V is for Varela

Blanca Varela (1926-2009)

As in Blanca Varela, a Peruvian poet whose translated work I’ve run into on rare and lovely occasions. I believe her poetry is much more widely available in Spanish, so if anyone is interested in finding it and translating it into English for me, for the world, or for the large measures of glory that come from unsung toil in the name of poetry, go to it! (Or if you’re interested in teaching me to speak Spanish, let me know.)  Here’s the first poem of Blanca’s I ever read, called “Curriculum Vitae.” It reminds me of a very different poem (Dorothy Parker’s “Resume”) and also of the Cake song, “The Distance.”  I’m including it here in both Spanish and English, and I found it in The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry, edited by Ilan Stavans (who translated this particular poem).


Digamos que ganaste la carrera
y que el premio
era otra carrera
que no bebiste el vino de la victoria
sino tu propia sal
que jamás escuchaste vítores
sino ladridos de perros
y que tu sombra
tu propia sombra fue tu única
y desleal competidora.




let’s say you won the race
and the prize
was another race
you didn’t savor the wine of victory
but your own salt
you never listened to hurrahs
but dog barks
and your shadow
your own shadow
was your only
and disloyal competitor

~ Blanca Varela
translated by Ilan Stavans


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