Above is a poem I wrote while in Hormiguero, Nicaragua. This was my first time writing a poem in Spanish, and the process was certainly interesting. My writing process was a bilingual mess – thinking in Spanish until I wanted an English phrase or word that I couldn’t translate. Spanish also reads and sounds more beautiful than English, I think. It’s less clunky, has more flow and unintentional rhyme.
This poem is an ode, or a poem of praise. But the poem is also structured around various ways in Spanish to say “sorry” as we would use it in the States. For me as a foreigner, especially an American, I didn’t feel as if I could say how much I appreciated the country, culture, and people of Nicaragua without acknowledging the complications of our presence: the history of Nicaragua and the USA, the ethics of our work, and the clumsiness of different languages and cultures. As for the mirrored poems, I mention there are words lost in translation and words never sent. For example, in the Spanish writing I write “cara china”, literally meaning “Chinese face”, as opposed to the English version’s “Korean face”. In Central America, “china” is used generally to describe an Asian, done without judgment or assumption. I use it because readers of Central America would understand the meaning better than “cara coreana”. I accept it because it is the truth of the language, but it is one example of a detail that is lost.
Thank you to everyone who helped me translate and revise this poem.
(if you would like to share this poem, please first contact me at Michael.J.Sun.firstname.lastname@example.org)