Poems by Yolanda Castaño (Galicia – Spain)

Translations from Galician language: Keith Payne


When shut eyes can see
the cycle becomes a sleight of hand

(The poetry book opens too much
and up pops a deck of cards).

It’s not cocky to flick a switch,
or afflicted to write in the dark.

Don’t let go your hold on the world
or lose touch with the word footing,
take a saw to its legs
you might find you reach even higher.

we provoke language.

Of course we write
for a picture’s worth a thousand words.


Off in the distance the rain
stains the clouds.
This map is true for balladeers.

I can’t wait to go and my car is a good soldier,
can you hear its sweet cargo whistle?
The old roads open up
like a ruled notebook,
how I’d love to score the mountains like a sales
rep my case full of poems

My car’s a silver bullet burning with rhythm
instead of gunpowder and I shout “Vamos!”
Together we bear down on valleys,
civil servant suburbs and those huge windmills
urge me on to face the giants.
We get each other, my car and me
– no words needed.
White lillies of paracetemol,
my car’s a soldier
and I say “Let’s go read poems
in Monforte de Lemos!”,
and his engine
hums along to my tune;
and sings
even though he’s got

LISTEN AND REPEAT: un paxaro, unha barba

The whole sky is hunched. An intransitive thirst.

Talking a foreign language
is like wearing borrowed clothes.

Helga confuses the words for land and landscape
(who would you be in another language?)

You show me
my vocal chord
is at times
off key.

In the back garden of language
It’s the prosody that snags
my dress.

I’ll tell you something about the problems with language:
there are things I just can’t wrap my mouth around.

Like when I see you sat and all I see
is a seat –
ceci n’est pas une chaise.
A camera obscura beams on the hemisphere.

Pronounce: if the poem is an exorcism,
a change of state, some humour
takes shape to escape from us.

That’s phonation, enthalpy.

But yes, you are absolutely right:
my delivery leaves
much to be desired.

(If I’m not watching your teeth
I won’t understand a word you say).

The sky shrinks. Helga smiles in italics.

And I learn the difference between a beard and a bird
– and not just what takes off
when I try to hold it
in my hands.


I would start with its breadth. Acidity, pH.

It walks like a woman:
between the massacre of the unseen
and the concentration camp of visibility.

It bellows style and polish,
a neighbourly epic.

In the poem, language
falls on its own deaf ears,
the words amplify
their circle of friends.

You need to frig the alphabet
till it spouts
unlikely links

The changing gears of chatter,
the tell of another order.
The mosquito’s smile in the amber.

It’s not that you don't get Arabic.
You don’t get



And the quicksilver gone from the mirror.

From the hand feeling for the trace
I make the best of jaded pages;
the black ink from the flip side shows
and I think
this could also be write;
scribbling new words while other
earlier words
seep through the page.

Yolanda Castaño (Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 1977) has been publishing poetry in Galician (and Spanish) for over twenty years. Her six collections have been awarded prizes such as the Spanish Critics’ Award, Ojo Crítico ―for the best published book by a young Spanish poet―, “Writer of the Year” ―by Galician Federation of Bookshops― and she was a finalist in the National Poetry Prize. A dynamic cultural activist, Castaño is managing awarded cultural projects with Galician and international poets since 2009: poetry translation workshops, a poetry festival and a monthly readings series. A philologist and video-artist, she has presented readings, multimedia performances or talks all over Europe and America, besides India, China, Japan and Tunis. She worked for TV for several years ―’ Best TV Communicator’ 2005― and contributed articles to several journals. Her poems translated into twenty-five different languages, Castaño has also published five poetry books for children and four of translations. She has been awarded international grants for resident writers in Rhodes, Scotland, Munich and Beijing.

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