One of the books I picked up during my recent trip to the International Book Fair in Santo Domingo was a fascinating slender, double, or flip, volume, which featured Dominican author Mateo Morrison's book of poems Dorothy Dandridge on one side, and on the other a collection of writings about him, edited by Adrián Javier, entitled Del Verso a la Fragua: Mateo Morrison en Persona y Obra (Santo Domingo: Publicacions de la Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, 2006).
Morrison (1947-, pictured above at left with Angela Oisteanu, Director of Public Relations for the Romanian Cultural Institute and Coördinator of the International Gathering of Poets of the Latin World Ars Amandi, Listín Diario) is a major figure in Dominican letters and longtime literary activist. He founded the literary group "La Antorcha" (The Torch), and the noted Taller César Vallejo (Cesar Vallejo Workshop), and for many years was editor of the literary supplement Aquí (Here), which appeared in the La Notícia newspaper. Morrison currently is director of the Arts and Cultural Programs Department at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo. In addition to several volumes of poems, including the highly regarded collections Aniversario del dolor (1973, Anniversary of Pain) and Visiones del transeúnte (1985, The Transient's Visions), several critical texts, and a novel, Un silencio que camina (2006, A Traveling Silence).
Here are my draft translations of five of Morrison's poems from Dorothy Dandridge. All of the poems in the brief volume are brief, none longer than 10 lines, and their dreamlike flow and concision presents a challenge. Though Morrison's earlier poetry gained acclaim for its formal openness and lyricism, the compression of the Spanish, which I think may mirror the constraints of Dandridge's life itself and its silences, both seemed to push me towards more English words, so to render the idea fully, and yet to restrain myself in order to evoke the poems' terse and charged expressivity.
Dorothy escuchaba los ecos del have dream
Dorothy was listening to the echoes