Artists translate true meaning of world poetry

Layla Abbas
Assistant Editor

The first night of International Poets and Artists at La Verne attracted roughly 50 people Thursday in the Harris Gallery for a night of Spanish to English poetry translations from two international poets.

Fernando Valverde Rodriguez, from Granada, Spain, and Alí Calderón, from Puebla, Mexico, shared some of their poems and held an informal discussion about the prominence poetry has specifically in the era we live in today.

Associate Professor of Spanish Gabriela Capraroiu began the evening by thanking the Office of Diversity and Inclusivity and the modern languages department for a grant to celebrate a night of Hispanic heritage.

Calderón said when asked who reads poetry in Mexico was, “Nobody reads poetry, but we are in the best moment for poetry.”

Calderón offered thought provoking commentary on why poetry needs to be read and accepted by all people.

“Poetry is to tell our sorrows and social drama,” Calderón said. “What does it mean to be a Mexican in the Trump era or a Palestinian in Israel or a Muslim in today’s society?”

Rodriguez expanded on poetry’s world importance. He spoke primarily in Spanish, before asking the audience if it was okay to do so.

“When you read poetry it is the truth, when you read a novel it is fiction,” Rodriguez said.

Rukti Islam, sophomore child development major, attended the poetry translation as an assignment for her SOLVE class.

“I found it interesting when Calderón said a translated poem essentially becomes another poem,” Islam said. “Calderón’s poetry was relatable for me because it addressed self identity and asked who am I?”

Calderón reinforced poetry’s ultimate goal: good poetry is poetry that makes someone feel uncomfortable, Calderón said.

“Poetry should feel like an unfamiliar place,” Calderón said. “Poetry is a liberty and something that should be explored by all people.”

Capraroiu shared with the audience the first issue of the Literature and Art in Translation website available at

The online journal brings together poets, artists and translators from around the world to display the connection different artistry has within each distinct form of expression.

Professor of Art Ruth Trotter explained the value of combining poetry and art expressions to obtain a meaningful result.

“This was a very interesting project for us because poetry and painting are very similar,” Trotter said. “Expressing yourself does not always have to be literal and it doesn’t always have to be a photograph.”

Danica Jones, senior art major, created the piece “The Astronomer,” for the first issue of the online journal and found inspiration through the poems “Voces De Portocaliu,” “A Girl Was Combing Her Hair” and “A Walk in the Wind.”

“Finding inspiration from poetry to create an art piece was simple for me,” Jones said. “I have a strong imagination and am always imagining what people are saying.”

Jones’ painting depicts a woman seen by an astronomer who dreams about her. From the poems she read, the woman has unnaturally long hair and is holding a yellow flower between her fingers.

“I had to physically translate that she was in a dream, far away and unattainable,” Jones said. “I tried to convey that space by the long length of hair.”

Calderón appreciates poetry’s ability to expose life’s hardships and convey meaning. It is not to sing about beauty or superficial concepts but rather to expose hard truths in society, he said.

“We are living in a post-modern society with lots of possibilities,” Calderón said. A single view no longer exists.”

Layla Abbas can be reached at

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