Maria Lourdes Riillo on translating Idea Vilariño

Maria Lourdes Riillo


on translating Idea Vilariño


I decided to translate the title as “The Whole of Spring” rather than just “The Whole Spring” because I feel “The Whole Spring” is tied to time, while “the whole of” something is the entity of spring. It seems “The Whole of Spring” is against the poem’s speaker; something that is supposed to be full of life, full of new beginnings, is crushing her. It’s deceiving. One line I had trouble translating was “alentando afelpada” because I couldn’t find a suitable word I liked for afelpada, and it was difficult to maintain the musicality of both words in Spanish. I went with “cushioned fluttering,” because it produced the image I saw of a beautiful lush butterfly. Every part of spring infiltrates her to her core. I love how quickly the poem turns, how quickly something so beautiful turns so ugly, and how quickly it buries itself deep within us.

about the author

Idea Vilariño (1920–2009) was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, where she lived all her life. She was a poet, essayist, and literary critic who belonged to the “Generation of ’45,” an intellectual literary movement in Latin America. She was also a translator, namely one of the most celebrated Shakespeare translators into Spanish, a high school teacher, and a composer. She was born into a middle-class family, and was highly educated both in literature and music. Her published works include La suplicante, No, and Pobre mundo, among others. She has been recognized locally in Uruguay, regionally in Latin America, and internationally; her work has been translated into many languages. Vilarino’s work is marked by intimate experiences, intense and distressing, but always very coherent. Her collection, Poemas de amor, from which this translated poem originates, was dedicated to a contemporary well-known Uruguayan writer, Juan Carlos Onetti. The two had a tumultuous, on-and-off relationship. Even though they were never married or officially together, she claimed that he was the greatest love of her life. The frustration of lost love, of what could have been, resonated with me during this last year.

about the translator

Maria Lourdes Riillo was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s class of 2020 who studied comparative literature and creative writing. She writes, occasionally translates, and is a theater artist. She has worked in various artistic institutions, like the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia and PEN America, a literary and human rights nonprofit. Currently, she is based in Philadelphia and works in publishing. You can find her petting dogs in the park, baking, or performing in a rehearsal when her nose isn’t in a book.