As part of the 2018-2019 poetry series, Cincinnati poet laureate Dr. Manuel Iris, visited UC Clermont on Nov. 7th to read from his book Translating Silence, as well as to answer questions from those in attendance.
Dr. Iris is a distinguished poet, who receivied his PhD in romance languages from the University of Cincinnati. He was chosen by Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley to become the city’s second poet laureate, taking over for Pauletta Hansel; his appointment began April 18, 2018. Each poet laureate is to serve a two year term in which they proliferate the appreciation of poetry into the lives and hearts of Cincinnati’s citizens.
To introduce the session Dr. Iris expressed his love for poetry and the dedication of its readers saying, “[Poets] do not have the most readers, but we do have the best.”
This being his first bilingual publication, Dr. Iris discussed the challenges he faced while translating his poems from Spanish into English.
Silence is major theme for Dr. Iris, both in his book and in his life. “We need silence in order for poetry to exist,” he remarked on the important interaction between silence and self-expression through language.
As a final note before reading, Dr. Iris said, “Poetry is one of the few ways we have to look at death in the eye and say, ‘you will not take away the things that I love’.”
Reading each poem first in English, then in his native Spanish, Dr. Iris’ tone emanated emotion and pain with each word. While most of the poems pertained to family, he also read of his struggles with cultural duality; being a native to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Cincinnati resident since 2008.
While answering questions from the audience, Dr. Iris talked about the differences between the English and Spanish languages and the challenges of translating his poems. Specifically, how English lacks the fluidity of Spanish. “If you can feel something in a nonoriginal language, that feeling is poetry,” he said.
When asked about the benefits of cultural emersion, Dr. Iris stated, “It’s important to celebrate our differences,” but added that, “ …what we have in common is almost everything.”
Finally, Dr. Iris spoke of the interaction between death and love, two other major themes in his writing, saying, “Love allows us to see eternity in things that are not eternal.”
For information about Manuel Iris and his poetry, please visit his blog at: http://bufondedios.blogspot.com/