The Operating System

UNSILENCED TEXTS

Glossarium: Unsilenced Texts and Modern Translations”

was established in early 2016 in an effort to recover silenced voices outside and beyond the familiar poetic canon, seeking out and publishing both contemporary translations and little known (and unknown) out of print texts, in particular those under siege by restrictive regimes and silencing practices in their home (or adoptive) countries. The term “Glossarium” derives from latin/greek and is defined as “a collection of glosses or explanations of words, especially of words not in general use, as those of a dialect, locality or an art or science, or of particular words used by an old or a foreign author.” The series is curated by Managing Editor Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, with the help of the contributing editors below as well as a wide range of global allies and friends. 

The first title in the series is an Arabic to English dual-language translation of Palestinian artist and poet Ashraf Fayadh’s 2008 collection, “Instructions Within,” translated by Mona Kareem, with Jonathan Wright and Mona Zaki, with additional English translation supervision by Ammiel Alcalay, Pierre Joris, and Lynne DeSilva-Johnson.  All proceeds will go to support the fight against Fayadh’s ongoing sentence and imprisonment in Saudi Arabia.

Je ne connaissais pas Ashraf Fayadh. Mais cette sentence nous renseigne sur sa poésie, sur sa force, sur sa violence. Les poètes sont des insurgés, porteurs de feu, compagnons de la vérité et de l’évidence. Ils sont la lumière qui éteint les ténèbres et donne les mots aux choses qui meurent de ne pas être dites. Ils sont fragiles et forts à la fois. Ils ne possèdent que leur souffle et leur âme qui résistent. On peut les frapper, les fouetter, les jeter au fond d’un puits, les enterrer vivants, leur voix continue de s’élever et réveille le monde.” – Tahar Ben Jelloun, for Le Point

[“I have not known Ashraf Fayadh, but this sentence teaches us all we need to know about his poetry — about his strength, about his violence. Poets are insurgents, carriers of fire, companions of truth and of evidence. They are the light which goes out into the darkness and gives words to things which die from not having been said. They are fragile and strong at the same time. They possess only their breath, their souls, who resist. We can hit them, whip when, throw them to the bottom of a well, bury them alive, but their voices continue to rise, and wake up the world”. – trans. Lynne DeSilva-Johnson ]

 Ashraf Fayadh is a Palestinian artist and poet born in Saudi Arabia in 1980. He attended college at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City in 2001, and has been active in the art scene in Saudi Arabia with organizations like Edge of Arabia, a British- Arabian art collaboration. Ashraf has also curated exhibitions of Saudi art during Jeddah Art week in Saudi Arabia and Europe at the 55th Venice Biennale.

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The following three titles are Spanish-English translations by Margaret Randall. The first is Gregory Randall’s award winning memoir of life in Cuba, “Estar Allí Entonces / To Have Been There Then,” originally published in Uruguay to great acclaim in 2010.

“Gregory Randall has done it: written a captivating, ethically humane, and inspirational memoir of growing up in revolutionary Cuba as a child of exiled political activists. He is able to tell forthright yet loving stories of his engaged life with multiple fathers, escaping the 1968 military crackdown in Mexico as a seven year-old in charge of his younger siblings, forging friendships in Cuban boarding schools, and living his adolescence as an intellectual and political coming-of-age banquet among artists and revolutionaries from across the continent. He sees dogma and cant yet remains deeply committed to the vision of a liberated space and new women and men. Read this powerful book and be stirred anew to live fully in harmony with your values.” -Bernardine Dohrn

“Gregory Randall grew up in revolutionary Cuba. He left in 1983, and later he and his wife Laura relocated to Uruguay and Gregory established himself within the academic world there. Revolutionary Cuba’s literacy campaign in 1960-61, which sent young people into the mountains during a period that included the Bay of Pigs invasion, is generally recognized. Cuba’s far flung medical assistance in situations like the recent Haitian earthquake is also well-known. This book explores the more comprehensive Cuban effort to create what the Zapatistas call un otro mundo, another world. I know of no other book that so richly provides an empathetic view of the twentieth-century socialist project from both within and without. —Staughton Lynd

“To Have Been There Then is an extraordinary book. Gregory Randall recreates scenes from a revolutionary childhood and youth in Mexico and Cuba during  the 1960s and 70s with brilliant vividness that brings an adult’s wisdom to the child’s perspective. He evokes the spirit of revolutionary consciousness of the era, when Cuba’s radical experimentation and commitment to building a new world intersected with revolutionary dreams and movements throughout Latin America. Randall’s childhood was peopled with artists, intellectuals, and revolutionaries from throughout the continent who shared a deep belief in the possibility for radical social change. Cuba’s revolutionary history is told here with verve and drama, through personal detail of a child and young man coming of age in truly historic circumstances.” –Aviva Chomsky, author of The Cuban Revolution, co-editor of The Cuba Reader: History, Culture, Politics.

“Here is the perfect book for this time of change in US-Cuban relations, and when a new generation in the United States has embraced the idea and goals of socialism and human solidarity. Gregory Randall’s exquisite coming of age story, set in Cuba during the second decade of the Cuban Revolution, is unflinchingly truthful and compassionate.” – Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, historian and author most recently of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.

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Gregory Randall was born in New York City in 1960, then lived eight years in Mexico, fourteen in Cuba, eleven in France and since 1994 has resided in Uruguay. He and his wife have three children and one grandchild. He did his undergraduate work in telecommunications in Cuba and earned his doctorate in information technology from the University of Orsay, France. Since 1994 he has been a professor of electrical engineering at the University of the Republic in Montevideo. From 2007 to 2014 he was also that institution’s vice president for research, during which time he promoted and oversaw the establishment of several university campuses in the interior of the country. To Have Been There Then is his first book, a memoir of childhood and young adulthood in the Cuba of the 1970s and ‘80s, with moving, often breathtaking stories of what it was like for a young boy to grow up in revolution.

Next is “Lo Que Les Dijo El Licantropo / What the Werewolf Told Them,” a dual language edition of Queer Cuban poet Chely Lima’s striking poetry, featuring a cover photo from the poet/artist.

“Here is the strength of poetry for the world. Is it possible this book exists? I cannot be the only one who realizes I have been waiting all my life to read Chely Lima! The poet driving their own body in the trunk through the vast vulnerable fields of becoming human the way they want to become human in an inflexible world. Many thanks to Margaret Randall for these beautiful translations of one of the most brilliant books in many years! Chely Lima is here! Everyone tell everyone!” –CAConrad

“Chely Lima’s poetry is exquisite and shines with a divinity.  Dreamy, surreal and at other times pragmatic in their linguistic abilities, his poems defy any simplistic categorization.  In fact, What the Werewolf Told Them begs of the reader to be read and read again. It is the transformative and mutability of the word that Chely captures in his work.  In essence, he is a kaleidoscopic writer. Ever shifting. Ever evolving.  His poems are songs of liberation, of journey.  His words are signal-flares crafted into poems that tenderly and heartbreakingly convey the gender-transgressive voice and story of the author.  Chely’s poetry is much like the stars, mythic but always startlingly real. Éste libro brilla con una cruda y estupenda tenacidad.” – Jessica Helen Lopez, City of ABQ Poet Laureate, Emeritus.

“These are poems of astonishing courage and compelling craft. Their language sizzles on the page. The poet’s familiarity with history and his penchant for plumbing its most significant myths imbue these texts with a special richness. The myths come from the Greeks, Hindus, Germanic fairy tales, those drum beats brought to the New World by Africans during the ravages of the Middle Passage, and stories from indigenous America. Chely also creates some myths of his own.

“These poems are also gender-transgressive, revealing a personal journey as painful as it has been liberating. And it is a complicated journey. We cannot say the poet is only a man or that he was once a woman; such binary notions are themselves being challenged here. Body parts and the uses to which they are assigned in our inadequate society are routed from their comfort zones, made to look at themselves in a succession of mirrors and confronted head on. Chely refuses to play by society’s hypocritical rules—in his life or work.

“The poem called “Recognition” begins: “I am digging up my face, / which is to say all the faces of my tribe. / With difficulty I haul them from obscurity / and hang them from the insulting stakes / marking each of their graves, my grave.” And the poem ends: “I am rebuilding with one clenched fist / in my pocket. Rebuilding my tribe, / my face unmasked for the first time.” Chely’s power lies in being willing to take the reader to the depths of his agony while at the same time permitting us to glimpse a future, a way out of suffocation that is woven of his ability to imagine a world in which acceptance and dignity bloom.” – Margaret Randall, from the Introduction

Chely Lima is a queer North American poet of Cuban origin. He writes prose, poetry, theater, journalism, scripts for film, radio and television; and is also a photographer. He has published numerous books in Cuba, Spain, the United States, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador—among them Lucrecia quiere decir perfidia (Ediciones Bagua, Madrid, 2015), Triángulos mágicos (Editorial Planeta Mexicana, 1994; Eriginal Books, USA, 2014; and Ediciones Territoriales, Cuba, 2015), Discurso de la amante (Imagine Cloud Editions, 2013), and Confesiones nocturnas (Editorial Planeta, 1994), all of these novels. His books have been translated into English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Esperanto and Czechoslovakian. His monologues and works for the theater—for children as well as adults—have been performed in Cuba and Ecuador (he lived in the latter country from 1992 to 2001). A rock opera and a cantata were performed in Cuba’s National Theater in the early 1990s.
Lima also also taught classes in a variety of artistic mediums and in several countries. In 2006 he went to California, where he had an internship at the M. H. de Young Museum of San Francisco. Since 2008 he has lived in Miami, Florida, where he has given workshops at Miami Dade Collage and other institutions. He has also written theater reviews for El Nuevo Herald. Currently he is entirely dedicated to his own writing, and occasionally works with beginning authors.

The third is “Viaje al Regreso / Return Trip,” a dual language edition of Cuban poet Israel Dominguez’s striking poetry, with a beautiful cover featuring Havana street art by Jose Parla and JR.

“Margaret Randall’s clear and lively translation of Viaje de Regresso / Return Trip invites us into the life and work of a poet born in the early 1970s, nearly 25 years into the Revolution. Domínguez’s poems represent the lyric tradition in the best sense; they are poems investigating the emotion of the experience living in one’s body, in one’s mind. Written from a photograph or a memory, these poems explore love, family, spirituality, material reality. Many of these poems are dedicated to friends, family, mentors, and attest to a relationality and love that’s both humbling and inspiring. In these poems of dense image and rich sensation, Randall presents us with the gift of her translation of Israel Domínguez’s poetry.” – Stephen Motika

“A breathtaking book by a major Cuban poet. Margaret Randall’s translations beautifully embody Israel Dominguez’s yearning for a future of justice for all. His yearning is his gift to all of us who seek a different way of being in the world. The Return Trip is a welcome and necessary poetry. “- Demetria Martinez, recipient of an International Latino Book Award and an American Book Award for The Block Captain’s Daughter.

Viaje de regreso / Return Trip is a compendium of nostalgia, in which a familiar street, an old photograph, or memory of when the trains ran on precision time take up residence in poems in which a mature philosophy of life breaks through a patina of childhood wonder. A clothesline becomes a highway. A plum tree calms the spirit. A public restroom holds a dark menace. A woman’s name floats in a swimming pool. A hero of the Great War looms upon the horizon. Through it all, the music and culture of the country to the north refuse to fade into oblivion; despite the ever-present weight of political attack from the United States, a love for its popular culture remains familiar and strong. The poet writes: “Glory belongs to my neighbor / who owns a Buick / and wears a lot of gold.”

Israel Domínguez was born in Placetas, Villa Clara, in 1973. Throughout his childhood his father recited poetry, and he and his mother often accompanied him to his performances. By the time Domínguez graduated from the University of Havana in 1996, his family had moved to Matanzas and he joined them there. His work has been awarded numerous prizes. Among his poetry collections are: Hojas de cal (2001), Collage mientras avanza mi carro de equipaje (2002), Sobre un fondo de arena (2004), Después de acompañar a William Jones (2007), and Viaje de regreso (2011). In an interview, he has said: “Memory is a return trip, inherent of course to the human being. In my poetry it is not simply an instrument but also its landscape, that is to say, a poetic event [ . . . ] It’s not a matter of reducing memory to its individual manifestation because collective memory influences the individual and vice versa ” Domínguez lives in Matanzas, where he also works as a translator. Like so many others, his professional life has been affected by Cuba’s precarious economy; for a number of years, and because he could earn so much more in the tourism sector, he quit a job in his profession to take one as a bellboy at a hotel on Varadero Beach. The experience provided material for a book of poems. Happily, he is once more working in his chosen field.

contributing editors:

Ariel Resnikoff

Ariel Resnikoff is a poet, translator & editor. His most recent works include the chapbook, Between Shades (Materialist Press, 2014) & the collaborative pamphlet, Ten Four: Poems, Translations, Variations (The Operating System, 2015), with Jerome Rothenberg. Ariel is currently at work on a translation into English of Mikhl Likht’s Yiddish modernist long poem, Processions, in collaboration with Stephen Ross. He is an editor-at-large on Global Modernists on Modernism: An Anthology (forthcoming Bloomsbury, 2017) & curates the “Multilingual Poetics” reading/talk series at Kelly Writers House. Ariel was the recipient of the 2016 MEC Translation Prize for Hebrew & is the Hebrew & Yiddish poetry editor for the PennSound audio archive. He is currently reading for a PhD in Comparative Literature & Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania & lives with his wife, Rivka, in the Cedar Park neighborhood of West Philadelphia.

Stephen Ross

Stephen Ross is a literary scholar, translator, and editor. He earned his PhD in English from the University of Oxford in 2013 and is a founding editor of the literary web-journal, Wave Composition. With Ariel Resnikoff, he is working on the first-full length translation and critical edition of Mikhl Likht’s Yiddish modernist long-poem, Processions. He is also co-editor with Dr. Alys Moody of the forthcoming anthology, Global Modernists on Modernism (Bloomsbury, 2017), a 190,000-word sourcebook that draws on a large archive of historical materials — statements, manifestos, letters, prefaces, introductions, hybrid works, etc — by modernist practitioners across the arts, with a special focus on untranslated, poorly disseminated (in English), and ‘forgotten’ texts. His current book project is a study of modern American poetics and objecthood.