Kelsi Vanada is a poet and translator working from Spanish and collaboratively from Swedish. Her translations include United Left by Álvaro Lasso (Eulalia Books); The Visible Unseen by Andrea Chapela (Restless Books); Damascus, Atlantis: Selected Poems by Marie Silkeberg, which was longlisted for the 2022 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation (Terra Nova Press); Into Muteness by Sergio Espinosa (Veliz Books); and The Eligible Age by Berta García Faet (Song Bridge Press). She has also published a chapbook of original poems, Rare Earth (Finishing Line Press). Kelsi holds MFAs in poetry (Iowa Writers' Workshop) and literary translation (University of Iowa). She works as the program director of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) in Tucson, Arizona, and enjoys building a readership for literature in translation by writing reviews and teaching occasional classes.
To support the translation from the Spanish of the poetry collection A Little Pretty Personality by Spanish poet Berta García Faet. A Little Pretty Personality is her seventh poetry collection—its central motif is a reinvention of the image of the medieval trobairitz, women who composed, wrote verses, and performed for noble courts, and are the first known female composers of Western secular music. The poems feature a wandering narrator singing as she goes through the world in search of something not yet named.
Winning a translation fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts is invaluable—it gives validation to my translations and means I have the support to ensure that Berta García Faet’s work reaches a wider readership in English. I am eager to return to Spain to work closely with her on my drafts of A Little Pretty Personality and grateful to the NEA for this gift!
I read García Faet’s 2015 book La edad de merecer (=(The Eligible Age) while studying for my MFA in literary translation, and was immediately eager to translate it: an email to her began a conversation about her work, and she has been an enthusiastic supporter of my translations from the start. The Eligible Age was my first translation publication in 2018. That year, I was able to spend three months in Spain, and García Faet and I deepened a friendship that had formerly existed only virtually. Much of her poetry is personal, and our friendship allows me to learn intimate details that could never be looked up in a dictionary but which help me to see as she does.
García Faet’s A Little Pretty Personality was published in November 2021 by La Bella Varsovia. It is her seventh book, the work of a poet in the prime of her writing life. The book contributes to an exploration of trobairitz poetics, examining how “constructs of romance, love, and gender are deeply rooted in medieval culture” (Sandra Simonds). As a poet myself, I believe García Faet’s work in translation can provide a vital reinvigoration of English-language poetry through her innovative use of form, her concepts and approach to writing about gender, and her radical contrasting of old and new language.
Translating A Little Pretty Personality requires more dedicated research than any other book I’ve translated to date, and this grant from the NEA will help me conduct this research—as I translate, I must steep myself in the kind of medieval language García Faet employs and riffs on throughout the poems. A Little Pretty Personality is important because it reminds us that in every age, we must return to and reimagine the literary canon. “She does not deny tradition; rather, she sends it through the luminous blender of freedom,” writes Andrés García Cerdán in his review of the book.
About Berta García Faet
Berta García Faet (Valencia, Spain, 1988) is a poet, translator, literary critic, and the recipient of numerous literary prizes. One of the most prolific poets writing in Spain today, she has “become the most representative voice of her generation” (Unai Velasco). García Faet’s eight books of poetry subvert patriarchal and societal structures with great wit and candor. Her work explores themes including gender, romance, and love through extreme contrasts of register and allusions, as well as formal and linguistic innovation.