When I first thought about writing this editor’s note, I imagined I’d be doing so in my dorm or in an on-campus library. Instead, as I write now, I’m at home in Texas, social distancing and waiting for the world to return to one that seems more familiar.
Though several aspects of my life have changed in the past few months, DoubleSpeak is something that has remained constant. When the United States began to respond to COVID-19 and the resulting uncertainty began to surround events and plans, I wasn’t sure that this issue of DoubleSpeak would go to print. A key part of DoubleSpeak’s process has always been our weekly meetings, where members come together to discuss and refine the magazine. I didn’t know how we would go forward without that critical in-person engagement. Nevertheless, DoubleSpeak staff kept working toward the creation of this magazine. From all across the United States — New Jersey, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New York, Georgia, and New Hampshire — members continued our discussions and took time out of their days to complete the many tasks, small and large, that made this issue of DoubleSpeak possible.
The translations in this magazine present a multitude of poets and places, telling stories that relate to all aspects of human experience. These translations explore love, death, life, loneliness, change, dreams, hope, hopelessness, and even poetry. Every translation in this issue has challenged how I approach and view these subjects, ultimately enriching my understanding of the world and helping me to become a more compassionate person. In “The Holy Land,” Italian poet Alda Merini shows me how endlessly tormenting it is, physically and mentally, to be in a psychiatric hospital, and in “Bitter Song,” Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos shares her struggles with existentialism, but also tells me where she finds hope. Translation constantly encourages me to learn from and examine the countless experiences that exist within the world, and I believe the translations in this issue will do the same for you. I’m deeply grateful to and in awe of the poets who were observant, vulnerable, and expressive enough to put their thoughts on paper and to the translators who, displaying the same qualities, diligently brought those poets’ words into another language.
Translation is connection. When a translator brings a text into a particular language, they establish a link between the person translated and readers of the translation. More specifically, the translator connects readers to that person’s feelings and experiences. The translator connects readers to places to which they have not been and to which they may never go, to people they have not met and whom they may never meet. The value of these ties cannot be understated. Not only does translation give people the opportunity to see what they share with others — the similarities of thought or belief that exist between those miles apart — but it also shows that what seems distant may actually be quite close.
Translation also helps to create more balanced world, but only if we, as translators, use it to that end. As a woman of color, I am acutely aware that society most often prioritizes the narratives of men, the White, and the wealthy. Translation can be used to offset this, though. With translation, we have the ability to expand the reach of stories that have rarely been told. It’s something we at DoubleSpeak constantly work toward: we strive to publish poems and translations that truly represent all kinds of people and experiences. There is no better way to fulfill translation’s ability to connect and teach than to translate and publish women, people of color, and speakers of minority languages in greater numbers alongside those who have traditionally been treated with more importance. Working in this way, we strike a balance and even start a dialogue. And, of course, we also continue to reveal the ties that exist between translated authors and readers, pushing readers toward a more complex and compassionate understanding of the world and the people in it.
In DoubleSpeak’s interview with Emily Yoon, Yoon refers to translation as the ultimate “un-lonely enterprise.” This description resonates so much with me. The translations in this magazine have shown me that I’m not alone in my feelings of sadness and hope, of frustration and wonder. In this way, translation has connected me to people all over the world and even across time, which I find immensely comforting. Moreover, simply engaging with translations and working to make them available to readers has deepened my connection to DoubleSpeak staff and the many translators who contributed to this issue. In the midst of a pandemic, when everyone feels a little more distant, translation has reminded me that I belong to a wonderful and diverse community. Through these poems and translations, I hope that you, reader, feel like a part of this community too.