• Kay Are

A translation is a theory of the source text.
— Andrew Chesterman, Memes of Translation: The Spread of Ideas in Translation Theory, 1997

Figures are […] material-semiotic nodes or knots in which diverse bodies and meanings coshape one another.
— Donna Haraway, When Species Meet, 2008

The relation of organism to organism [is] the most important of all relations.
— Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 1859

We were never human.
— Donna Haraway, When Species Meet, 2008


This work uses translation and diagramming as devices in offering an interpretation of Colombian poet Beatriz Restrepo’s 2014 collection Bestiario. The collection indexes sixty animals in sixty poems (a translation of ten poems taken from the collection’s first section are given here), in reference to the medieval Bestiarium Vocabularium, a formative element in the encyclopaedic tradition that permeates the natural sciences. My translation also uses the affordances of visual metaphor to convey my reading of Restrepo’s ‘Bestiary’ as concerned with the mutual nesting of human and non-human animal worlds — with beasts as human inventions, and with human invention as critically shaping animal worlds. Each poem frames a species either in terms of its implication in a human social practice or in terms of its presence in a cultural imaginary — not bees, for instance, but the bees of the novel Pedro Páramo; not albatrosses, but Baudelaire’s ‘Albatross’. Not least among such social practices is the domesticating technology of alphabetisation in the cataloguing of the more-than-human. I have re-ordered Restrepo’s poems to stress this.

As images, the translated poems point to the historical use of word and image, equally, as tools in the human organisation of species and inter-species relationships. The poems’ material aspect also correlates the evolution of species with the selective nature of translation, which proceeds by engendering variations that cumulatively deliver the translated text. Creative decisions in the event are granular, manifesting as innumerable points of greater or lesser divergence from the appearance, sound and meaning of an original.

Following on from the diagrammatic interpretation are Beatriz’s original poems in Spanish and my more ‘transparent’ translations of them into English. I include these here, imagining that comparison across versions can further elucidate the material poetics of translational and creative process.


View the translations.



Bestiario, by Beatriz Restrepo Restrepo, was originally published by Ediciones Uniandes, Bogotá, in 2014. Copyright on the poems in the original Spanish remains with the author. Copyright on this translation into English remains with Kay Are.