Translator’s Note

Rebecca Gayle Howell

Claudia Prado is an Argentinian poet and filmmaker known for making groundbreaking, socially progressive art. El Interior de la Ballena (Editorial Nusud, 2000) was her debut, a poetry collection that received the bronze Concurso Régimen de Fomento a la Producción Literaria Nacional y Estímulo a la Industria Editorial del Fondo nacional de las Artes (this is the third place award for the biggest literature prize in Argentina).

El Interior de la Ballena is a novel-in-verse based on Prado’s agrarian family legacy in Patagonia. Mixing fiction with oral history, Prado imagines her ancestors’ 19th century migration from the Basque Country into Argentina and, ultimately, southward into the oceanic desert. These poems offer a rare look at the Patagonian plateau between 1892 and 1963, years of intense immigration and population growth, written through a feminist lens. In addition to poems written in the poet’s own voice, the book also makes wide use of monologue and persona techniques, weaving together this intergenerational story through a multiplicity of voices: here speaks a woman who, against her will, is taken to that desert; here is revealed the thoughts of an orphan laborer; here, a chicken thief celebrates his sad prize. In El Interior de la Ballena, Prado uses her page to privilege the often unseen and unheard, composing in silence as much as sound, and in so doing creates a poetics of Patagonia itself. When read together, the poems quilt a place, time, and lineage through a story of strong women, wounded and wounding men, and a rural and unforgiving landscape from which hard-scrabble labor is the origin of survival.

Poet Irene Gruss wrote for Clarín (Argentina’s largest newspaper), “Claudia Prado joins a surprising list of writers of her generation and the next who [...] chose to maintain contact with an extreme landscape and its quiet.”

Critic Anahí Mallol wrote for Diaro de Poesía (once Argentina’s leading poetry journal), “El Interior de la Ballena is a poetry book of strange and exquisite texture …. What is told is that which the inheritors receive, those remains which have repercussions on children's imaginations and games, on the consciousness of oneself, backlight by a shared past …. [L]ike the landscape of the Patagonian desert, the elements presented are as minimal as possible, but in the immensity of time and space, coordinates are lost. What remains as the book’s subject is in fact loss, insignificance in the company of emptiness. That is why one of the main elements (of the desert, of the family history, of the poem) is silence.”

Additional critical praise, as well as poems from the book, appeared in some of the most recognized literary magazines and newspapers of the country, including La danza del ratón and La revista/Diario La nación. Other poems were selected for anthologies published in Argentina, Spain, and Germany, including Antología de poesía de la Patagonia, selection and preface by Concha García (Málaga: CEDMA, 2006); Poetas Argentinas (1961-1980), selection and preface by Andi Nachon (Buenos Aires: Ediciones del Dock, 2007); Desorbitados: poetas novísimos del sur de la Poetas Argentinas (1961-1980), selection and preface by Cristian Aliaga (Buenos Aires, Fondo Nacional de las Artes, 2009); Patagonia literaria VI — Antología de Poesía del sur Argentino, edited by Claudia Hammerschmidt and Luciana A. Mellado (Germany: DAAD, 2019).

The poems included in this selection are among those that open the book. Spanning almost thirty years at the turn of the last century, these three poems lean into the imagination to tell the poet’s own ancestral entrance into Patagonia, while also redeeming her family’s generational silence by turning it into an undeniable, if quiet, music.


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