by James Wagner
The 77 poems in James Wagner's Trilce are homophonic translations of César Vallejo’s book of the same name, or at least that was the cathartic process Wagner underwent—in creating them, his versions take on a life of their own.
“Titling his book Trilce, James Wagner calls attention to the fact that he used the sound structure of Vallejo’s poems as his matrix—a process that has sometimes been called homonymic (or surface) translation and that Wagner called “auralgraph” in his earlier book, the false sun recordings. It is a form at least as demanding as rhyme & meter and, at this point in history, more likely to generate interesting work. But, as with any form, all depends on what you do with it. James Wagner does a lot.”
“Not unlike some of the process in reading Trilce—setting up little boundaries of thought for myself—it struck me too that as in Kafka there is a humor in Vallejo sometimes at his almost saddest—as if in the exaggeration of the plane, emotions are very leveled, i.e., placed next to each other, as equal comrades or equal brothers and sisters—and that, not unlike how Mark Rothko felt about his paintings, James Wagner’s Vallejo ‘translations’ or migrations or journeys feel as though we are walking through objects of emotion, or landscapes of emotion, or contents of emotion. The auralgraphs place a reader truly in the position of being a companion to the poems.”
"This leaves the translating poet with two options: one, create the best poem possible using the same ‘information’ as the original author; or two, forget the information and try to capture the essential. Most poetry translations fall into the first category, James Wagner’s Trilce falls into the second."
—Nick Bredie, from review in Tarpaulin Sky