A Little Body Are Many Parts review by Vikki Acornley

Written by: Vikki Acornley

Un cuerpecito son muchas partes or A little body are many parts

This book has muchas partes! This clever poetry anthology uses the body to give an insight
into contemporary Cuba, the author’s native country, and also the challenges of modern
society in Miami, where she has lived for the past few years. Hosted in the Theatre Deli, the
young, unassuming author, Legna Rodríguez Iglesia, was surrounded by three translators and
the host. There was a translator for Legna during the event, the book’s bridge translator,
Serafina Vick and Abigail Parry, who aligned the poetry to be culturally relevant in Britain;
an initial stark reminder of the complexities and effort required when translating. That said,
this anthology is certainly worthy of translation and it has already been converted into
Portuguese, German and Italian.

Legna commenced the reading in her native Latin American Spanish. I always feel that it’s a
privilege to hear an author read their work: intimate and somehow comforting. She was
followed by Abigail, who voiced the poems in English. Although I am not fluent in Spanish,
the difference was clear in tone and presentation, which led me to think about what is ‘lost in
translation’ so to speak! These nuances were addressed during question time, with Legna
concluding that, ‘in translation, something is lost and something is gained, it is a
collaboration’. Indeed, it very much felt like an allegiance — a labour of love between
friends. Although, there is no question that the authorial voice was Legna’s. The poems are
powerful and intense, dark and raw. So too, they are controversial but refreshing; a real
unique mix.

Classed as Generatión O, born after 1975, Legna is too young to remember the Revolution,
but old enough to remember the hunger which followed and she often uses her work to
highlight Castro’s legacy to Cuba, where waiters frequently earn more than surgeons. This is
most apparent in ‘Tregua Fecunda, Fertile Truce’ and ‘Mala crianza, Spoilt’. The poems are
shrewd in their construction, using signifiers and symbolism, and often, melodical and
memorable phrases. In ‘Orange Room’ the ‘pumpkin chorus’ is notable for a particularly
lyrical line which is repeated throughout, ‘las calabazas luminicas si’ or in English, ‘the
luminous pumpkin does, oh yes’. This phrase had to be subtly changed to keep the poem’s
musicality. The translator Abigail, alluded to further adjustments which were necessary to
keep the rhythm, for example changing ‘idiot’ in Spanish to ‘berk’ in English. Furthermore,
these amendments are useful to maintain cultural coherence and clarity.

After questions, there were more readings and a book signing. The event was one of many
on Legna’s UK tour, where she can also be seen in places such as, the Manchester Literature
Festival and the British Library. All said, the evening was interesting and thought-provoking.
The translation is masterful and considerate and Legna Rodríguez Iglesia’s prize-winning
poetry is penetrating and beautiful — without question her work is far greater than the sum of
its muchas partes!

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