_____ ............| de los Andes van veloces,
_____Las nubes | de montaña en montaña,
_____ ............| en alas de los cóndores.
_____ ........| roll across the Andes,
_____Clouds | from summit to summit,
_____ ........| beneath the condor’s wings.
__José Juan Tablada is known for having produced some highly experimental visual poetry; this does not include his haiku (the fact that these poems are haiku is, in itself, the grand experiment). However, one of Tablada’s haiku stands out as visually unique. Las nubes poses a challenge in that you really do have to get in the original author’s head in order to determine his intent.
__I studied the little poem for a month, mostly trying to figure out how it was supposed to be read (Tablada’s inclusion of vertical bars wasn’t helpful at first). Eventually I decided to translate Las nubes as two poems, or, specifically, as one poem that can be read in two different directions—literally. The reader can begin with the headword, ‘clouds,’ and then read the lines to the right of the vertical bars like a regular haiku (in other words, ‘clouds’ is the first word of the entire poem). And in the other reading, the word ‘clouds’ can be read as the first word in each of the three lines (repeated at the start of each).