Decanted Without a Spill: Don Share's Miguel Hernández

Hoping to finally get to Don Share's translations of Miguel Hernández, I stumbled upon Ted Genoways' The Selected Poems of Miguel Hernández. That book, published in 2001 and presenting a larger group of poems, called upon various translators of the Spanish poet, Share among them. Out of print now, I was lucky to find it when I did.

Comparing Share's new Miguel Hernández with The Selected Poems highlights both of their graces -- Share's translations, on the whole, prove the more literal and faithful. But Share hasn't sacrificed a thing by being loyal where others have been liberal. In Miguel Hernández, he manages to make Hernández-in-English dazzle, bringing readers closer to the poet's sense of language and meaning. Hernández was only 31 when he passed away. Imprisoned and dying of tuberculosis, his famous last lines read: "Goodbye, brothers, comrades, friends, / let me take my leave of the sun and the fields." Of the many luminous poems in the new book, it's a slightly earlier poem, "The Cemetery Lies Near," that might present the best of Share and Hernández.

"The Cemetery Lies Near"

The cemetery lies near
where you and I are sleeping,
among blue nopals,
blue pitas, and children
who shout at the top of their lungs
if a corpse darkens the street.

From here to the cemetery everything
is blue, golden, clear.
Four steps away, the dead.
Four steps away, the living.

Clear, blue, and golden.
My son grows remote there.

Differing significantly from James Wright's translation of "The Cemetery Lies Near," Share's rendition is decanted without a spill. True, Miguel Hernández is a slimmer book than the one I stumbled upon, but this afternoon it fits perfectly in my coat pocket and will for many coats to come.