“In the Midst of Songs” / “Ñeñe’i Ha-ṣa:gid”
Note: This broadside is part of our annual translation special feature in which we feature two broadsides—one from a forthcoming publication from Tavern Books, one by a poet writing in a language indigenous to the Americas.
What surprised you about this collaborative piece?
Poet Ofelia Zepeda: The surprise was the image. As the creator of the poem I have certain images that helped me generate the poem; there are also sensibilities that I have to a certain landscape and also a cultural understanding of the landscape that directed me to write this piece. The image produced for this piece initially seemed to be in stark contrast to what I see when I see my words, however, the image of the water and the sun and changes in the environment as seen through the colors may somehow be appropriate.
Artist Kara Page: How well I liked both languages on the piece. It adds another layer of beauty, and I almost felt as though I would still understand the poem even if it hadn’t been in English because of the painting.
Do you see an overlap between the act of translation and the act of responding visually to a piece of literature?
Poet Ofelia Zepeda: Yes. It is about interpretation and responding to a piece through multiple senses. I see images in literature and words in art.
How does translation fit into your creative life?
Poet Ofelia Zepeda: I claim I don’t translate my poetry whether it is from Tohono O’odham to English or vice versa instead I produce two pieces not independent from one another but simply versions of one another and set them next to each other. I have done the other type of translation whether it is morpheme by morpheme or where there is a closer word for word correspondence-this is the type I might do for linguistic analysis and it typically involves taking someone else’s words and moving them into English or Tohono O’odham.
Why this poem?
Artist Kara Page: I think it can be a challenge to paint or write about beautiful things without succumbing to clichés or coming off as trite. The poem was able to capture beauty without falling into cliché, and I wanted to try and create a beautiful image without also falling into cliché. Not sure if I was as successful as the author, but I gave it my best shot!
Read any good books lately?
Artist Kara Page: The Mountains and the Fathers: Growing Up on the Big Dry by Joe Wilkins
Seen any great art lately?
Poet Ofelia Zepeda: Sad to say that I haven’t been to a museum or gallery lately where I might have seen some great art.
Artist Kara Page: Yep! Katie Berggren and you can find her artwork here.
Note: Broadsided has Vectors everywhere, and poetry and art speak across cultures, bridging and enlarging them. The very nature of an artist responding to a visual work is an act of translation. To deepen this awareness and conversation, we began offering regular translation features at Broadsided in 2012. In 2014 we refined that vision to this mission: In the Broadsided Translation Feature, our mission is to showcase poets of the American Continents writing in their Indigenous/First Languages. Broadsides of poems with translations and art are published alongside interviews with the poet and artist that invite discussions of process, interpretation, and nuance. In addition, photos of the broadsides shared in public spaces within the poets’ and artists’ communities show how poetry and art, as part of our daily lives, can create awareness and understanding, deepen connection to other cultures, and broaden our literary communities.