Plume Interviews: Loretta Collins Klobah & María Grau Perejoan

Here are excerpts from “Plume Interviews: Loretta Collins Klobah & María Grau Perejoan.” See full interview at Project Plume.

Loretta Collins Klobah and Maria Grau Perejoan are co-editors and translators of The Sea Needs No Ornament/El mar no necesita ornamento, a bilingual anthology of contemporary women poets from the English and Spanish-speaking Caribbean that we recently excerpted as a poetry spotlight. In this interview, they talked to us about their intensive collaboration, their poem selection process, and how the anthology’s bilingual form contributes to its impact and interpretation. 

How did the two of you come together to collaborate on The Sea Needs No Ornament/El mar no necesita ornamento?

MGP: The Sea Needs No Ornament/El mar no necesita ornamento is a Puerto Rican project. Up until 2016, my experience as both lecturer and postgraduate student in the region had been limited to the English-speaking region. Since my two main areas of specialisation, about which I had theorised and practised, are Caribbean Literature and Literary Translation, I decided it was time to expand my scope into the Spanish-speaking area. After my PhD and thanks to a scholarship, a first research stay brought me to the University of Puerto Rico where Loretta and I met thanks to Dr. Carmen Haydée Rivera. We found out we both believed that more translation work is needed in Caribbean literature and particularly translating women writers. Loretta proposed the project, we devised it together, and I won a Fulbright Scholarship that allowed me to go back to Puerto Rico the next year to start making it a reality.

LCK: I can add to Maria’s description of our meeting and the initial phases of our project by saying that when she first visited my university office, I had for some time been thinking about ways in which the Caribbean literary community already seeks to build bridges between islands and Diaspora(s) across the language divides and what more could be done. Because I have researched and taught Caribbean literature and culture for thirty years and I write creatively and publish my poetry collections with Peepal Tree Press, I’ve had opportunities to meet Caribbean writers and form literary friendships with many of them. At book fairs and literary festivals I had recently attended, my conversations with women writers had made me particularly aware of their concerns.

When Maria asked me about potential translation projects, I immediately suggested a bilingual collection of poetry by Caribbean women poets who had started publishing books primarily since the beginning of the 21st century. That kind of anthology had not been produced in twenty years. Moreover, the anthology published more than two decades earlier by M.J. Fenwick, Sisters of Caliban, provided translations of poems from various Caribbean languages to English. We decided that our anthology, in addition to translating Spanish poems to English, would also translate poems from the English-speaking Caribbean to Spanish. [. . .]

How do you think presenting the anthology’s poems in bilingual form adds to their interpretation and impact?

MGP: Presenting the poems in bilingual form is a way of celebrating the multilingual nature of the Caribbean archipelago. Both monolingual readers of English or Spanish and bilingual readers can read and enjoy the book. As bilingual speakers ourselves, we expect bilingual readers to also take pleasure at looking at both versions. Ultimately, we hope that our anthology will be read widely in both the larger English- and Spanish-speaking worlds, and that the book will encourage others to translate individual books by our contributors.

LCK: I’ll only add to Maria’s comments by saying that each poem in the collection is presented first in its original language of composition and then its translation, with both versions placed side-by-side on opposing pages. It’s easy to glance from the English to Spanish versions of the poems to compare lines, and that is a pleasure in itself for readers enjoying and interpreting the poems, no matter the level of their knowledge of a second language. [. . .]

Read three excerpts from The Sea Needs No Ornament/El mar no necesita ornamento here on Project Plume.

For full interview, see

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