LA TOLTECA ZINE, New Mexico
´SE HABLA ESPAÑOL¨ FALL Issue, 2014
With essays by Edith Grossman, Sandra Cisneros, Indran Amirthanayagam and others. Interviews, new poetry, and more...
I started writing poetry since I was 11, in my hometown of Leon, Nicaragua. My country is known for its love of poetry, and its poets, and that was transmitted to me both at home, and at school. We had a good library and I started learning poems by heart, poems that I would recite to family and friends, and at school shows.
My parents are both Nicaraguans, their parents and grandparents too so Spanish has been our tongue for many generations. But since I grew up in the 70s and English was already gaining a lot of ground in Nicaragua, I had to take English as a second language at school. I grew up with it, really, listening to songs by Cat Stevens, Elton John, ´and groups like Bread or Supertramp, where I would write the lyrics of the songs down, on paper, to recite them along later when our friends gathered to listen to them.
It was part of my academic upbringing, learning a second or third language. In Middle School we started with English, and by Junior and Senior year the Catholic nuns in my school had already introduced French. That, combined with the study of literary greats like Edgar Allan Poe, and Ezra Pound in translation gave me the curiosity to deepen my knowledge of it, of its culture and its people.
So it was a given that I had to go to the United States to polish what I had learned at school, and that’s how I went to Michigan during the winter break of my HS Sophomore year to spend time going to school with American girls to learn English, even though I was on vacation at home. My parents had decided early on that once I was finished with high school I would return to the USA, so I went to Boston to finish learning English, while I also kept away from the dangers of the uprising Nicaraguan revolution in 1979.
While Spanish is the language of my heart, I also have discovered that English is the language of my reason. Maybe because in poetry words are more precise and more definite, so you have to be very careful what you choose, also because Spanish is more musical and poetry is music to the ears. Perhaps because I have an ear for music, and poetry flows more naturally to me.
It seems to me that while I relish more writing prose in English than in Spanish, I also enjoy the challenge of poetry translation from Spanish to English where the real test is finding a word that not only conveys the same but that also has the same number of syllables to make up for the nice sound it has in its original version. So it is not only the meaning but the challenge of sound and music that affect the poem.