Arts & Ideas hosted the “The Linda Vaden-Goad Authors and Artists Series” featuring Joanne Britland and Lina Rincón to discuss Panamanian poet Javier Alvarado via Zoom, March 30.
They also referenced FSU English professor Jennifer De Leon’s books, “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From,” “Wise Latinas,” and “White Space.”
“White Space” was awarded The Juniper Prize, a poetry award named after “Fort Juniper” the house of the late poet, Robert Francis located in Western Massachusetts. The prize was just released by the University of Massachusetts Press.
Alvarado has been awarded international poetry prizes. He is the author of 10 poetry books and three anthologies.
Britland is a Spanish professor at FSU whose teaching and research consist of visual studies, Contemporary Hispanic literature, and culture. The book she is currently working on includes the social reactions to the political and economic crises in Spain, such as the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rincón is a professor in the sociology and global studies departments. Additionally, she is a translator, activist, and poet. Through her poetry, she demonstrates the adversity immigrants and people of color face.
Britland began the discussion by describing meeting up with Fernando Valverde, a professor from her alma mater, The University of Virginia, at a poetry conference in Valencia, Spain.
“He presented me with this project of translating Javier’s [Alvarado] anthologies and of course I said yes,” she said.
Britland explained she and Alvarado had to manage the time difference, so they worked on the project via WhatsApp to stay in contact.
She described how the project is unique because it began with professors at The University of Virginia, then traveled north to Framingham all while “crossing borders and time zones to Panama.”
Despite working with Alvarado on the translations, she said she felt like “something was missing” from the project.
Britland described how reading and writing poetry can serve as a “private act to understand life and the world around us,” but said it’s important poetry is shared with others.
“After meeting with my Framingham State colleague from the sociology department, Lina Rincón, I knew she was the missing piece,” she said.
Britland continued, “Between meeting at the Saxonville Columbian coffee shop and our calls with Javier, we began the start of a beautiful friendship.”
She described the poetic voice in Alvarado’s poems and how that voice is reminiscent of memories of home and the concept of identity.
Britland said Alvarado’s poems “brought her back” to the linguistic and geographical homes, including those she has with the Spanish language.
“I love Framingham so much because I am submersed in so many Brazilian and Hispanic restaurants and places,” she said.
Britland added that she made friends with baristas at the Saxonville Mills Cafe & Roastery and said the cafe made her feel like she was back in Spain.
She explained how the anthologies helped her understand the concept of home, and was “a very special part of the translation process.”
Britland described the translation process and difficulties faced, such as figuring out which words to use and how to make the words make sense to English-speaking readers.
She said one word in particular, “tierra” which translates to “earth” and “land,” was crucial in understanding Alvarado’s meaning.
Rincón discussed how she became a poet and the role Alvarado’s poems played in helping her tie together her Columbian and American lives.
“Javier’s poetry brought my worlds together in ways I never could’ve imagined,” she said.
Rincón explained how as a college student, she studied anthropology and began writing about aspects of her life such as experiences with love, corruption in countries, the rights of Indigenous people, and living in the U.S.
While growing up in South America, she said she was told to venture to North America in order to be successful but felt like leaving South America was “like leaving her heart” behind.
Rincón described Alvarado’s anthology, “The Onion Offering,” as a “beautiful, sharp, and clever collection of reflections on living in Central America.”
She said, “Being asked to work on translating the anthologies was an unexpected gift.”