10 Questions for Judith Filc

Amal Zaman

“LISTEN: MUSIC IS BORN from the human mind, but it also appears naturally, like the smell of malt, like the taste of celery. Humans desperately try to precent it from slipping through their fingers. They fasten it to the score, to instruments, to commentaries, to theory books, to records...”
--from Perfect Pitch which appears in the Winter 2016 issue (Volume 57, Issue 4).

Tell us about one of the first pieces you translated

I translated a series of poems for a bilingual anthology edited by Chilean poet Gonzalo Contreras. It's called Poéticas de Chile/Chilean Poets on the Art of Poetry, and it's a collection of poems and essays by Chilean poets that discuss or reflect their poetics.

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?

Some of my early influences were the Italian modernists and Argentine poets of the 1970s generation. Three books I've read in the last few years have strongly appealed to me, and I expect they have affected my writing, although I don't quite know in what way: Dictée by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Under Flag by Myung Mi Kim, and Men in the Off Hours by Anne Carson.

What other professions have you worked in?

I was a youth counselor, a creative writing teacher, and a university professor. I've worked as a Spanish tutor on and off for a long time.

What did you want to be when you were young?
A psychologist, a singer-songwriter of children's songs, a systems analyst

What drew you to write a translation of this piece in particular?

I loved the book when I read it many years ago. It's beautifully crafted, closer to poetry than to prose. I tried to find a publisher for it and failed. I'm very happy that an excerpt from it will have a readership.

Is there a city or place, real or imagined, that influences your writing?

Buenos Aires and New York City

Do you have any rituals or traditions that you do in order to write?

I write most of my first drafts on notebooks in cafés.

If you could work in another art form what would it be?


What are you working on currently?

I'm finishing a book on language and foreignness, and I'm translating two poems by Peruvian poet Rafael Espinosa for my blog.

What are you reading right now?

I read several books at the same time. Right now I'm reading Kafka's diaries, Come se finisse il mondo, a book about schizophrenia by Italian psychiatrist Eugenio Borgna, Aporias by Jacques Derrida, and Final Proof; Or, The Value of Evidence, a mystery by Rodrigues Ottolengui.

Judith Filc has taught in the United States and Argentina. She has published books and essays on Argentine literature and culture, and four volumes of poetry in Spanish. Her translations of La ópera fantasma (Ghost Opera), by Mercedes Roffé, and Cierta dureza en la sintaxis (A Certain Roughness in their Syntax), by Jorge Aulicino, will be published in 2017. She administers the blog Word Creation/ Crear con palabras, in which she publishes her translations of Latin American poetry in Spanish.