Letter from the Editors


If a translation is a sketch of the original in a different medium, we expect to see shapes reappear—there are always traces of the one in the other. In translation, this sometimes means an action, a finger against the page. Sometimes it means what’s been left behind, intentionally or inadvertently. Or sometimes each trace becomes a clue that leads us on a search, sends us on a quest, tracing and retracing our steps, our ideas, our preconceptions. A reading and re-reading, an attempt that will never be the same in its reproduction and repetition.

Many of the pieces in this issue deal with traces of the past that stay with us, the moments that linger. In an excerpt of Adi Landau’s Pearls, authored by Sonya Todorova and translated by Velina Minkoff, the narrator describes how traces of the living, when left among the paths of the dead, can restore the threads between present and past. Anton Yakovlev’s translations of poems by Sergei Esenin trace the decline of Russian pastoral poetry in the face of modernism and socialist revolution. Katie Hartsock’s experiments with the Iliad foreground English words that are phonetically similar to those of the Ancient Greek, leaving visual traces of the original and creating echoes whose origins we don't necessarily know, while digital interactivity allows readers to trace connections between languages that cut across time.

Traces are not only the presence of hidden subtleties; they can also be evidence of a haunting absence. Buthaina Al-Nasiri's “The Luck of the Tortoise,” translated by Gretchen McCullough, approaches superstition with the subtlest of brushstrokes, touching on tradition without addressing it head-on. The images that arise in Joan Xie and Sam Perkins’ collaborative translations of poems by Chen Xianfa—a clump of soil and roots, a quickly-eaten pineapple, a heron, a bowl of congee—give us a glimpse of the hidden. In Kári Tulinius’ formally experimental poems, rendered faithfully to form by Larissa Kyzer, image slides into image, each new word trailing a trace of the one before.

So, too, can traces be left behind as marks, as scars, permanent reminders of who or what has visited us. In Andrea Nunes Brións’ poetry, translated by Laura Cesarco Eglin, we glimpse how the body bears the traces of nostalgia, for past and never-realized realities, as well as the traces of those who left their mark. The female body is revisited once again in Yudit Shahar’s poems, translated by Aviya Kushner, where the reader is confronted with a body that seems to fracture under the weight of the outside world, leaving its mark in the form of fissures—between time, between sexes, between languages.

We are proud to present in this issue literature that spans three language families and includes several under-translated languages, with contributions translated from the Icelandic, Galician, Russian, Hebrew, Mandarin, Bulgarian, Arabic, and Homeric Greek. We're delighted to have art in a variety of media to accompany and enrich their words. Through Jim Zola’s photography and Bianca Dudeck-Mandity’s painting, we can explore visually the tension between nature and bodies, the micro and the magnificent. Reed Saad’s watercolors, doubled as we experience them in both normal spectrum and UV light, mimic the alterity of translation. Also featured are the dynamic, sinuous paintings of Aaron Akira, whose collaboration with Nico Alonso serves as the cover of this issue that invites reading and rereading. 

No matter how brief, a brush with a great work of literature lingers with us like the reverberation of a half-remembered song. We’re marked by them. We hope a few pieces from this collection will continue to echo within you, as well.