Cardboard House Press: bilingual poetry bound by hand 

Not so lost in translation

click to enlarge A book binding session
  • A book binding session

Cristian Medina spends his free time honoring a South American tradition — poetry.

He is one of the editors for Cardboard House Press, a collective that is currently only printing poetry that was originally written in Spanish. Medina is based out of Bloomington, as were the workshops that Cardboard House once held.

Medina is a self-taught book binder, a skill taken from a South American trend of using recycled materials to print books. Medina decided to host a workshop to teach the skill and to bring in some new artwork. Participants (much of the group was children) spent 6-7 sessions creating the cover art for a book of poetry.

click to enlarge Cardboard poetry books being made
  • Cardboard poetry books being made

Cardboard House recently applied for a nonprofit status. It has published five books so far this year and has three more lined up with authors from Peru, Mexico and Uruguay. The first and foremost restriction for their poetry is that it must be in Spanish, but its one of the few small presses in the country that is making sure that each book has the English translation and Spanish original side-by-side.

"Our books can reach any point on this globe," says Medina.

Typically they pair one translator with one author.

click to enlarge Titles with Cardboard House Press
  • Titles with Cardboard House Press

"Normally how it works is there has to be a symbiotic relationship between the author and the translator," says Medina. "... They have to know each other. The translator has to know the work of the poet."

Their niche, says Medina, is anything avant garde, specifically poets with "political and social intentions" or who have a "dialogue with the visual arts, who paint with the language."

Medina has to walk a fine line with each book especially because the poetry is based on the nuances of a language, having it in two has the potential for disconnect and something can get lost in translation.

"On the opposite something is created," says Medina. "It's a new poem."

click to enlarge Titles with Cardboard House Press
  • Titles with Cardboard House Press


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Emily Taylor

Emily Taylor

Emily is the arts editor at NUVO, where she covers everything from visual art to comedy. In fact she is probably at a theater production right now. Before joining the ranks here, she worked for Indianapolis Monthly and Gannett. You can find her thoughts about Indy scattered throughout the NUVO arts section and... more

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