Letter from the Editor

September 24, 2020 in Letter from the editor by ndannels

Dear lovely readers,

I sincerely hope you are all well, and I am grateful for the investment of your time in reading our journal. What we present here to you in this issue of Alchemy may be considered a motley grouping of translations that stand together in their eclectic cohesion. Whether it is Will Cordeiro’s translation of “The Albatross,” a classic French poem from Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil; or enthralling fragments from Efrén Ordóñez’s Smoke, a novel in Spanish translated by Robin Myers; or a trio of French poems from Henri Meschonnic’s How Many Names, a rhythmically oriented collection rendered into English by Don Boes and Gabriella Bedetti; or Maria Teresa Horta’s “The Condition of the Verses,” a Portuguese poem of passionate self-expression, which Edite Cunhā and M.B. McLatchey have translated; or whether it is Jack Kohler’s “Still Lifes,” a textual montage which explores artworks by Agnes Martin, Charles Ethan Porter, and Wolfgang Tillmans in an experimental fashion that blends the genres of visual art and poetic language, it speaks to the practice of translation as a genre and theme. These works are empowered by the unity that transcends their differences in style, content, and language.

This trend is also present in the visual art in this issue: Michelle Brooks’s cover art, “Blue Mural,” is a striking photograph whose colors harbor its mystique, while “God’s Lesson Plan” is an avant-garde translation by Bias Collins which adapts five of the Ten Commandments to a usable code of ethics for the 21st century. These works are so different from one another, and yet they find themselves in the same home.

At such a time of crisis and uncertainty, art and literature can lift our spirits. Translation has that ability, and it is made all the stronger for it because it is an inherently collaborative art: from source to target language and from creator to translator, the original text is reimagined and rendered into an entirely new work of art, and in doing so, it uncovers another reality, another world of possibility. One may think of the joint effort in the path of translation to be a limitless art, then, with plenty of potential for new discoveries.

Our translators have entrusted us with their work, and we are proud to provide a home for their translations. My many thanks for their consideration in choosing to send their translations to us, as well as every translator who submitted to us; we were quite impressed with what we received, and we are honored to have had the chance to read and consider these submissions. So it is with great pleasure that we present this issue.

I would also like to convey my immense gratitude for Iliria Osum’s aid and exemplary leadership as the previous editor for the past three issues of Alchemy. Additionally, I want to thank Yaprak Yıldırım, Kevin Jang, and NM Mashurov for being such a wonderful editorial team; their collective efforts have allowed this issue to find the form that it has, and I commend them for their hard work. I also cannot thank Professor Amelia Glaser and the Faculty Advisory Board nearly enough for their guiding hand throughout this process. Lastly, I am grateful for the Literature Department here at the University of California, San Diego, where I myself feel overjoyed to be among such delightful and motivating professors.

We cordially invite you to share this moment with us as we share these translations with you, in turn. Enjoy this issue with us!

Make yourself at home,
Nolan Dannels

by atosun

Letter from the editor

February 11, 2020 in Letter from the editor by atosun

Dear Readers,

Thank you for a wonderful year and a half! I don’t want to be overly sentimental, so I’ll say simply and briefly that working on Alchemy has been a genuinely life-changing (and, in important ways, thought-changing) experience. I’m thrilled that my last issue as Editor-in-Chief is full of incredible writing. 

Like Megan McNitt’s beautiful cover art, every work in this issue achieves a moment of perceptive transformation for the reader––a moment when things shift. The highly lyric prose of Nazli Karabiyikoglu’s “Colours of Sage” examines the precarious emotional allures and dangers of an illicit affair.  Ana Maria Machado’s story “Flakes,” translated by Elton Uliana, slowly and often sweetly explores the relationship between a grandmother and her grandchildren; Uliana’s fascinating translator’s note provides further perspective on the deceptive simplicity of the story. The inherently collaborative nature of translation is highlighted in Maria João Marques’ Portuguese translations of Michael Garcia Spring’s English poems––both versions of the poems turn everyday images into emotional portals through time and space. 

Marielle Sutherland’s translation of Ulrike Ulrich’s “Not Your Heidi,” in addition to Sutherland’s contextual notes, reintroduces an entirely new set of readers to a national icon and how she might react to others’ use of her image in service of political and material capital. Iulia Militaru’s “About Death,” as translated by Claudia Serea, is a bold and experimental work questioning biopolitical regimes of language, policy, and ideology. Adem Garić’s poems in their translations by Mario Frömml are simultaneously political and delicate, casting a golden but urgently searching light through issues of immigration, identity, and family. And, finally, Zixi Cai’s translation of Juyi Bai’s long narrative poem, “The Song of Endless Sorrow,” closes the issue with a tragic relationship and the poignant ache of a golden hair clip, broken in half. 

Thank you, also, to the reading committee who helped shape this issue: McKenzie Ross, Klara Feenstra, Alissa Tu, NM Mashurov, and Becca Rae Rose.  

Iliria Osum


by atosun

Letter from the Editor

August 1, 2019 in Letter from the editor by atosun

Dear Readers,

Let’s get into some definitions.

First, translation – a speculative form.1 The translator-interpreter conveys meaning between one language and another––or between media, or between experiences, or between one genre of signifier and some other completely orthogonal genre of signifier––hopefully doing so in a “radically equitable” “exchange without loss.”2 

Second, science fiction a translation, or series of translations. The writer translates between reality as we currently understand it and any number of imagined ontologies, between what is and what can be, between final frontiers!3 The speculative writer is undoubtedly a translator-interpreter, too. 

Finally, reader – translator-interpreter4. The reader navigates the space between their specific reality and the imagined modes of being offered by the speculative, translated text (or signifier of another genre). 

As you probably know, the English word genre comes from the same Anglo-Norman and Middle French roots as the word gender; speculative writing and translating have long attempted to query and disrupt the boundaries of such conventional categorizations. 

The writers and translators in this issue, all of whom offer speculation as a foundational substrate or as central to their work, seem uninterested in categorization. In fact, I didn’t separate our published works by genre, as is our usual convention, because many of the pieces defied easy labels. 

Evelyn Murdock jumps between prose, poetry, Python, speculative Python, visual art, and language register with a translational virtuosity in an excerpt from “ARTMACHINA!”5 Essam M. Al-Jassim’s poetic translation of Ayah Raafat’s flash fiction “The Maze” questions gendered convention and  the cyclical, translational, and speculative nature of parenting. Andrea Zelaya’s translation of her own work, “Lives Hidden,” straddles slipstream between prose poetry and flash fiction, and casts a shadow, as much of the best science fiction does, on our shared reality. Siloh Radovksy’s “Chocolat” is almost indescribable in terms of genre as it shimmers between the recounting of a shared cultural phenomenon, an essay, dreamlike fiction, and self-aware punchline. “Speechless Mountain,” by Dr. Kanakalata Hathi and translated by Suchona Patnaik, again visits the peculiar fraught territory of parenthood and brings a new lens to love. Phoebe Carter’s translations of Laura Yasan’s “organic chemistry” and “prelude in b sharp” dance in the specialized vocabulary of science and medicine as they translate emotion into empirical imagery. And Clara Dawson’s “UNTIL THE COWS COME HOME,” through its evocative use of postapocalyptic and revolutionary lexica, translates dire science fiction narrative tropes into a new, and hopeful, speculative synthesis.   

I also want to thank Lorena Espinoza, Nolan Dannels, Klara Feenstra, and Joel Burke for their tireless editorial work during the 2018-2019 Alchemy season. 

Iliria Osum

  1. I’m borrowing the idea of translation as a form from Walter Benjamin’s The Translator’s Task.
  2. George Steiner, After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998) p. 319. 
  3. That translation may boldly go where no one has gone before, etc., etc.
  4. The idea of reader-as-translator comes from Gayatri Spivak, Outside in the Teaching Machine (New York: Routledge, 1993) p. 197, though “translator-interpreter” is still from Steiner.
  5. I also just realized I’m borrowing these footnotes from Evelyn’s piece, ARTMACHINA! Perhaps you’d be so kind as to call it translating form between cross-genre narrative and epistolary nonfiction? 



by atosun

Letter from the Editor

March 19, 2019 in Letter from the editor by atosun

Dear Readers,

There is a conventional way to write this letter: charming, urbane, and well-mannered. In many ways that letter was easier, dictated by a series of expectations. But that draft felt too polished. It kept sliding away from the work.

A word I’ve learned to sit with in the past year is “irreducible.” Maybe this is a word you have navigated, too, this past year in our chaotic landscape. It is very obvious, from San Diego (one half of a marvelous and uneasy international conurbation), that translation sits here in the irreducible as well. I do not want to be an ungracious host to any of you.

And our writers and translators have imagined so many “yous” in this issue: loved yous, strange yous, dead yous, absent-but-present yous, ancient yous, invisible yous. No single you is reducible to any other; you/I/we are nonetheless invited into the intimate space left in the roundness of the word. The fundamental reaching-out of the translational act is so evident in all of these works––between emotion and language, between writer and work, between translator and writer.

It is good to remember that connection and community can be irreducible!

Many of our translators submitted several pieces that demanded to be seen together. Ethan Chua’s translations of five Abner Dormiendo poems build a dreamily melancholy narrative worth lingering in; David Allen Sullivan’s co-translations with several authors launch a poetic investigation into the costs of war; Yasmín Rojas’s translations of three Ángel José Fernández poems superimpose the emotional body and an imagined geography; Arshiya Seen’s translations of Sara Shagufta contrast registers of language to evoke a bodily response in the reader; Elijah Armstrong manages to encompass a new approach to 18th century English translation and 12th century Chinese balladry; and Nolan Dannels similarly crosses time in his high-register translation of Gérard de Nerval.

Thank you for being with us.

See you elsewhere in the irreducible spaces,
Iliria Osum


Letter from the Editor

June 18, 2018 in Letter from the editor, Uncategorized by aogunmok

Dear Reader,

I am at a loss for where to begin this letter when our theme this issue is dedicated to such a powerful abstraction as love/(un)love. Luckily, we’ve been gifted with art and literature that not only speaks these words but stretches into the beyond. In these unsavory times, we have decided to dedicate this summer issue of Alchemy to love and all its power. I’ve been privileged to work with an editorial board that never ceased to bring their compassionate and hardworking selves to every meeting to put this special issue together. Jointly, we’ve selected work to bring curiosity to your heart’s mind.

For the first time, Alchemy has included a video among our contributions! Our cover artwork is accompanied by a translation from Tamil to Spanish by Sindhu Thirumalaisamy. The video, “Cada flor tiene”, can be accessed by clicking the link on our website as well as this link, here. Thirumalaisamy describes this as “the unfolding of a conversation between the artist and her grandmother. Moving associatively through different sonic and verbal cues, the flowers unfold what, in the film are noted as ‘a myriad intimacies, largely unknown’: Parkinson’s, work, nerves, air, honey, language, memory.”

Our enthusiasm of this poetry-focused issue continues with Maria Bartlett’s translation of “Poema cotidiano”, an alluring depiction of hair-washing and self-care. E. Rose’s translation of “El Ensueño” reveals a yearning, ceaseless heart; one that mirrors the pain of Lorena Espinoza’s translation of “Un Perrro Ha Muerto”. The frothier section of contributions in this issue includes Azura FairChild’s translation of “You and Thou”, Joel G. Burke’s translation of “Ode to ‘Oranges’”, and Janie N. Paz’s translation of “Amor de Colibrí”.

We’re proud to unveil this issue of Alchemy. We hope you enjoy and find a little love in this too.


Many thanks for reading,



Letter from the Editor

March 1, 2018 in Letter from the editor by aogunmok

Language is a strong weapon. Inherent in us since birth, and apparent to us in every aspect of life, metaphysical and otherwise, an aspect of pathetic fallacy. Language is at once a method of communication and an act of translation of abstract into tangible, a mimetic flow of shapes and sounds attached to ideas.

It is no wonder that some of us have a hard time speaking to one another.

It is no wonder that these times are virulent, divided by the very language that could unite us, and one must wonder what is okay and not okay to express, both on a microcosmic and macrocosmic scale.

The selections in the current issue of Alchemy provide insight into lives which may never be spoken. For instance, Ayden LeRoux’s translation of the Spanish author Pepa Merlo’s short prose piece “Petrushka” follows a male voyeur as he observes his lonely life, a life filled with boxes and routine, absence of dialogue save for a sole exclamation at a song he enjoys, and his ‘favorite’ object to the point of fetishization are his binoculars. These binoculars are a way to separate him from the world while participating in it from afar.

Xia Fang’s translation of Hong-Kong Chinese poet Chan Lai Kuen’s “bottle (blue bottle)” also has a unique sense of separation from the world, the glass as a barrier for the speaker as they observe the world as blue through this tint, hinting at what power bias and perspective have on the individual. What people say is “unconnected” to the speaker, perhaps because of her own disconnection within this cut off world.

Even more heartening is the translation of a nonfiction piece on the trend of student suicides and self-mutilation in China, Joy Zhu’s take on Hong Kong columnist Lewis Loud. In it, there is an important question posed: “Why do Hong Kong’s youth keep killing themselves?” The operative word is keep. In it, there is an amazing lightheartedness with cultural references to movies, food, and religion, but the weight of young death and the inability to be straightforward with the grief while striving for solution keeps it grounded.

Writing is an important medium in order to access these crevices in which despair, death, and isolation can creep in to haunt us. Without language, these three would dominate. Without reaching out and expressing, effectively translating trauma, we would not be here, this far.

Thank you for reading this issue.

-T.m. Lawson



Letter From The Editor

May 22, 2017 in Letter from the editor by

Everyday it is more evident that resisting is the only way to make this world livable, the only way to survive: resisting bigotry, fear, terror, paranoia, and hopelessness. But, “resistance” is not a word reserved only for radical activism and protests: we resist in our day-to-day life, in the little things, in the quotidian.

For me, the act of translating is an act of resistance. Its direct action opens up the spectrum of multiculturalism and transnationalism through the effectiveness of tangible cultural production through words. In the act of translating, one encounters in various degrees language resisting to be translated, whether it be when it comes to translating words with no equivalence in the language of translation or resistance to translating the full effect of the words. When translating, one has to design a way to include that same resistance in the work; this is why translations are often extraordinary: they carry within them the defiance of the original language.

This issue is dedicated to the little resistances that start with the simple act of translating one language to another: it is dedicated to Aia Hawari, the Assistant Editor, and her help and extreme consciousness; it is dedicated to Charlztown, the Colombian illustrator and artist who designed the cover art for this issue, and his creative will to understand a moment of truth; and, of course, to every single one of the translators and authors that worked with Spanish, Sigil, Farsi, Portuguese, Korean, and Arabic to bring striking poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for this issue.

We artists have to resist the temptation of becoming part of the status quo. Once again, we editors have the responsibility of demolishing walls that separate humans from humans. The curse in the myth of the Tower of Babel was the creation of different types of language, but, today, in this journal, we honor that difference, because even in minimal proportions, with difference we are building our very own politics to resist the fear of the unknown.


Letter from the editor

November 2, 2016 in Letter from the editor, Uncategorized by

Movement defines us, but the action of clashing shapes us.

This issue is dedicated to the savage beauty of encountering the different, the opposite, the paradoxical, and being able to inhabit it in active and dynamic ways. Writing, re-writing, erasing, destroying, and everything that comes between an original and its translation, in the broadest sense of the word, is built within the limits of the encounter with the other person, text, world. This encounter could be an explosion or a junction; could be a sign of change or a prophecy to remain the same. Translating is always transforming both the source and the new creation.

This issue is my first as Alchemy’s incoming 2017-18 editor, and I’ve collaborated on it with last year’s editor in chief, Majo. I would like to extend a special note of thanks to Majo for making this issue possible, a person who has been living and drawing inspiration from clashing cultures, who never hesitated to make me feel that this issue was also my creative project. This feeling of authorial and editorial fluidity is one thing that gives Alchemy its flavor. I’d also like to thank Aia Hawari, Alchemy’s fantastic new assistant editor, for her collaboration in this issue; and to Daniel Lara Cardona, for his striking photography.

As always, we are proud to show groundbreaking works: Daniel Centeno Maldonado y Alfonso J. Gustave deliver an amazing short piece of fiction a about a woman that “is Janis, Aretha, and Edith Piaf all mixed into one” and collides between the limits of beats and sound in Cuba and New York. Daniela Camacho and Majo Delgadillo share a piece of powerful poetry that draws in itself the very beautiful state of grief. Eleanor Hill and anonymous remember the everlasting lucidity of Mallarmé and Verlaine. Izabela Zdun translated a remarkable piece from Michał Paweł Markowski, which states touchingly that the anthropology of literature is “a lovely, really lovely science.”

Enjoy this crossing,


Letter from the editor

March 17, 2016 in Letter from the editor by mjdelgad

 In a way, every person is always translating, always being carried across between meanings, images, personal experiences, sounds and subjectivity. Translation, thus, not only relates to the experience of bilingualism, or multilingualism, as much as it relates to the human experience of being, as the word itself state, carried across and between all of what we can sense. This is why I believe we are always living in translation. Always moving and playing around with this ever changing species that is language, leaving it, as we experience it, marked by our own approaches.

However, in this present day, and coming from the geographical context of the border here in San Diego, it would be foolish not to acknowledge that the existence in translation is more than a metaphor for a multitude of voices existing and populating our everyday lives. Here, at the border, but also in an immense variety of places, existing in translation is a lifestyle that marks the pulse of immigrants, first generation Americans, students, teachers, parents, friends.

Living in translation affects the way we, and I include myself, approach our readings, our work, our relations. Living in translation means that there will always be something missing. Unreachable. Secret. Something that is kept silent, depending on which of our languages we choose, or are forced, to live for the day.

In this issue of Alchemy, we are making a statement about that silence. By auto-translating our work, the writers and artists here were forced to experience consciously sound, style, the way that some words might just escape from you just before you catch them, the way that there’s a weirdness to both of our languages by coexisting with one another.

In this number of Alchemy, auto-translation is a theme, but it’s also an experience and a protest.

A way to attest that our multiple languages, meaning our multiple selfs, are here.



With works , from undergraduates to PhD candidates, this number of Alchemy vibrates with sounds from a Spanish that borrows from English, with authors like Raúl Alberto Escareño Cortés, Luis González, Marco Antonio Huerta, Lorena Gómez Mostajo, Migueltzinta Solís and a piece by myself. We also include an excerpt from a novel which will soon be published in Hebrew by Julia Fermentto, and a short story that deals with how language can be looked for, and how it is built, transformed and forgotten, by Gina Alexandra, whose English passes always through the experience of Armenian.

I would also like to make a special mention to Rebecca Seaberry, the amazing artist who translated the work from the issue into beautiful pieces of watercolor that are now a part of this issue.

Every piece here is an experiment, and that’s what we asked from the writers. Every piece here is in conversation with the language, or languages, that populate the mind of its creator.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did while building it.

Thank you for reading!

MarieJo Delgadillo, editor

by sciston

Letter from the Editor

May 30, 2015 in Letter from the editor by sciston

Throughout my tenure as editor of Alchemy, I have been repeatedly surprised and charmed by translation’s unique ability to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.

Translation bring us not only new language, but also new ways to think and to see. It offers us moods and modes of thinking not found in our native tongue. At its best, translation exposes the gaps where our own language limits us. For a moment, it lets us dream with a different mind.

This issue features authors from Peru and from Germany, from all across Spain, from the fjords of Iceland and from ancient Rome. There are surrealists and “poets of experience,” pop-culture enthusiasts and unadorned lyricists—in short, there are as many diverse perspectives as there are authors and translators featured here.

Alchemy strives to support a new generation of translators who are expanding our sense of the world. With their fresh voices and contemporary viewpoints, these student translators help us experience familiar writers in new ways and introduce us to unfamiliar authors from around the world.

We are delighted to feature each and every one of them here. Thank you for reading!

Sarah Ciston, editor