Unnamable: Poems by Anna Gual

introduced and translated by AKaiser

Anna Gual is a prolific prize-winning poet and author of seven collections of poetry. She is a mainstay in the Catalan literary world, and a frequent guest at international poetry and translation festivals. From her first book, Implosions (LaBreu Edicions, 2008) to her seventh, Ameba (Libres del Segle, 2020), Gual has demonstrated a talent for expressing life’s oddities, whether she is calling into question barriers between human beings and the rest of nature, barriers between and within bodies, or barriers in the flesh and blood of language itself. Poets such as Lluís Calvo consider Gual’s work “a territory of continuous exceptionalities”; Susanna Rafart remarks that to enter Gual’s work is to enter a “forest of wild rebirths”; and Gemma Gorga describes Gual’s poetic world as one where “human laws are far away.”

I discovered Gual’s inventive, muscular work while completing my doctorate in Barcelona. I was quickly taken in by her imaginative and condensed poetry. A challenge in translating her work is attempting to capture that same intensity, that same tension—to search for the mot juste in each and every specific case while respecting overarching thematic concerns. The poems in this selection are part of Gual‘s bilingual Catalan-Spanish collected works, Innombrable (Unnamable; Stendhal Books, 2020), which I am currently translating and for which I have been awarded an NEA Fellowship. This will be the first time a full collection of Gual’s work will be available to an English readership.


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If poetry is an animal,
it will be an animal
that flees to everywhere.

Clutching its claws
at every step, in search of itself,
launching an escapade of its own.

Flash track
that shatters the night
of hiemal stars.

Open wound
no possibility of scars.


The Natural Occult

Some incredible moments these have been.

I have seen a man die
and I have seen one kill another
with one blow.

I’ve seen some sob
and many others
bleed in the streets.

If I go back it’s because I need
to contemplate in the first person
a birth.

To sense with a shiver
how a hole spits out a body
and from lumps comes a being
with two micro-lungs
and two mini-legs.

To know she’ll spend days
breathing and repositioning, moving,
searching in vain
a list of stable things.

But say nothing to her.
Hush the chatter.

Silence the hurricane wind,
the force of the current,
the earthquakes,
the floods, the shocks.

Smile at the child,
squeeze hard the mother’s hand.



I run in the night.

No eye in the mist,
No strange noise, no echo of a cry.

I run in the night,
crossing the night, anointing me with dark.

I cross the night, cross the desert,
cross the fear of those who sleep.

I run in the night,
I believe I am night
I’m alleyway death.

I penetrate the night and the night penetrates me.

I run inside the night.

I play the vagabond,
I play the wandering brothel,
in my thighs and soul.

I run in the night.

No eye in the mist,
no strange noise, no echo of a cry.

It isn’t the night
that frightens me
but the strangling scream
that climbs up my chest.

It could be worse:
the night runs
inside of me,
the night spits white phlegm
in the shadowy corner
of an elusive womb.


Estepa, Hypericum balearicum

You’ve transformed my sorrow into dance,
You’ve undressed my mourning and draped me with joy.
                                                                      –Psalm 30:11

When night falls
the lizards come in
and it’s all your doing.

The snakes come in
and it’s all your doing.

At dawn thunder claps,
lightning strikes me
and it’s your doing
that I no longer fear animals
nor the ray of sun
that pierces my chest.



Si la poesia és un animal,
serà un animal
que fugi per totes bandes.

Trepitjant-se les urpes
a cada pas, a la recerca d’ell mateix,
inaugurant una scapade pròpia.

Rastre veloç
que trenca la nit
dels astres hiemals.

Ferida oberta
sense possibilitat de cicatriu.


L’ocult natural

Han estat moments increïbles, aquests.

He vist morir un home
i he vist matar-ne
d’un cop sec un altre.

N’he vist plorar a sanglots
uns quants, n’he vist bastants
que al carrer sagnaven.

Si torno és perquè necessito
contemplar en primera persona
un naixement.

Poder notar a flor de pell
com un forat escup un cos
i dels grumolls en surt un ser
amb dos micropulmons
i dues minicames.

Saber que passarà els dies
respirant i desplaçant-se, movent-se,
cercant en va una llista de coses estables.

Però no dir-li res.
Callar-li l’esventada.

Silenciar el vent huracanat,
la força del corrent,
els terratrèmols,
els diluvis, les sotragades.

Somriure al fill,
prémer fort la mà de la mare.



Corro per la nit.
Cap ull entre la boira,
cap soroll estrany, cap ressò de crit.

Corro per la nit,
travessant la nit, untant-me de foscor.

Travesso la nit, travesso el desert,
travesso la por dels que dormiu.

Corro per la nit,
em crec nit,
sóc el mort del carreró.

Penetro la nit i la nit em penetra a mi.

Em corro dins la nit.

Faig el vagabund,
faig de prostíbul ambulant,
de cuixes i d’esperit.

Corro per la nit.
Cap ull entre la boira,
cap soroll estrany, cap ressò de crit.

No és la nit
la que m’espanta
sinó el xiscle estrangulat
que em puja pel pit.

Podria ser pitjor:
la nit es corre
dins de mi,
la nit escup baba blanca
en un racó
ombrívol d’un úter fonedís.



Has mudat en danses els meus planys,
m’has tret el dol i m’has vestit de festa.
                                                         –Salm 30:11

Quan es fa fosc
entren els llangardaixos
i tot és per tu.

Entren les serps
i tot és per tu.

De matinada entren els trons,
m’entren els llamps
i és per tu
que ja no temo els animals
ni el raig de sol
que em travessa el pit.


Published on July 28, 2022