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News & Features » December 2013 » Ricardo Maldonado: On Collateral

Ricardo Maldonado: On Collateral

To celebrate the release of Colaterales/Collateral by Dinapiera Di Donato, winner of the National Poetry Series’ Paz Prize for Poetry, we asked Ricardo Maldonado, the translator of Colaterales, to talk about his process and his experience with the collection.

On Collateral
by Ricardo Maldonado

Colaterales_CurrentA translated book is an immigrant book—the proposed collateral of exile, of departure and entrance. In my experience as reader, all acts of transference are brusquely announced, and translation becomes, as record, the furious and endurable motion with reference to direction: a homeland. Words are ushered onto the populace with a new life, with a distance that becomes, upon reading, essentially familiar: we avail ourselves of a self from the other, of a world that is close yet unbeknownst to us.

Colaterales/Collateral was entrusted to me by a colleague late last autumn, and so I came to meet the New York of a Venezuelan poet who, by chance, trafficked the avenues and boulevards of Washington Heights, where I had lived for six years. After a first read, Dinapiera Di Donato’s work suggested to me a generous sense of citizenship. I moved beyond an initial sentiment of poetic kinship to discover the insistent nature of her syntax, her poems’ torque—their sharp pulse, the slight violence in the language of illness, of waste, in the risks of profit and loss. Her lines were cast as deeply felt reconfigurations of metaphor. The high and the lowbrow populate her poems (von Bingen, Amy Winehouse, da Vinci, Cioran, and Akhmatova all make appearances) and so the body of her poems seems scored by words we have read, words we have forgotten or ignored, by official narratives and the most private ones.

As translator and reader, I became complicit in Di Donato’s inclusions, in her comprehensive reach, in the plurality of her voices and her porous terrains, in internal and external battles at Fort Tryon Park. As I read, Colaterales became to me a sharp and incisive registry of an exile lived daily, an instance of resignation or ecstasy, or both, a record of my own city lived from within and also from the poet’s cloister, where, to revise Gonzalo de Berceo, “writing in shadows is an arduous,” but necessary “task.”



RICARDO ALBERTO MALDONADO was born and raised in Puerto Rico. His poems and translations have appeared in Boston Review, DIAGRAM, Guernica, and Sidebrow. A poetry fellow from the New York Foundation for the Arts and Queer/Arts/Mentorship, he is the managing director at the 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center.

Posted: Dec 18, 2013

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