Mestizo Skies — Translator’s Introduction
Madeleine Stratford

In English, the book’s title needed to have a multilingual feel, as not only the poems’ content is cross-cultural, but also their language. Indeed, Desjardins’ French is sprinkled with foreign words and song lyrics, mostly English or Spanish, but also German and Italian. In these poems, the author takes us all over the world, from downtown Montreal to Katmandu, through Paris, London, Prague, Giza, Buenos Aires, and Mexico, yet she always brings us back to her native Rouyn-Noranda. Memories of her childhood, especially of her father and mother, pervade the narrative. All buses and all roads inevitably lead to Abitibi, the region of western Quebec where Desjardins was born. Familiar and unfamiliar cities, villages, forests or deserts merge into one landscape—from within the lyrical I. Everyone she remembers or meets lives beneath the same sun and the same sky, while continents and countries are united from ocean to ocean, from sea to sea. This is representative of most of Desjardins’ work as a poet, but also as a novelist: “As a writer, I am Abitibi and the world,” she said in a recent interview [1]. Distances and time do not matter as we read the universal poems of Mestizo Skies, in whichever language that may be.

I have known Louise Desjardins for quite some time, as we have worked together on the board of the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada. When I read Ciel métissés a few years ago, I immediately fell in love: being a polyglot and a traveller, I could relate to her intercultural, multilingual poems. I spontaneously started translating a few pieces into English, some of which came out in Canadian journals [2]. I am hoping the excerpts published here will spark interest in Desjardins’ work and in Québécois poetry in general.

[1] Marie Christine Bernard, “Le territoire des mots.” https://www.uneq.qc.ca/2016/02/24/marie-christine-bernard-louise-desjardins/.
[2] Desjardins, Louise. At the End of the Highway; Remote Area. TransLit 10. (2015): 22; 24.
Desjardins, Louise. Mestizo Skies (Excerpts). carte blanche 24. (2015).

Madeleine Stratford is a poet, a literary translator, and an associate professor at the Université du Québec en Outaouais. Her French translation of Ce qu’il faut dire a des fissures by Uruguayan poet Tatiana Oroño (Paris, L’Oreille du Loup, 2012) was awarded the 2013 John Glassco Prize by the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada. In 2017, Me Tall You Small, her English translation of Lilli L’Arronge’s Ich groβ, du klein (OwlKids Books, 2017), was shortlisted for the Kirkus Prize. Her translations have also been shortlisted three times for a Governor General award (2016, 2019, and 2021).


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