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in translation by Keith Payne




juan gelman

The son of Ukrainian immigrants, Juan Gelman’s first poetry collection Violin and Other Issues was published in 1956. Following the Argentine Coup in 1976, Gelman was forced into exile in Europe, The United States, and finally Mexico where he lived for more than 25 years. His son, daughter and pregnant daughter-in-law were ‘disappeared’ during the dictatorship. In 2007, he received the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish language literature prize for lifetime achievement. Collections in translation include: Unthinkable Tenderness: Selected Poems, trans. Joan Lindgren, The Poems of Sidney West, trans. Katherine M. Hedeen & Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, and Com/positions, trans. Lisa Rose Bradford. Juan Gelman died in Mexico City, January 14th, 2014.



keith payneKeith Payne's poems & essays have recently appeared in The Dublin Review of Books, the Irish Times, The Burning Bush II, Estudios Irlandeses: Journal of Irish Studies, The SHOp and The Stinging Fly, among others. Recent translations have appeared in The Trinity Journal of Literary Translation Vols I and II, Forked Tongues: Galician, Catalan and Basque Women’s Poetry in Translations by Irish Writers, Ed. Manuela Palacios, (Shearsman, 2012) and Mountain-Islandglacier, (Broken Dimanche Press, 2012.) Keith lives in Vigo, Galicia; and, in 2013, represented Ireland at international poetry festivals in Mexico City and Zacatecas. 

Keith Payne writes of his translation:

The poem Confianzas, (Convictions), by Juan Gelman opens with the phrase se sienta en la mesa y escribe, which in Spanish doesn’t identify the gender of the subject. Gelman being male I would naturally translate this as he sat to the table and wrote. But then the news of Margaretta D’Arcy’s incarceration came through and the parallels were too obvious. The poem clearly speaks of what Margaretta D’Arcy, Juan Gelman, José Revueltas, and so many unnamed others do everyday of their lives, that I believe Gelman in this case would approve of the change.





Translated by Keith Payne for Margaretta D'Arcy


She sits at the table and writes 

“this poem won’t take power” she says

“these lines won’t start the revolution” she says

“thousands of these lines won’t start the revolution” she says.


and another thing; these lines won’t help

caretakers, labourers and teachers live better

eat better, the poet herself won’t eat or live better

and they’re absolutely useless in love


you won’t earn a living with them

you won’t get into the flicks free with them

they won’t clothe you

they won’t give you wine and cigarettes for them


no scarves, no parrots, no boats

no bulls nor brollies will you get for them

they won’t keep you dry in the rain

and they won’t forgive you for them


“this poem won’t take power” she says

“these lines won’t start the Revolution” she says

“thousands of these lines won’t start the Revolution” she says

she sits at the table and writes.




©2014 Juan Gelman and Keith Payne




Author Links


Review of 'Dark Times Filled with Light': the selected work of Juan Gelman

Purchase 'The Poems of Sydney West' by Juan Gelman

Juan Gelman obituary in the Guardian

"Rebel hearts beat with the 'poetry of vitality'": article by Keith Payne in the Irish Times

Translations by Keith Payne in the Trinity Journal of Literary Translation






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