Translation traffics in meanings―moving them across various borderlands.

The linguistic borderland is one of the domains that translation subverts.  In doing so, translation dissolves other borders that prevent us from encountering another (‘us’ here is an imagined collective readership).

One might balk at the connotation of the illicit in poetic contexts, resisting the shadow, but translation is a form of non-allegiance to the given.  Instead, the translator aspires to form new allegiances by trafficking in meaning.  The translator has gone rogue into the meaning system, and in trafficking its essence seeks to mobilize its operations into a new linguistic context.

Trans- as a prefix here has a unique potency.  We can regard it transcending and perhaps governing the whole scope of this project in some ways:



This work is one of transporting subjects.

As much as meaning is moved through translation, readers are transported by their encounters.  The availability of meanings in new contexts appears hologrammatic with the reader gaining access to a poem’s primacy: the phenomena it reflects, the time-space coded in its language, the consciousness imbued by the poet.

The horizon of meaning widens through this reciprocity.

The subject is transported and the consciousness of the poet delivered.  The translator’s work of trafficking in this consciousness is a delicate task, one that grafts one system of meaning to another: the essence is vital and is also what one strives to make persist.

For this first issue of Saccades Review, and for future others, I hope that your travel across the various borderlands enabled here is made vital and meaningful through these translations.

—sean negus


On The Translation

Language, as the philosopher Ernst Cassirer would say, reveals its artificiality when
compared to others. Whatever seems to be natural or common in our own symbols is
completely cast away to the bizarre when put side by side with other ways of signifying. You, there in the US of A, may say “i am 25 years old”, but people over here in our cherished empire of Brazil say something like “I have 25 years” (tenho vinte-e-cinco anos), as if we possessed time as a thing, and not the other way around.

If such chasms exist between ours and your language, how can one build a bridge across
them? How can we be able to transit between both worlds? Ferdinand de Saussure would call it “sign arbitrariness”: the same semantic contents can be manifested via different signifiers.

Flusser prefers calling it “a jump towards nothingness, and re-emergence on another side of Being”. Since our task in hand deals with the poetic, we prefer keeping with the second
definition, as much as we love the old indoeuropeanist drunkard. One shatters oneself when translating: our minds break as words acquire other sounds and dimensions, our reality starts meaning through different means, thought is revealed to be just an utterance in the void.

To translate is to kill one’s subjectivity, and to rebuild it as another self, even for the briefest of moments. Translating is dangerous, no wonder why the Italians called it “betrayal” (traduttore tradittore).

And translating poetry is even more dangerous. Recreating an author’s artistic
expression is a very demanding task. We try not to betray and, because it is impossible, we try then to betray less. Technique, in this case, and knowledge of the poet’s historical context, themes, and tropes are the best way, in our opinion, to counter these unavoidable fits of betrayal. Our foremost commitment when translating the poets hereby – we would like to stress it – was not reproducing them word by word literally, but reshaping each poem in its aesthetic meaning from Portuguese to English. If we have committed any horrid betrayal with your language, we use these lines to apologize for our crimes. As our second language, it will never be as well fluent as our native one, and we recognize that some of our solutions may sound weird and unfamiliar. As we are dealing with works of a very peculiar literary tradition, however, that should be more than expected.

For us, it is a great pleasure bringing Brazilian literature to foreign lands, and we hope
the reader enjoys our first (and following) issue(s) of Saccades Review. So, without further ado, we invite you to dive into what we consider to be the best of our poetry!

the translators