Lucía Estrada
Translated from the Spanish by Olivia Lott

You drift in a baffled sea. Your eyes cast aside ancient clarities, from when a tree was a tree, and the red-hot salt, a reason to move through the world.

You let the swell cradle you, like remnants of a boat. You feel sorry for yourself, for what you left on the shore.

Jellyfish, wide-open, circle you. Actually everything dangles its nets in your direction now. You want to go back because you’re frightened, but it’s impossible. The secret should be swallowed whole. You go back, in any case, inside yourself, aware of the reality of the red surge that threw you to the sea.

You are breathing beyond you, beyond us. You drag out our path. I’m right behind you but I don’t know it, I sense how the days come apart, how mistakes pick up altitude then plunge, detached, into nothingness.

The stone that shouldered your feet for a moment turned to dust before you had a second to lament. By then everything was just right; the light, night’s clear-cut edge.

More and more helpless in the whirlpool, owning more and more the freedom of flying astray. How will you call to yourself amid the uproar if words, too, get lost in the blue horizon?

Let the current water down this shoreless time between us.


Te mueves en un mar perplejo. Tus ojos desechan antiguas claridades en las que un árbol era un árbol, y la ardiente sal, un motivo para ir por el mundo.

Como los restos de un barco, te dejas abrazar por el oleaje. Tienes piedad de ti, y de aquello que dejaste en la orilla.

Abiertas medusas te rodean. Es verdad que todo tiende sus redes hacia ti en este instante. Quieres volver porque tienes miedo, pero ya es imposible. El secreto debe ser devorado completamente. Vuelves, sin embargo, dentro de ti, reconoces como cierto el rojo impulso que te lanzó al mar.

Respiras más allá de ti, más allá de nosotros. Haces que la carrera sea más larga. Te sigo de cerca sin saber, sintiendo cómo los días se desintegran, cómo el error va ganando altura y se arroja indiferente al vacío.

La piedra que sostuvo tus pies por un momento se hizo polvo antes de que pudieras arrepentirte. Para entonces todo estuvo de acuerdo; la luz, la línea exacta de la noche.

Cada vez más dócil al remolino, cada vez más dueña de la libertad de perderte. ¿Qué harás para llamarte en medio del fragor si en el horizonte azul se pierden también las palabras?

Deja que la corriente diluya entre nosotros este tiempo sin orillas.

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Lucía Estrada (Medellín, Colombia, 1980) is the author of ten books of poetry, including the award-winning collections Las Hijas del Espino (2006) and La noche enel espejo (2010). She is the two-time recipient of the Bogotá Poetry Prize, most recently in 2017 for Katábasis, which was also named a finalist for the 2019 Colombian National Poetry Prize. Estrada has been invited to participate in many international literary events and, for several years, she helped to organize the groundbreaking Medellín International Poetry Festival. Her work has been partially translated into English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Swedish. Estrada is currently the Cultural Coordinator at the Corporación Otraparte in Medellín.

Olivia Lott is the translator of Lucía Estrada’s Katabasis (2020, Eulalia Books), which is a finalist for the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. She is also the co-translator of Soleida Ríos’s The Dirty Text (2018, Kenning Editions) and the curator of the monthly feature Poesía en acción on the Action Books Blog. Lott is an Olin Fellow and Ph.D. Candidate in Hispanic Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where she is writing a dissertation on translation, revolution, and 1960s neo-avant-garde poetics in Latin America.

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Lucía Estrada’s Katabasis, finalist for the PEN Prize for Poetry in Translation, and winner of the 2017 Bogotá Poetry Prize, is the first full collection of poetry by a Colombian woman to be translated into English. It takes its title from the Greek word for descent, referring to both classical knowledge quests into the underworld by epic heroes and, more broadly, to any journey into madness, darkness, and the unknown. Olivia Lott’s seminal translation tracks the mercurial tempos and intertextualities of the poems, as it captures the double valence of political dissent and katabatic descent. This book reminds us that darkness is a space of enlightenment.

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