Vicente Huidobro: Solitario invencible

I’ve been occasionally pecking away some of the work of Vicente Huidobro. I have long since lost my never-good Spanish and have engaged in very amateur translations in a half-hearted effort to return it to its former half-luster. The are three versions of the translation here: a straightforward, unpoetic, line-by-line translation; a condensed, more poetic version; and then a complete reworking. In general, I think an effective translation requires someone much more fluent, much more attuned to the context and features of the original. So this is not really a translation but a writing-through.

Solitario invencible

Como canasta de amarguras
Con mucho silencio y mucha luz
Dormido de hielos
Te vas y vuelves a ti mismo
Te ríes de tu propio sueño
Pero suspiras poemas temblorosos
Y te convences de alguna esperanza

La ausencia el hambre de callar
De no emitir más tantas hipótesis
De cerrar las heridas habladoras
Te da una ansia especial
Como de nieve y fuego
Quieres volver los ojos a la vida
Tragarte el universo entero
Esos campos de estrellas
Se te van de la mano después de la catástrofe
Cuando el perfume de los claveles
Gira en torno de su eje

Solitary invincible

As a basket of bitterness
With much silence and much light
Sleeping on ice
You go and return to yourself
You laugh at your own dream
But sigh at trembling poems
And convince yourself of another hope

The absence of street hunger
To not give off so many hypotheses
To close the chatty wounds
Gives you a special craving
Like that of snow and fire
You want to return the eyes to the life
That swallows the universe whole
Those fields of stars
Leave the hand after the catastrophe
When the perfume of the carnations
Turns the lathe on its axis

Solitary Invincible

You leave and return.
You laugh at your dreams
But sigh at poems.

Closing the chatty wounds
Arouses a special desire:
You want to resurrect those
Eyes that swallow the whole
Universe. After the catastrophe,
The carnations’ perfume turns
The lathe on its axis.

Alone Deathless

You leave a dream journal atop
my book of poems, and a page flutters
from one or other. “After catastrophe,”
a wound says, “carnations turn
the lathe on its axis.”


In the original, there is this wonderful movement from what feels almost like a domestic situation to a surreal apocalypse. I have interpolated a relationship between the speaker and the addressed: it is not made explicit, but the tone and general romanticism suggests it. There is another movement too, from language and reason to feeling: to not “give so many hypotheses” or “close the chatty wounds.” The signs of catastrophe, the surfacing of deep feeling, are laughable dreams or pathetic emotion. The aim of my versions has been to condense the poem to just what is required for those parallel movements.