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Rosa Alcalá

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(2015 - Translation)

"Research Project" by Cecilia Vicuña

[translated from the Spanish]

I propose we take a trip
around the world,
to be officially designated:              

“Socialist government
research project.”

You and I will be
the “kissers.”
We kiss better than anyone,
having developed
a meticulous
and carefully researched
method for perfecting the kiss.
There is no woman who kisses like me
nor man who kisses like you.

As THE KISSERS we'll kiss
every person
we meet
to determine
who does it better
and learn accordingly
from their technique,
we’ll practice it
and without delay bring it back
to our socialist country,
which will be land of The Kissers.

April 1971

Translation by Rosa Alcalá. Published in Angels of the Americlypse: An Anthology of New Latino Writing (Denver, CO: Counterpath Press, 2014)

Original in Spanish

About Cecilia Vicuña

Cecilia Vicuña is a Chilean-born poet, filmmaker, and visual artist who, following the Chilean military coup of 1973, lived in exile in London and Bogotá, and who now lives in New York. Drawing on pre-Columbian and avant-garde practices, Vicuña's art and poetry of the last forty years has underscored the importance of cultural and historical recovery, as well as the need for enacting social and political change in the present.

Rosa Alcalá is the author of two books of poetry, Undocumentaries (2010) and The Lust of Unsentimental Waters (2012), both from Shearsman Books. Her poems are also included in two recent anthologies: Angels of the Americlypse: New Latin@ Writing (Counterpath, 2014) and The Volta Book of Poets (Sidebrow Books, 2015). Spit Temple: The Selected Performances of Cecilia Vicuña (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2012), edited and translated by Alcalá, was runner-up for the 2013 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Creative Writing and Bilingual MFA Program at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Photo by Jeff Sirkin

Translator's Statement

Last year Cecilia Vicuña asked me if I would be interested in working on a volume of her selected poetry that Kelsey Street Press was interested in publishing. My immediate response was, "Yes!" But then the dread crept in: how would I find the time? In the late 90s, when I began translating Vicuña's work, I'd translate poems on breaks from my Wall Street temp jobs, then rush over to her apartment after work to discuss them. Later I'd translate while waiting tables, working on my PhD, teaching, serving on committees, caring for my daughter, etc. But I knew that this undertaking, which requires me to not only select and translate new poems, but also revise older translations, necessitates space, time, and focus. The NEA Translation Fellowship has afforded me that, and I am grateful.