Gloria Gervitz’s Bachianas is typeset on thick, yellowed paper. Running my hands along the manuscript, the surface feels like papyrus. The poems are unbound. They were handed to me by chance.
The poems inherit their collective title from Bachianas Brasileiras, Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos’s nine-suite orchestral composition. Villa-Lobos composed Bachianas Brasileiras—from 1930 to 1945—in an attempt to freely adapt Baroque contrapuntal procedures to Brazilian music. Villa-Lobos gave each suite two names: one “Bachian” (Preludio, Fuga, etc.) and the other Brazilian (Embolada, O canto da nossa terra, etc.)
Gervitz’s Bachianas is a dyad: the rending “Surcos” and the cascading “drifting.” In each, the persona’s anguish bursts forth through a sequence of images that project the female body onto a violent, dynamic natural world.
In the hybrid space of this project, I peel back the skin of Gervitz’s poems to taste their veins. I entwine this taste with their original poetic skin, creating a body of translational affect. This project is a transfusion, a quilt, a summoning, a séance of the living, a monster, a dance, a conversation.
Any act of translation is a metamorphosis: a “change of a form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means.” To translate is to transform, to change shape.
Within the cocoon of translation, the cells of each poem have blended into slurry. Paused at the moment of translation, the word—stripped of its form—projects into an infinity of all possible meanings.
Enwrapped in threads, breaking down in clumps, dissolving into the pupa, “cáliz,” spoken, is no longer “cáliz.”
“Cáliz” is: goblet, cup, sacred goblet, chalice, calyx, stoup…
Each of these words unfold in infinite possibility of differentiation.
Goblet is: tumbler, cup, beaker, glass…
Calyx is: the sepals of a flower, typically forming a whorl that encloses the petals and forms a protective layer around a flower in bud. Compare with corolla.
Calyx is: a cuplike cavity or structure.
Calyx is: a portion of the pelvis of a mammalian kidney.
Calyx is: the plated body of a crinoid, excluding the stalk and arms.
It is said that, when given chemical stimuli as caterpillars, later, after emergence from the cocoon, moths will “remember” these stimuli.
I seek to capture the moments when, as moths, creatures recollect the miasmic space of the pupa; to render the moment when moths have just grown wings, yet are still part-miasma.
Gloria Gervitz is the author of two collections of poetry, Fragmento de Ventana and Migraciones. Her poetry has been featured in a number of Spanish-language, English-language, and bilingual publications, including Diálogos: Artes, Letras, Ciencias Humanas; Hispamérica; and The Antioch Review. Gloria is currently living and writing in San Diego, CA.
Sarah Roth is a writer and translator interested in the politics of testimony. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Notre Dame and a BA in Sustainable Development from Washington University in St. Louis. Sarah’s work can be found in Spires, The Bend, and Jewish Responses to Persecution: 1944-1946.