La Aurora de Nueva York

This is the piece I hope to work with in the voice workshop. Time will tell exactly when I trave to Studio 5 again to work with Aole Miller. If I am lucky and organized, it will be tomorrow.

La Aurora
Federico Garcia Lorca
tr. L.A.E. Cripps
La aurora de Nueva York tiene
cuatro columnos de cieno
y un huracan de palomas negras
que chapotean en aguas podridas.

La aurora de Nueva York gime
por las inmensas escaleras
buscando entre las aristas
nardos de angustia dibujada.

La aurora llega y nadie la recibe en su boca
porque alli, no hay manana ni esperanza posible.

A veces, las monedas en enjambres furiosas
taladran y devoran ninos abandonados.

Los primeros que salen comprendan con sus huesos
que no habra paraiso o amores deshojados;
saben que van al cieno de numeros y leyes,
a los juegos sin arte, a los sudores sin frutos.

La luz es sepultada por cadenas y ruidos
en impudico reto de cienca sin raices.
Por los barrios hay gente que vacilan insomnes
Como recien salidas de un naufrago de sangre.

The New York dawn has
four columns of mud
and a hurricane of black doves
that wade in putrid water.

The New York dawn mourns
within its immense stairways
seeking among its edges
pinprick blossoms of fine drawn anguish.

The dawn comes, and no one can take it in
because there, there is no morning or possible hope.

At times, the monied in furious swarms
impale and devour abandoned children.

The first to go out understand deep in their bones
that there will be no paradise or loves shorn of history;
they know they go to the mud of numbers and laws,
to artless games, to fruitless sweat.

The light is entombed in chains and noise
within the impudent challenge of artless science.
In the neighborhoods, sleepless people falter
as if just delivered from a shipwreck of blood.

I intended to use the translation of Spender and Gili that was printed in my book, but in English the poem lost both meter and all sense. When I read it in Spanish, lo comprendo. When I read the translation, I thought “Whaaaaa?” My first challenge in preparing for the workshop was to render into English a translation that made some sense of the meaning and imagery of the original. I still am unsure if I will work in English or Spanish version, but without a translation the coaches would have no clue of what I was saying. Ergo, a workable translation was imperative.

The printed translation was a reasonably faithful word for word – swap from Spanish to English, except for the word “aristas”. In no source, online or otherwise, could I possible discern where the original translators had gotten the word “groins”. It means “edges”. Even so a word for word rendering makes for a nonsense poem in English. It was my task to return the sense to the text, and hopefully a little of the majesty. I had my course with Cecilio Benitez at the Instituto de Artes Espanoles in New Mexico as a foundation, an army of online translators, more than one print dictionary, and a baguette and espresso. I went to work.

I first investigated in depth the many meanings of all the words I either was personally not to familiar with, and the ones I had issue with. I made lists of connotative uses. I crossreferenced translations back into English. I had all of the words solved to my satisfaction except the obscure word “nardos”. This word was in no dictionary, but a Google search in Spanish yields the fact that it is a type of flowering plant that grows on very tall spikes, similar to xxxxxxx. The original translators rendered it as a “spikenard”. Having the building blocks of potential vocabulary transformed as best possible, I set to reconstruct the whole.

I believe it is critical in interpreting all of Lorca’s poetry to remember that he was also a painter, and many of his poetic phrases conjure painterly images fraught with emotion and layers of meaning. It is often only within the images can the poem seem to have some sense. Take for example, La Sonambula. What intermediate Spanish student has been assigned to learn this classic, who hasn’t wondered what the heck he was talking about …. “Verde viento, verde ramas ….ojos de fria plata [Green wind, green branches… eyes of cold silver] If you read it for logic, you will be lost. If you read it to see a word painting, the emotion and meaning can emerge. I approached La Aurora in a similar manner. From this my choice of phraseology may not be at times the most literal, but I hope it conveys the word painting better than the mishmosh in the book.

The first two stanzas were not too difficult as the majesty of the original Spanish conveyed to me the image of the city of New York beginning to appear to view in the early dawn light. At first you begin to see only differences between the sky and the skyscrapers as flat planes of color. There is no detail; the skyscrapers are flat brown columns around which the colors of dawn begin to appear in the sky. The flocks of the omnipresent pigeons (which Lorca terms “doves”) are early risers and swarm from their high perch nests to the streets, and the puddles of dirty water left there. The early sun is obscured by the towering buildings, its rays of light glitter up and down their tall edges, like blossoming spiky flowers.

In the next stanza, I deviated from the exact word for word, because Lorca often uses the phrase “por la boca”….taking things through the mouth without meaning it literally. Imagine standing viewing the dawn with an open mouth. If your soul is open, you can “la recibe en la boca”. Personally, I thought “recieving it in the mouth” , although does directly connotate the holy communion, I wondered about it. Perhaps I am translating for the vast mass of agnostic or non-Catholic readers who might not get the connection. So I render it “no one can take it in”, as in our language “taking in the dawn” does have a common connotation. I feel confident that “las monedas” refers to “those with money” not money itself, and the juxtaposition of the swarming of the rich without consideration for the poor, reflects a lot of themes of Lorcas art. It was in the many connotations of “taladrar” that yielded up the synonym of “impale” for “perforate” which parses much better and is more powerful in both meaning and emotion.

Lastly that brings the work to the incredible phrase “amores deshojados”. What an image that is! Of a love with the pages ripped out, as from a book. But how to put that in the poem? “Stripped of leaves” was the choice of the original translators. Love stripped bare? But the precise definition is “tearing leaves as if from a book”.
This was a puzzle. I am still not quite sure if I like my “shorn of history” solution. Something to ponder on the drive to New York. Time to go.

Aole called. It is a go. Time to get on my way.

5 thoughts on “La Aurora de Nueva York”

  1. Hi. I was searching for a copy of this poem on the internet and found yours. I pasted it into a word document (I’m using it for an exercise for a course I’m teaching) and realized that your version is riddled with errors. Here is a corrected version, consistent with a critical edition of “Poeta en Nueva York” (Cátedra, 1998). There are no paragraph breaks in the original, incidentally.

    La aurora de Nueva York tiene
    cuatro columnas de cieno
    y un huracán de palomas negras
    que chapotean las aguas podridas.
    La aurora de Nueva York gime
    por las inmensas escaleras
    buscando entre las aristas
    nardos de angustia dibujada.
    La aurora llega y nadie la recibe en su boca
    porque allí no hay mañana ni esperanza posible:
    A veces, las monedas en enjambres furiosos
    taladran y devoran abandonados niños.
    Los primeros que salen comprenden con sus huesos
    que no habrá paraíso ni amores deshojados:
    saben que van al cieno de números y leyes,
    a los juegos sin arte, a los sudores sin fruto.
    La luz es sepultada por cadenas y ruidos
    en impúdico reto de ciencia sin raíces.
    Por los barrios hay gente que vacilan insomnes
    Como recién salidas de un naufragio de sangre.

  2. Hi

    Just to add to your thoughts about ‘amores deshojados’ – ‘deshojar la marguerita’ is a game like ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ where you pull the petals off a flower. Considering the context of ‘amores deshojados’, where those that step first into the New York dawn understand that they go not to paradise but to mud and numbers, I think the brutality of a translation such as ‘a love stripped bare’ is inconsistent with the association with paradise. Personally I translated it as ‘lovers games’, which works with the game mentioned above and juxtaposes more powerfully with the ‘cieno de numeros y leyes’.


  3. Cieno is sludge from the bottom of sewage.
    Taladrar is to drill.
    No Recibirlo en la boca means no one can Feel it
    Arista..borders or edge
    Nardos are those little white flowers that are the first to bloom on the spring: narcisis

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