Piedad Bonnett, a prolific poet, novelist and playwright born in Amalfi, Colombia, is best known as a writer of lucid language instilled by a sense of irony, beauty and deep feeling. In her short poem Passage, Bonnett explores the themes of childhood, the passage of time and the realities of family life in Colombia. In translating the poem into English, we asked ourselves about the meaning of the original title 'Tránsito' and its various iterations: traffic, movement, passage, transit, and death. We settled for 'Passage' as it was evident that there was a vital element of time passing and childhood memories in the poem. We also discussed using the Spanish verb 'susurrando' in the context of family recollections and a mother perhaps hiding secrets. There was the option of using the English verb ‘whispering’ as a straightforward solution. However, we finally opted for ‘murmuring' for its heart connotations and as an expression of discontent or dissatisfaction in relation to the mother. This was decided as a way of keeping with the poem's vocabulary and its precise language. There was also an interesting debate about specific images that conveyed a sense of religion/spirituality, including ‘I cared for a wolf and a lamb' and 'my glass of milk glowed like a candle'. We were fascinated by Friedrich Hölderlin's epigraph in the poem, translated by Yvette Siegert as '[Those days were beautiful.] But how sad the dusk that followed.' and how it connected to the line in the poem 'those were lovely days'. The last line, 'y fui un hombre descalzo en medio del camino' was also discussed for its apparent connection to Dante's 'In the middle of the journey of our life' famous line in The Divine Comedy, and it's meaningful implications on time passing. We decided for ‘and there I was, a man, barefoot, mid-path’ adding three commas, and bringing a sense of directness and simplicity that was palpable in the original poem.
Leo Boix, Workshop Facilitator