for laura


The two new poems by Adelaide Ivánova that our translator Francisco Vilhena brought in this time were fiercely political, brimming with anger about the ways female, gay and trans bodies are violated and murdered. Ivánova is a journalist and photographer, and the poems were based on photographs, relating to her project mimimi, in which Ivánova confronts the fact that, according to UN, 13 women are killed in Brazil every day, and explores Susan Sontag’s idea in Regarding the Pain of Others that “photographs objectify: they turn an event or a person into something that can be possessed.”

‘for laura’ begins with the murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, and then moves to the murder of trans teen Laura De Vermont in Brazil. In the first verse we talked a lot about the perpendicular stripes made by tears on Matthew’s face. Perpendicular to what? The face? The body? The eyes?  Although we weren’t entirely clear we kept the word – it is so close to the Portuguese and so exact and formal. It makes you struggle to picture the physical body in a way that felt fitting.

Laura’s name is repeated again and again in the poem, as if against forgetting. A really interesting crux in the translation was when we realised the youtube video should show ‘a laura’ – it’s a really chilling moment, this sense she is being multiplied or cloned as she is dying via the internet. But through the video she does in some way live on. In the last verse she still has a name and a body.

The bracketed word was originally translated by Francisco as ‘(present!)’ It is Laura’s voice, responding to her name like a child during register. Although there was some discussion about whether in the UK we’d be more likely to say ‘here!’, ‘present!’ has more layers. It is a darkly comic aside, the corpse refusing to be silenced, but also makes us think about how through activism Laura is still present, and this is her present to us, and about how we present ourselves to the world.  As it was Laura’s own voice, we decided to be true to it and leave it in the Portuguese – especially as this meant it remained gendered, which felt important.

- Clare Pollard, poet-translator

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