Jon Pineda’s The Translator’s Diary

by Jess

Pineda’s newest collection of poetry is luminous. Read it. There is simply nothing more to be said.

But I’ll say some more anyway. That’s the point of these silly weblogs, isn’t it?

Many of the pieces in this book stem from the emotions and the aftermath of a single event, his older sister’s death after a car crash when she was sixteen, while others bear the soft innocent touch of Pineda’s young children. The title poem, a story told slowly and sadly in fifteen sections, is a masterpiece that combines sound and images beautifully and evocatively. The essence of the title is found in the last line of the first section: “…and the truth,/how it never survives its translation.”

Another poem told in sections, “Broken Images,” (“When grief becomes the only thing, you live in broken images”) returns us to the image of water, which focuses “The Translator’s Diary” and plays a significant role in many of the other poems as well. I was captivated by Pineda’s use of syntax; some of his sentences are long, embedded structures encapsulating layers of meaning, while others are short, fragmented, broken. It makes for a lovely effect.

Pineda’s poetry makes me feel as though I’ve been listening to some sad and beautiful music, something like Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, echoing among the empty upper reaches of a great room, a dome, a cathedral, something reaching toward heaven. (Perhaps Brandon would call that image cliche, but you know the feeling I’m talking about.) There is a magnificent lyrical arc from the opening poem, “Coma,” to the final, “Waking Hours.” In “Coma,” the door is warm with fire; in “Waking Hours,” the window glass is lit with cold, and “there is only this/ thought of parting, the/ heart pressing syllables/ against the dark.”

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