Western Washington University Assistant Professor of English Stefania Heim recently published “Geometry of Shadows,” a collection of translated poems from early 20th-century surrealist Giorgio de Chirico.
Better known for his visual works, de Chirico started writing poems in his native Italian language during World War I and continued sporadically until his death in 1978. Over the course of five years, Heim translated de Chirico’s poems to bring them to a contemporary audience.
“People often say that they don’t translate because they don’t know another language well enough,” Heim said. “But really, you need to know English well enough to make [it] dance in ways you didn’t think it could before. It’s playing with words like they’re tangible and malleable — like clay.”
According to Heim, it took her five years to ‘get the book right’ simply based on how radial and bizarre the poems were.
De Chirico purposely plays with the ambiguity of lines, Heim said. The desire to recapture the strangeness of his poems in English kept her going.
“It really felt important to me that he be read as a poet in this book,” Heim said. “When someone is really famous as a visual artist, their writings are sometimes seen as an explainer of their artwork.”
Heim says this isn’t the case with de Chirico, and that there was an importance behind bringing these poems to light in English to help people know that the poems deserve to stand on their own.
“Geometry of Shadows” is available at A Public Space Books publishing at apublicspace.org/books/geometry-of-shadows. For more information about Heim, visit her website at stefaniaheim.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.