The Gabo Prize for Literature in Translation & Multilingual Texts
Issue 15: Summer/Fall 2019
by Rannvá Holm Mortensen
translated by Matthew Landrum
Special Guest Judge, Dick Cluster
“Childhood memory of being cooped up in church clothes. . .a violin bow . . . a harmonica in C major / for a paralyzed hand . . . the sea enveloping the voice and the body . . . blue horses in the twilight . . . the Song of Solomon . . . a doll hospital in Lisbon . . . a young girl in Syria today.” The images just keep coming in Rannvá Holm Mortensen’s poem, and Matthew Landrum brings them to us in English with a deft, sure hand. And “hand” is key, because the poet is a painter, the speaker wields a brush and a palette knife, and “maybe / the painting will break every boundary / and reach beyond its frames,” but it has to be done in words — “womanly words / that shoot forth vegetation,” in a voice that the translator inhabits with confidence, grace, and barely ever a false note. Congratulations to Landrum for bringing us Mortensen’s poem from Faroese, a language we almost never hear.
Dick Cluster’s most recent book translations are Gabriela Alemán’s Poso Wells and Carme Chaparro’s I Am Not a Monster. He edited and translated Kill the Ámpaya! The best Latin American baseball fiction (winner of a 2018 Northern California Book Award) and is currently at work on the poetry cycle Fíat Lux by Mexican poet and translator Paula Abramo. He has translated fiction and poetry by the Cuban writers Mylene Fernández, Aida Bahr, Pedro de Jesús, Abel Prieto, and Antonio José Ponte. He is the author of a detective novel series and, with Rafael Hernández, of the nonfiction History of Havana.”