Noelle accepted Rofel’s invitation to edit the English translations of his poems without hesitation despite the fact that she was not a poet and not a learned speaker and writer of Filipino. Constraints are what allows creativity and often becomes the asset of a creative work. This was the case with Noelle’s translations. Because she was not a poet nor a learned Filipino writer and speaker she embraced literalness as a guiding principle in her work.

She followed Ted Hughes’ advice:

The first ideal is literalness, insofar as the original is what we are curious about. The very oddity and struggling dumbness of word-for-word versions is what makes our own imaginations jump. The only justification, it would seem to us, for anything but the most literal of translations is (i) in those cases where the original poetry somehow makes an original and interesting poet of the translator who is not otherwise a poet and (ii) when the translator already is an interesting and orignal poet in his own right and in his version, we are glad to see more of him…

According to Hughes, a word-for-word translation of poems best suits translators who are not poets and whose first language is not English.

Noelle took three months of translating which involves going back and forth to the original poems, the original translations, and her own.

This is how she describes her process:

I returned to a number of poems the way a mother returns to her kitchen because she thinks she’s forgotten to turn off a burner. I switched and changed; I tinkered and fiddled, and then, unexpectedly, a day or two later, I would go right back to my first impulse.


Brion, R. G. (2013). Kapag Natagpuan Kita = Once I Find You. Ateneo de Manila University Press.