underneath” or more pompously “I lie below,” which would bring in the double meaning of “lie”? None of these renderings is adequate, for the poem works because each word is so perfectly placed and sounds so right that no translator could do justice to the piece. (page 9)

This makes sense in context, the perplexity, flow, fermentation of Pizarnik’s poetic philosophy being abundantly clear in these three lines. Martínez, writing in Salgado’s anthology, comments: “the experience of fluidity came to be the hallmark of her life, one that estranged her from her own self and language and forever defeated her dream of an improbable grounding center” (page 296). Finally, I decided not to worry about this middle line. Stress, dither, pang will be my end, I think. Bassnett chooses to translate debajo estoy yo as “lying below.” I do not think my line is perfect, but what is, after all?