Ilana Luna

Ilana Luna

Photo by alejandro t. aciert


Ilana Luna, associate professor of Latin American Studies and Spanish at Arizona State University, is a writer, translator, singer, and film festival curator. Author of Adapting Gender: Mexican Feminisms from Literature to Film (2018, SUNY Press), and, with Norma Klahn, co-translator/editor of the forthcoming Fatefully/Faithfully Feminist: A Cultural History of Mexican Feminism as Chronicled by Carlos Monsiváis (Vanderbilt University Press). She has translated Juan José Rodinás’ Koan: Underwater (2018, Cardboard House Press); Judith Santopietro’s Tiawanaku: Poems from the Madre Coqa (2019, Orca Libros)—a 2020 Sarah Maguire Poetry-in-Translation Prize finalist; and Giancarlo Huapaya’s Sub Verse Workshop (2020, Lavender Ink). Luna enjoys translating living poets, recently Gaspar Orozco, Cristián Gómez Olivares, and Wixárika poet Angélica Ortiz in Vice Versa, Reliquiae, Poetry at Sangam Oomph!, and Red Ink, among others, and with Cheyla Samuelson, has published on Rivera Garza’s poetry in Lana Turner, the Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies, and Harper’s Magazine.

Project Description  

To support the translation from the Spanish of the poetry collections The Virus of Here and Now and The Imagination of the Commons by Mexican author Cristina Rivera Garza. Rivera Garza is a 2020 MacArthur fellow, the founder of the first PhD program for creative writing in Spanish in the U.S. at the University of Houston, and the author of more than 25 books, including a collection of translated short stories published in 2022 by Dorothy, A Publishing Project. Though her prose is available to an English-speaking audience, only a few of her poems have been translated into English. Luna will collaborate with Cheyla Samuelson, associate professor of Spanish at San José State University, California.

I was first asked to translate when I was 16 and living in Argentina: the words to a pop song from English into Spanish. This might seem like a trivial task, scribbles on scrap paper, by the side of the road, but for me, it was a turning point in truly understanding the desire and intimacy inherent in the art of translation. How can we deeply communicate truths in a borrowed language? How can we use our proximity to other languages and cultures to transmit both knowledge and feeling? How can translation feed a hunger for shared humanity? It was another decade before I began to embrace the idea that I might, in fact, become a translator, studying under Suzanne Jill Levine at the University of California Santa Barbara, and adopting notions of transcreation and her term, closelaboration:the embodied creative relationship between author and translator that is both generative and collaborative, and whose end product is always something else, entirely new.

I spent the subsequent decades as student, then professor, dedicated to literary criticism, film studies, and more recently translation, but always aware of how fundamental translation is to canon, to the global dissemination of ideas and aesthetics, and by the same token, how undervalued it always seems to be. From the fight to have translators named on the covers of books (and earn living wages), to the struggle for professional acknowledgment of the craft, the scholarship, and art involved in literary translation, it is an honor to now be supported and recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts. Along with my friend and closelaborator, Cheyla Samuelson, we are inspired by the complexities of Cristina Rivera Garza’s poetry, bringing the power of her words to others who may need them for their very survival.

About Cristina Rivera Garza

Cristina Rivera Garza is acknowledged as one of the most significant writers of her generation in Mexico. Author of over 25 books, she writes across a multitude of genres, subverting conventions and pushing language to its breaking point. Most known internationally for her narrative and essays, there is a dearth of translation of her poetry, leaving a ‘missing center’ to her body of work. Yet, it is in her poetry that we find a key to understanding her overarching project, as a border denizen and global thinker, engaged with contemporary issues of violence, transnational identities, and feminist consciousness.