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table of contents

all Your breakers and Your waves

Dahlia Ravikovitch | Mira Revesz

Excerpts from Va où

Valérie Rouzeau | Malika Kadyrova

 

A Tree in Blossom

Xi Murong | Tina Zhu

As I Wait for You

Jiwoo Hwang | Jin Ah Lee

To an Oak

Shu Ting | Johnathan Zeng

Heart-Rind

Mario Benedetti | Rafael Rodriguez

Leaning Into the Afternoons

Pablo Neruda | Naomi Bernstein

I Would Like to Die Before You

Nâzım Hikmet | Keyla Cavdar

Métaphysique des tubes

Amélie Nothomb | Kathleen Zhou

Under One Little Star

Wisława Szymborska | VanJessica Gladney

By the Água Grande

Alda do Espírito Santo | Marisa Bruno

The Paths

Pavel Matev | Mirela Zaneva

Requiem

Anna Akhmatova | Yehudith Dashevsky

Musings: An Exercise in Compromise

an interview with Prof. Suvir Kaul by Shailly Pandey

Excerpt: Then and Today

Excerpt: A New Day Will Dawn

Musings: Notes on the Afterlives

Keyla Cavdar

Cucumber

Nâzım Hikmet | Monica Wojciechowski

The Ninth Letter: On the Platform

Nizar Qabbani | Michael Karam

You Don't Love Me, You Don't Pity Me

Sergei Yesenin | Malika Kadyrova

Under the Custody of Time

Alejandro Zambra | Roberto Rodriguez

Three Sonnets

La Compiuta Donzella | Samantha Pious

Fine Untitled

Wisława Szymborska | Monica Wojciechowski

Clockwork Doll

Dahlia Ravikovitch | Alexandra Pierson

Balcony

Charles Baudelaire | Shilpa Saravanan

Pirate King

François Villon | Samantha Pious

Herzeloyde

Wolfram von Eschenbach | Michaela Kotziers

Azalea

Kim So Wol | DoubleSpeak Editorial Staff

Testament

Maria Luisa Spaziani | Shailly Pandey

Sleeping on a Night of Autumn

Bai Juyi | Jasmine Phun

Salute and Wish

Pier Paolo Pasolini | Stefano Pietrosanti

 

כל משבריך וגליך

דליה רביקוביץ

וְרָאִיתִי אֲנִי אֶת דִּמְעַת הָעֲשׁוּקִים

.הוֹלֶכֶת וּנְמוֹגָה עַל לֶחְיָם

וְרֵיחַ חַרְצִיּוֹת עָלָה מִן הַבְּקָעוֹת

.עִם רֵיחַ שִׁטָּה רַעֲנָן

וּמֵי נְחָלִים הִתְנַפְּצוּ עַל אֲבָנִים

.בְּגַל שֶׁל שִׂמְחָה לְחִנָּם

וְעַל שְׂפַת הַכִּנֶּרֶת הָיוּ מִתְרַחֲצִים

.וְרוּחַ לֹא נָשַׁב עַל הַיָּם

וְלֹא הָיָה מִי שֶׁיֵּלֵךְ עַל הַגַּלִּים

.רַק הָמוֹן סִירוֹת וּמִשְׂחָקִים

.וְרָאִיתִי אֶת דִּמְעַת הָעֲשׁוּקִים

 

מִי שֶׁיִּרְצֶה לָקַחַת מִן הָאוֹר הָאוֹר

.הוּא נַחֲלָתוֹ

וְכָל אִישׁ יִהְיֶה חָפְשִׁי כְּמוֹ עָגוּר

,לָלֶכֶת וְלָבוֹא

מִלְּבַד אֶחָד

.שֶׁהוּא שֶׁלִּי

וְטוֹב לָעֵינַיִם לִרְאוֹת אֶת הָאוֹר

וּמֵי הַנָּהָר כֹּה חָמִים וּמְתוּקִים וְ

דִמְעַת הָעֲשׁוּקִים

.מָרָה

all Your breakers and Your waves

translated by Mira Revesz

and I have seen the tears of the oppressed

dissolving drop by drop on their cheeks –

and the scent of chrysanthemums rose fresh from the valleys

with the fragrance of acacia, opening, awake

and seas of streams shattered themselves upon rocks

in a wave born from unrooted joy –  

and on the shore of the Galilee there were bathers

and no spirit blew across the sea

and nobody walked upon the waves,

only a tumult of boats, scouting and playing.

 

and I will have seen the tears of the oppressor –

if you wish for a piece of Light, the light

is your own.

and each shall be free as a crane

to go and to come,

apart from the one

who’s my own.

and it is good for eyes to behold the light

and the stream of the sea is so warm and sweet and

the tears of oppression

so bitter.

translator's note​

"all Your breakers and Your waves" was originally written in Hebrew by Dahlia Ravikovitch, an Israeli poet and peace activist born in 1936. At the time that Ravikovitch wrote, much of Israeli poetry was written in a mix of Biblical and Modern Hebrew, which meant that although I know no Modern Hebrew, the amount of Biblical Hebrew I’ve learned in the past two years gave me strong basis for understanding the poem.  

 

In my translation, I chose to lift up ambiguities created by considering this text from the viewpoint of Biblical, rather than Modern Hebrew. The first is an ambiguity behind the word העשוקים, which in Modern Hebrew translates more directly to “the oppressed,” but in Biblical Hebrew can also simply mean “oppression.” At around the same time I first read this poem, I began working with an activist organization in which we talk about how oppression works as a cycle, in which oppressors dehumanize the oppressed and in doing so become dehumanized themselves, and in which those who have experienced oppression may more easily become oppressors. With this cycle in mind, I chose to translate this word differently each of the three times it appears in this poem – first as oppressed, then as oppressor, and lastly as oppression. As long as oppression exists, no one on any point of the spectrum can be fully human.  The other ambiguity centered around the tense of the verb in the first line of each stanza. In Biblical Hebrew, but not Modern Hebrew, verbs that begin with the prefix “and” oddly switch tense from past to future or vice-versa. This poem is written in the past tense, but because the two lines in question begin with “and,” to a reader of Biblical Hebrew, the tense would seem to be future. I chose to use both tenses, pairing the future, which to me communicates a prophetic yearning, with the translation of העשוקים as “oppressor” because although we may recognize and mourn oppression thousands of times across history, what will bring us true redemption will be reckoning with the oppressor and re-humanizing both sides.

about the poet

DAHLIA RAVIKOVITCH was born in Ramat Gan, Israel, in 1936 and died in Tel Aviv in 2005. She is one of the most well-known contemporary Israeli poets, peace activists and translators, her primary language being Hebrew. Having lost her father at an early age, she spent time in a kibbutz and then at several foster homes. She published her first book of poetry, The Love of an Orange, in 1959. Throughout her lifetime, she published ten volumes of poetry, which were translated into twenty-three languages. She has also translated the works of W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, and Edgar Allen Poe into Hebrew. Many of her poems have been set to song and are well-known radio favorites in Israel.

 

about the translator

MIRA REVESZ is a senior majoring in Adolescent Identity Development at Swarthmore College. She fell in love with poetry when she first read Edna St. Vincent Millay’s work at age 13. At age 19, she alarmed surrounding passengers on a plane when she cried for an hour after reading that Millay died at the end of her biography (not a surprise ending). Mira entered the wild and contentious world of translation through a translation course at Penn, which was the best gateway she could have hoped for.

Capri, Italy. Photo by Shailly Pandey

 

Extraits de Va où

Valérie Rezeau

Quand je passerai je voudrais bien avoir de ma vie fait mon tour

Aimé aimé gratuitement passionnément et pas du tout aimé sans fin jusqu'au bout

Et encore maintenant toujours

Pour quand je m’en irai dormir comme il faut je rêve tous les rêves

J’envisage toutes les figures qu’elles rient rondes ou carrées ou pleuvent

***

Je me défends parce que je ne suis pas dure

Je me défends pour toi moi nous vous ils

Tout ce qui tire sur ma corde sensible pour me secouer

J’ai fait la liste des choses à oublier nous ne manquerons de rien

Les cloches pourront sonner au cou de la vie vache nous aurons le vin fou nous aurons le temps gai

Excerpts from Va où

translated by Malika Kadyrova

When I go I’d like to have to have had my turn at my life

Loved to have loved freely passionately and not at all to have loved endlessly to the end

And still holding forever

Since when I leave to go to bed as I should I dream all the dreams

I picture all the faces they’re laughing round square or raining

***

I fight back because I am not tough

I fight back for you me us you they

Everything that pushes pulls on my heartstrings to undo me

I’ve made a list of things to forget we’ll want for nothing

The bells can ring on this dog’s life we’ll have our fool’s wine we’ll have a good time

translator's note​

I have chosen particularly short excerpts here; these five-line extracts are tiny roller coasters, especially considering Rouzeau’s tendency to forgo punctuation in order to create overlapping phrases within phrases. An interesting moment for me was in grappling with Rouzeau’s bells that could “sonner au cou de la vie vache.” I had initially seen the bells as ringing “until the cows come home,” although that didn’t fully encompass the misery of “la vie vache,” which then became “a dog’s life.”

 

Va où is a sprawling collection, and I am slowly translating and re-translating my way through it. I find that the poems hit me at a different angle every time and I find myself grasping them at different ends, which accounts for my sense of the “maintenant” in “encore maintenant toujours” as being closer—for me—to “holding” than “now.”

about the poet

VALÉRIE ROUZEAU is a French poet and translator. In 2012 she won the Prix Apollinaire for her collection Vrouz. Rouzeau’s poetry is adventurous and passionate; she works with neologisms, puns, and incorporates baby-talk in a fascinating blend of the adult poet’s and the little girl’s voices. Her language comes alive in a powerful stretch that engulfs the reader in emotion.

 

about the translator

MALIKA KADYROVA graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015 with a major in Comparative Literature and minors in French and Classical Studies. She’s currently at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, wandering along the postgrad brick road in the direction of a career in simultaneous interpretation.

 

《一棵开花的树》

席慕容

如何让你遇见我

在我最美丽的时刻 为这

我已在佛前 求了五百年

求佛让我们结这一段尘缘

 

佛于是把我变成一棵树

长在你必经的路边

阳光下慎重地开满花朵

朵朵都是我前世的企盼

 

当你走近 请你细听

那颤抖的叶是我等待的热情

而当你终于无视地走过

在你身后落了一地的

朋友啊 那不是花瓣

是我凋零的心

A Tree in Blossom

translated by Tina Zhu

how can I let you come across me

in the moment I am most beautiful?        for this,

I have stood before the Buddha      pleaded for five hundred years

pleading for him to tie our earthly bonds together

 

and so the Buddha turned me into a tree

growing beside the path traced by your fate

now I flower fully in the sunlight

each blossom a longing from an old life

 

when you come close        please, listen carefully

that trembling of leaves is the passion I wait with

and when at long last you pass by, unknowing

what falls and covers the ground behind you
 

oh, my friend        those are not petals

they are my heart, withered away

translator's note​

In translating Xi Murong’s most famous poem, my aim was to maintain the naturalness of the diction in the original without diminishing its sense of spirituality and emotion. In addition to deciding not to capitalize lines or add in more punctuation, I also kept the occasional extra spaces in the original, which I felt created more natural pauses without disrupting the flow of the poem. I wanted to capture the quiet desperation beneath her religious language and gorgeous imagery without veering into melodrama. It was a difficult balancing act, especially in the final two lines, where the speaker exclaims (or maybe sighs?) directly to the addressee with such vulnerability.

about the poet

XI MURONG, born in 1943, is a well-known Chinese poet and painter who comes from inner Mongolia and has ties to Taiwan. She is most famous for her poetry collections Seven-li Scent and Unregrettable Youth. Her style is subtle yet uninhibited, profound yet unpretentious, and deeply moving.  Her work is influenced by ancient Eastern philosophy, and it often contains religious undercurrents that evoke the impermanence of human existence.

 

about the translator

TINA ZHU is a senior at Swarthmore College studying cognitive and computer science. She grew up in Churchville, Pennsylvania, and Shanghai, China. She plays badminton, though not well, writes poetry and translations, and enjoys Girl Scout cookies and “The Office.”

Poland. Photo by Natalia Pleśniak

 

너를 기다리는 동안

황지우

네가 오기로 한 그 자리에

내가 미리 가 너를 기다리는 동안

다가오는 모든 발자국은

내 가슴에 쿵쿵거린다

바스락 거리는 나뭇잎 하나도 내게로 온다

기다려본 적이 있는 사람은 안다

세상에서 기다리는 일처럼 가슴 에리는 일이 있을까

네가 오기로 한 그 자리, 네가 미리 와 있는 이곳에서

문을 열고 들어오는 모든 사람이

너였다가

너였다가, 너일 것이었다가

다시 문이 닫힌다

사랑하는 이여

오지 않는 너를 기다리며

나는 마침내 너에게로 간다

아주 먼 곳에서 나는 너에게 가고

아주 오랜 세월을 다하여 너는 지금 오고 있다

아주 먼데서 지금도 천천히 오고 있는 너를

너를 기다리는 동안 나도 가고 있다

남들이 열고 들어온 문을 통해

내 가슴에 쿵쿵거리는 모든 발자국을 따라

너를 기다리는 동안 나는 너에게 가고 있다

(1990년作 시집 '게 눈 속의 연꽃' 수록)

As I Wait for You

translated by Jin Ah Lee

As I arrive early and wait for you

at the place where you promised to be,

every step that approaches

strums my heart.

Even a rustling leaf steps toward me.

Anyone who has waited for someone knows

that there is nothing in this world that makes one's heart ache as much.

Every person who opens the door and walks in,

into the place where you promised, where I arrived early,

was you,

probably you, perhaps you,

then the door closes again.

My beloved,

as I wait for you who do not come,

I come toward you at last.

I come toward you from a very far place,

and now you come toward me, as you have for a very long time.

As you approach from far away, slowly even at this very moment,

I come closer to you as I wait for you.

Through the door that others opened,

tracing every step that strums my heart,

I come closer to you as I wait for you.

translator's note​

Some poems are devised while others are improvised. This poem is the latter. In an interview, Hwang revealed that he wrote the poem in five minutes when his journalist friend asked him to write a piece for a teen magazine. Although he forgot about writing the poem, it became one of his best-known works after being recited on a radio show. The poet himself was ashamed of the poem for a while because of its “cheesiness,” but many readers could certainly relate to the excitement and frustration of waiting for someone or something dearly, and saw themselves in his writing. As you know, not all literature needs to be sophisticated. Some just brings you back to a different time and a different space.

about the poet

HWANG JI WOO is a famous twentieth-century poet from South Korea. He developed an interest in poetry while majoring in Aesthetics and Philosophy at notable universities, Seoul National University and Sogang University. After fulfilling his mandatory military duty, he was expelled from university for participating in political protests against the Korean government. His political activism influenced his writing deeply, which is apparent in some of his more politically conscious poems. His poems are also influenced by Buddhist philosophy, which is most likely as a result of his Philosophy studies at Sogang University. He was one of the leading figures of deconstruction poetry movement in Korea in 1980s because of his unique use of satire and depiction of absurdity through experimental approaches. However, he was appreciated by the general public more for his talent in grasping ordinary moments with fine sensitivity, and this poem exemplifies this.

 

about the translator

JIN AH LEE is a graduate of the Integrated Product Design Program at Penn and is currently working as a startup consultant in Los Angeles. She has always been interested in learning new languages, and she considers language not only as a medium through which to communicate but one that expands her horizons. As a child, she learned English by singing Disney songs, and now thanks DoubleSpeak for helping her continue to revisit her passion for cross-cultural connection through her contribution to the magazine.

 

致橡树

舒婷

我如果爱你——

绝不像攀援的凌霄花,

借你的高枝炫耀自己;
 

我如果爱你——

绝不学痴情的鸟儿,

为绿荫重复单调的歌曲;
 

也不止像泉源,

常年送来清凉的慰藉;

也不止像险峰,

增加你的高度,衬托你的威仪。

甚至日光,

甚至春雨。

不,这些都还不够!
 

我必须是你近旁的一株木棉,

作为树的形象和你站在一起。

根,紧握在地下;

叶,相触在云里。

每一阵风过,

我们都互相致意,

但没有人,

听懂我们的言语。
 

你有你的铜枝铁干,

像刀,像剑,也像戟;

我有我红硕的花朵,

像沉重的叹息,

又像英勇的火炬。

我们分担寒潮、风雷、霹雳;

我们共享雾霭、流岚、虹霓。

仿佛永远分离,

却又终身相依。
 

这才是伟大的爱情,

坚贞就在这里:

爱——

不仅爱你伟岸的身躯,

也爱你坚持的位置,

足下的土地。

To an Oak

translated by Johnathan Zheng

If I love you –

I’ll never resemble a trumpet vine,

borrowing your branches to flaunt myself;

 

If I love you –

I’ll never imitate a lovebird,

repeating songs for cool shade;

 

and more than a wellspring,

providing solace year-round;

and more than a mountain peak,

lifting your outlines, proclaiming your majesty;

even sunlight

even spring showers;

no, these are not enough!

 

I have to be a kapok tree by your side,

standing with you, vivid.

Roots, clasp firmly underneath;

Leaves, touch the clouds together.

With every passing gust of wind,

we nod to each other,

and no one

can catch what we are saying.

 

You, with your copper branches and iron trunk

like knives, swords, and halberds.

I, with my red-hot flowers

like heavy sighs,

gallant beacons.

 

We share the burden of cold, thunder, and lightning.

We share the joy of fog, mist, and sun rays.

Forever seeming separate,

yet harmonious. Root-bound.

 

This is the greatest love of all,

faithful throughout:

Love –

I love not only your steadfast stature,

but also your enduring state.

The land beneath you.

translator's note​

Shu Ting is known to be a very private individual; her poetry is the primary way she expresses herself. I chose this poem because I really love the imagery and the challenges associated with translating such rich details. Some have said that this poem represents a young woman's love.

about the poet

SHU TING, born in 1952, is a famous Chinese poet. She grew up during the Cultural Revolution, a movement that called for the destruction of the “Four Olds,” one of these four being culture. Forced to work in a factory, she rebelled against the government by writing poetry. Her reputation grew through poems she published from 1969 and onward in the underground journal Jintian (Today). Shu Ting came to be associated with what we know as “The Misty School” of Chinese poets, so named by the government for their obscure or “misty” qualities but now one of the most internationally acclaimed movements in modern Chinese literature. She was eventually invited to join the official Chinese Writers’ Association, and she won the National Outstanding Poetry Award in both 1981 and in 1983.

 

about the translator

JOHNATHAN ZENG is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania who studied bioengineering. Currently, he is in China working on a project analyzing the risk factors of lung cancer for ethnic minorities.

 

Corazón coraza

Mario Benedetti

Porque te tengo y no

porque te pienso

porque la noche está de ojos abiertos

porque la noche pasa y digo amor

porque has venido a recoger tu imagen

y eres mejor que todas tus imágenes

porque eres linda desde el pie hasta el alma

porque eres buena desde el alma a mí

porque te escondes dulce en el orgullo

pequeña y dulce

corazón coraza

 

porque eres mía

porque no eres mía

porque te miro y muero

y peor que muero

si no te miro amor

si no te miro

 

porque tú siempre existes dondequiera

pero existes mejor donde te quiero

porque tu boca es sangre

y tienes frío

tengo que amarte amor

tengo que amarte

aunque esta herida duela como dos

aunque te busque y no te encuentre

y aunque

la noche pase y yo te tenga

y no.

Heart-rind

translated by Rafael Rodriguez 

Because I have you and don’t

because I feel you

because tonight is open eyed

because tonight draws breath and I exhale you

because you’re hunting for your image

and you are haunted by all of your images

because you’re lovely from sole to soul

because you’re kind from your soul to me

because you stumble soft beneath your pride

helpless

sweet

heart-rind

 

because you’re mine

because you’re not mine

because I look at you and die and worse than die

if I don’t look at you love

 

because you always exist wherever

but you exist better where I love you

because your lips are blood

and you’re shivering

 

I have to love you love

I have to love you

even if this wound hurts like two

even if I search and never find you

and even if these nights should pass

and I have you

and don't.

translator's note​

Translating "Corazón coraza" was like coming up against the first experience of a feeling that I have since sought and reveled in many times hence. It was one of the first poems I ever recall reading, probably the first one I took seriously. I remember feeling it was a very inviting read, since not only does it take, in my opinion, a very positive stand on its subject matter, but more importantly, it features a great example of Benedetti’s trademark simplicity and wordplay, which my thirteen-or-so-year-old self must have thought both invitingly clever and useful to canalize my feelings (I’m sure Benedetti was also a romantic at thirteen).

 

Benedetti writes in layers, small thoughts and images always in dialogue, usually in one direction, one with the next. The bridge of communication between these layers is where the main idea nurtures and develops. At the end of the poem, you get a feeling that the message is like a staircase of bridges, invisible climbing (or descending) steps found between each visible line. He may start from the outside and make his way in, or he may start with the source and finish almost as a spectator to his own craft. To offer just one example of this in "Corazón coraza," we may note how he sets his tone with the first lines “porque te tengo y no/porque te pienso” (because I have you and don’t/because I feel you), and then, like layers, he uses a simple image to add depth in the succeeding lines: “porque la noche está de ojos abiertos/porque la noche pasa y digo amor” (literal translation: because night is open-eyed/because night passes and I say love). Clearly, a literal translation doesn’t fully evoke the original image, especially because “love” and “amor” have a one-hundred-years-of-solitude gap’s worth of history and meaning between them, to say the least, as far as Benedetti is concerned. It certainly felt incomplete, but it wasn’t until I had finished translating everything that I was able to notice this. My point here is that it was very hard for me to write the translation the way that Benedetti wrote the original (with the one-directional layers and the overall metaphor that builds in between), so instead, I chose to make it more explicit, such as ‘because the night draws breath and I exhale you,’ which is an idea you only fully acquire in the original when you get to the very end of the poem “y aunque/la noche pase y yo te tenga/y no” and are able to fully comprehend the metaphorical and sensorial meanings of “night” as Benedetti intended them.

 

On a last note, probably one of the most difficult parts of the process was coming up with a decent title (“coraza” is very loose to translate, and is just a very transmutable and widely metaphorized word in Spanish. It also sounds very un-poetic in English). Some very poor examples I went through: heart-cuirass, heart-bark, heart-armor, paper-heart (I was desperate at this point), and a couple more not even worth mentioning. Then the ingenious Emma Hirvisalo came up with Rind-heart, (Rind! Amazing!), which I modified to Heart-rind to adjust for rhythm, and I can’t even describe the perfect puzzle-fit giddiness I felt at that point. So thanks again, Emma, wherever you currently find yourself in your perfect eureka word pitch translation crusade.

 

Editor’s Note: Emma was a Finnish exchange student at the University of Pennsylvania. She and Rafa took a translation course together. 

about the poet

MARIO BENEDETTI (1920–2009) was an Uruguayan writer who belonged to the “Generación del 45” (Generation of ’45), known for its close ties to political rife and rising modernist ideas and innovative writing structures. He was a city poet, and his love and concern for Montevideo is found all throughout the colloquial style dialogues he crafted and recreated in both his novels and his poems. His pen is subtle and simple, in many ways he is almost the perfect supporting actor to the themes and personas he wrote about or fictionalized, a quality that perhaps stems from his equally passive manner of approaching arguably volatile themes such as political protest, social injustice, and repressed love. He is not very well known in the English-speaking world, an observation that begs further inquiry as it is inversely proportional to his influence in Latin America with respect to other Hispanic poets that have been much more widely translated. His last poem, which he dictated to his secretary on his deathbed, might evoke a similar idea: "My life has been like a farce / My art has consisted/In this not being noticed too much / I've been as a levitator in my old age / The brown sheen of the tiles / Never came off my skin. Mention Benedetti's name in almost any group in almost any country in Latin America, and a collective cry of delight will ring out. He seems to be able to embody all of the voices whose stories he tells with a deep respect and humility. 

 

about the translator

RAFAEL RODRIGUEZ is a recent Penn graduate currently working at a library café with the purpose of meeting perfect strangers who will teach him things about the world. He loves the ocean, film, poetry, and romanticizing just about everything unintentionally. An avid reader and aspiring writer, you can almost always find him running whilst daydreaming in the mornings, feigning adventures and escapades in the early afternoons, and drinking draft beers in near absolute concentration by night.

 

Poema XVII

Pablo Neruda

Inclinado en las tardes tiro mis tristes redes

a tus ojos oceánicos.

 

Allí se estira y arde en la más alta hoguera

mi soledad que da vueltas los brazos como un náufrago

 

Hago rojas señales sobre tus ojos ausentes

que olean como el mar a la orilla de un faro.

 

Sólo guardas tinieblas, hembra distante y mía,

de tu mirada emerge a veces la costa del espanto.

 

Inclinado a las tardes echo mis tristes redes

a ese mar que sacude tus ojos oceánicos.

 

Los pájaros nocturnos picotean las primeras estrellas

que centellean como mi alma cuando te amo.

 

Galopa la noche en su yegua sombría

desparramando espigas azules sobre el campo.

Leaning Into the Afternoons

translated by Naomi Bernstein 

Leaning into the afternoons I toss my weary nets

to your eyes, they are oceans.

 

There the nets stretch and flare in a tall fire,

my loneliness thrashes with arms like a man drowning.

 

I send red signals toward your absent eyes

that drift like the sea to the shore of the lighthouse.

 

But you guard only darkness, distant girl of mine,

and from your gaze rises a shore of fear sometimes.

 

Leaning into the afternoons I toss my weary nets

to this sea that shakes your eyes, they are oceans.

 

The nocturnal birds peck the first stars

that shine like my soul when I love you.

 

The night gallops on its mare of shadow

scattering blue wheat over the field.

translator's note​

After immersing myself in Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and A Song of Despair, my outlook on the state of modern love became exceedingly cynical. Neruda was twenty years old when he wrote his book of love poems, and in it he demonstrates a respect and passion for women that most contemporary men won’t reach in a lifetime. I translated Neruda to combat ‘locker room banter’ and the harmful rhetoric toward women that has been normalized in our society.

 

My goal was to maintain a level of fluidity here that will inevitably fail in comparison to Neruda’s rhythm. Spanish can roll in a way that English doesn’t, but it was essential to me that the language I chose be smoothas a net tossed over the ocean. This is especially difficult because part of the smoothness of Spanish comes from the order in which sentences are arranged; it’s vastly different from English syntax. I’m proud of the way this translation reads within the confines of the English language.

about the poet

PABLO NERUDA was an internationally renowned Chilean poet and politician. He was born in 1904 in Parral, Chile, and he wrote in his native Spanish. Especially prolific, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. His strong commitment to the Communist Party had significant influence on his poetry, though he wrote about a variety of subjects, from ordinary human existence and love to world events. Neruda often drew on surrealism, political manifestos, and historical epics for inspiration. Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez described Neruda as "the greatest poet of the twentieth century in any language."

about the translator

NAOMI BERNSTEIN is a student at the University of Pennsylvania studying English and Creative Writing. She was recently honored by the Ezra Pound Award for her translation of Gabriel Mistral’s “Set Free” and she was awarded third place for the Judy Lee Award for Dramatic Writing for her short play, "Virtual Snow."

Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Naomi Bernstein

 

Ben Senden Önce Ölmek İsterim

Nâzım Hikmet

Ben 
senden önce ölmek isterim. 
Gidenin arkasından gelen 
gideni bulacak mı zannediyorsun? 
Ben zannetmiyorum bunu. 
İyisi mi, beni yaktırırsın, 
odanda ocağın üstüne korsun 
içinde bir kavanozun. 
Kavanoz camdan olsun, 
şeffaf, beyaz camdan olsun 
ki içinde beni görebilesin... 
Fedakârlığımı anlıyorsun: 
vazgeçtim toprak olmaktan, 
vazgeçtim çiçek olmaktan 
senin yanında kalabilmek için. 
Ve toz oluyorum 
yaşıyorum yanında senin. 
Sonra, sen de ölünce 
kavanozuma gelirsin. 
Ve orda beraber yaşarız 
külümün içinde külün, 
ta ki bir savruk gelin 
yahut vefasız bir torun 
bizi ordan atana kadar... 
Ama biz 
o zamana kadar 
o kadar 
karışacağız 
ki birbirimize, 
atıldığımız çöplükte bile zerrelerimiz 
yan yana düşecek. 
Toprağa beraber dalacağız. 
Ve bir gün yabani bir çiçek 
bu toprak parçasından nemlenip filizlenirse 
sapında muhakkak 
iki çiçek açacak: 
biri sen 
biri de ben. 
Ben 
daha ölümü düşünmüyorum. 
Ben daha bir çocuk doğuracağım. 
Hayat taşıyor içimden. 
Kaynıyor kanım. 
Yaşayacağım, ama çok, pek çok, 
ama sen de beraber. 
Ama ölüm de korkutmuyor beni. 
Yalnız pek sevimsiz buluyorum 
bizim cenaze şeklini. 
Ben ölünceye kadar da 
bu düzelir herhalde. 
Hapisten çıkmak ihtimalin var mı bu günlerde? 
İçimden bir şey: 
belki diyor. 

18 Şubat 1945

I Would Like to Die Before You

translated by Keyla Cavdar

I

would like to die before you.

Do you suppose the one who comes

behind will find the one who goes?

I don’t suppose so.

Better, you’ll have me burned,

you’ll put me on the stove in your kitchen

inside a pot.

Let the pot be glass,

translucent, white glass

so you see me inside…

You see my sacrifice:

I’ve surrendered being earth,

I’ve surrendered being a flower

to stay beside you.

And I’m disappearing into dust

I’m living beside you.

Then, when you die

you can come to my pot.

And we’ll live there together

in my ashes your ashes,

until a careless bride

or an ungrateful grandchild

throws us out…

But we

until then

will have so completely

mixed

into each other,

that even in the dump we’re tossed in, our bits

will fall side by side.

We’ll scatter into the soil together.

And if one day a wild flower

moistens and buds through this soil

surely in its stem

two flowers will bloom:

You one,

I the other.

I don’t think of death yet.

I will give birth to a child.

Life is overflowing from me.

I am full of life.

I will live, but for a long time, very long,

but you will also live with me.

But death doesn’t scare me either.

Though I find the manner of our funeral

quite unpleasant.

And until I die,

this will change I suppose.

Is there a chance you’ll get out of prison one of these days?

Something inside me

says maybe.

 

February 18th 1945

translator's note​

Nâzım Hikmet has a special place in my heart that I hadn’t realized before. I was reintroduced to his poetry last spring, through a translation class. I had never considered how strange it is to translate from your mother tongue, how cautious and intimate the experience is. There are definitely things that I find untranslatable, especially between Turkish and English, and Hikmet has a peculiar language of his own that I have not quite figured out how to define. It’s hard to let go of words that, to me, mean so much, and having to find those words in English can feel impossible from time to time. In “I Would Like to Die Before You,” I wanted to get through the sensation of a daydream; how images can seem so real in your head yet they also feel so unattainable. It’s tough to stay loyal to the original as you can say things in Turkish with so few words sometimes, but in English things multiply. I love the part about the translucent pot on the stove, and I hope I was able to bring that image a little closer. In the end everything still seems untranslatable, but I think the in-between created through translation has a life of its own, and is constantly moving and changing.

about the poet

NÂZIM HIKMET (19021963) was a Turkish poet, playwright, and revolutionary figure. He is considered Turkey's first modern poet and was influenced by the Russian Futurist movement. Hikmet was jailed in Turkey for long periods of time for writing what the government claimed was revolutionary poetry. In 1950, Hikmet started a hunger strike protesting the Turkish government's failure to include an amnesty law in its agenda. Later that year, Hikmet received the International Peace Prize. After his final release from prison, Hikmet moved to the Soviet Union. He continues to be revered by Turkish youth as the voice of revolution. 

about the translator

KEYLA CAVDAR is a student at the University of Pennsylvania studying English and Fine Arts. She was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, and moved to Philadelphia in 2014. She was reintroduced to revolutionary Turkish poet Nâzım Hikmet in a translation class last spring, and his work made it possible for her to understand not only the current political climate in Turkey, but also the implications of losing one’s country and language. Translation enabled her to dwell in the space between her mother tongue, Turkish, and her second language, English. Exploring the space between these languages brought about a consciousness of distance, which she writes about in "Notes on the Afterlives."

 

Métaphysique des tubes

Amélie Nothomb

Un jour, ma mère arriva dans le salon avec un animal à long cou dont la queue mince et longue terminait dans une prise de courant. Elle poussa un bouton et la bête amorça une plainte régulière et ininterrompue. La tête se mit à bouger sur le sol en un mouvement de va-et-vient qui entraînait le bras de Maman derrière elle. Parfois le corps avançait sur ses pattes qui étaient des roulettes.

 

Ce n’était pas la première fois que je voyais un aspirateur mais je n’avais pas encore réfléchi à sa condition. Je m’approchai de lui à quatre pattes pour être à sa hauteur ; je savais qu’il fallait toujours être à la hauteur de ce que l’on examinait. Je suivis sa tête et posai ma joue sur le tapis pour observer ce qui se passait. Il y avait un miracle : l’appareil avalait les réalités matérielles qu’il rencontrait et les transformait en inexistence.

Il remplaçait le quelque chose par le rien : cette substitution ne pouvait être qu’œuvre divine.

[…]

 

Sans plus attendre, j’ouvris la bouche et je scandai les quatre syllabes : « Aspirateur! »

Un instant interdite, ma mère lâcha le cou du tuyau et courut téléphoner à mon père :

   

    —Elle a dit son troisième mot !

    —C’est quoi ?

    —Aspirateur !

    —Bien. Nous en ferons une ménagère accomplie.

Il devait être un peu déçu.

 

J’avais fait très fort pour le troisième mot ; je pouvais dès lors me permettre d’être moins existentielle pour le quatrième. Estimant que ma sœur, de deux ans et demi mon aînée, était une bonne personne, j’élus son prénom.

 

   —Juliette ! clamai-je en la regardant dans les yeux.

 

Le langage a des pouvoirs immenses : à peine avais-je prononcé à haute voix ce nom que nous nous prîmes l’une pour l’autre d’une folle passion. Ma sœur me saisit entre ses bras et me serra. Tel le philtre d’amour de Tristan et Iseult, le mot nous avait unies pour toujours.

Il était hors de question que je choisisse pour cinquième vocable le prénom de mon frère, de quatre ans mon aîné : ce mauvais sujet avait passé un après-midi assis sur ma tête à lire un Tintin. Il adorait me persécuter. Pour le punir, je ne le nommerai pas. Ainsi il n’existerait pas tellement.

Vivait avec nous Nishio-san, ma gouvernante japonaise. Elle était la bonté même et me dorlotait pendant des heures. Elle ne parlait aucune autre langue que la sienne. Je comprenais tout ce qu’elle disait. Mon cinquième mot fut donc nippon puisque je la nommai.

 

J’avais déjà donné leur nom à quatre personnes : à chaque fois cela les rendait si heureuses que je ne doutais pas de l’importance de la parole : elle prouvait aux individus qu’ils étaient là. J’en conclus qu’ils n’en n’étaient pas sûrs. Ils avaient besoin de moi pour le savoir.

Métaphysique des tubes

translated by Kathleen Zhou

One day, my mother appeared in the living room alongside a long-necked animal with a slim and long tail ending in a power outlet. She pressed a button and the creature emitted a long and uninterrupted whine. Its head moved close to the ground, in a back-and-forth manner that dragged Mama’s arms behind her. Sometimes, its body advanced on its paws, which were small wheels.

It was not the first time that I had seen a vacuum cleaner, but I had not yet reflected on its condition. I approached it on all fours to be at its level; I knew you should always be at the same level as the subject being examined. I followed its head and rested my cheek on the carpet to observe what was happening. Then there was a miracle: the creature swallowed the material entities it encountered and made them nonexistent.

It was replacing something by nothing: this substitution could only be divine work.

 

[…]

Without further ado, I opened my mouth and I chanted the four syllables: “Vacuum cleaner!”

Speechless, my mother dropped the hose’s neck and ran to telephone my father:

“She just said her third word!”

“What is it?”

“Vacuum cleaner!”

“Good. We’ll make an accomplished housewife out of her.”

My father must’ve been a little disappointed.

I had surpassed myself for the third word; I therefore allowed myself to be less existential for the fourth. Deciding that my sister, two years and a half my elder, was a good person, I elected to say her name.

“Juliette!” I clamored on seeing her in front of my eyes.

Language has immense powers: I had barely said her name aloud when we felt a crazy passion for one another. My sister seized me in her arms and hugged me tight.  Like the love potion of Tristan and Iseult, the word had united us forever.

It was out of the question that I’d choose the name of my brother, four years my elder, as my fifth word: that nasty piece of work had passed one afternoon sitting on my head while reading a Tintin. He adored persecuting me. As punishment, I would not name him. And so he did not really exist.

Nishio-san, my Japanese nanny, lived with us. She was kindness itself and coddled me for hours. She did not speak any other language but her own. I understood everything she said. My fifth word was Japanese because I chose Nishio-san’s name.

I had already named four people. Every time it rendered them so happy that I never doubted the importance of speech: it proved to people that they existed. I concluded that they weren’t entirely sure of it. They needed me to tell them.

translator's note​

I translated this snippet of Amélie Nothomb's autobiographical novel Métaphysique des tubes for a French-to-English translation course I audited while abroad in Lyon, France. I remember this particular excerpt fondly for two reasons: a) as one of the first pieces I worked on, it required Google Translate every third word or so, which is a useful ego check; and b) Nothomb's irreverent aside masks a deeper understanding of the power of language. Language is a crude tool to communicate indescribable meanings. To name something is to recognize it (and its existence), but also to depict a whole, complex system of emotions (kinship, love, disdain, etc). This excerpt captures both that crudeness and complexity of language.

about the author

AMÉLIE NOTHOMB is a Belgian writer who works in French prose.  Growing up, she has lived in Japan, China, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. Stylistically, her writing is at the crossroads of medieval Japanese literature and Western literature. Principal themes in her work are the human condition and the role of the writer in a story. Some of her works, including “Métaphysique des Tubes,” feature an autobiographical element with the narrator as the principal character. She has received numerous awards and recognitions for her works, including the Grand Prix du Roman from the Academie Française and an appointment to the Belgian Royal Academy of French Language and Literature.  

about the translator

KATHLEEN ZHOU is a senior in the Wharton School and regrets it only 40 percent of the time.

 

Pod jedną gwiazdką

Wisława Szymborska

Przepraszam przypadek, że nazywam go koniecznością.

Przepraszam konieczność, jeśli jednak się mylę.

Niech się nie gniewa szczęście, że biorę je jak swoje.

Niech mi zapomną umarli, że ledwie tlą się w pamięci.

Przepraszam czas za mnogość przeoczonego świata na sekundę.

Przepraszam dawną miłość, że nową uważam za pierwszą.

Wybaczcie mi, dalekie wojny, że noszę kwiaty do domu.

Wybaczcie, otwarte rany, że kłuję się w palec.

 

Przepraszam wołających z otchłani za płytę z menuetem.

Przepraszam ludzi na dworcach za sen o piątej rano.

Daruj, szczuta nadziejo, że śmieję się czasem.

Darujcie mi, pustynie, że z łyżką wody nie biegnę.

 

I ty, jastrzębiu, od lat ten sam, w tej samej klatce,

zapatrzony bez ruchu zawsze w ten sam punkt,

odpuść mi, nawet gdybyś był ptakiem wypchanym.

Przepraszam ścięte drzewo za cztery nogi stołowe.

 

Przepraszam wielkie pytania za małe odpowiedzi.

Prawdo, nie zwracaj na mnie zbyt bacznej uwagi.

Powago, okaż mi wspaniałomyślność.

Ścierp, tajemnico bytu, że nie mogę być wszędzie.

 

Przepraszam wszystkich, że nie mogę być każdym i każdą.

Wiem, że póki żyję, nic mnie nie usprawiedliwia,

ponieważ sama sobie stoję na przeszkodzie.

 

Nie miej mi za złe, mowo, że pożyczam patetycznych słów,

a potem trudu dokładam, żeby wydały się lekkie.

Under One Little Star

translated by VanJessica Gladney

I’m sorry, Coincidence, for calling you Necessity.

Necessity, I’ll say sorry - just in case I’m wrong.

Happiness, forgive me when I take you as my own.

May the dead I don’t remember forgive that I forget.

I’m sorry, Time, for the seconds I’ve missed.

I’m sorry, Loves of Old, for treating New as First.

Forgive me, way-off wars, for bringing home lilies.

Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.

To those shouting to be heard, I’m sorry for listening to Drake instead.

To those on trains at 5 a.m., I’m sorry for sleeping through the morning.

Heckled Hope, forgive me for my loud bursts of laughter.

Dry deserts, I didn’t mean to hog all the water.

And you, Sir Hawk, grand bird, in your grand cage,

in your same spot, with your same stare,

Forgive me.

I’m sorry, Trees. I sit at four-legged tables.

I’m sorry, Long Questions, for my short replies.

Ignore me, Truth.

Be gentle, Gravity.

Forgive me, Ms. Mystery of Being, while I pluck the threads of your veil.

Soul, don’t blame me for losing you so often.

I’m sorry to Everything that I can’t be Everywhere.

I’m sorry to Everybody that I can’t be Everyone.

I know I won’t be excused, not as long as I live,

because I keep tripping on my untied shoelaces.

But Speech, I beg you pardon me when I borrow weighty words,

and later labor to make them light.

translator's note​

I reviewed several other translations of this poem, and then a classmate who spoke Polish and loved Szymborska helped me with a more direct translation of the original. After researching the author and executing some poetic license, I wrote my translation.

about the poet

WISŁAWA SZYMBORSKA (1923–2012) was a Polish poet whose poetry is known for its layers of profundity under a lighthearted and witty surface. She lived in Krakow, Poland most of her life and wrote about the Polish countryside and historical events of the time. Her poetry is well-known internationally and has been translated into multiple languages. In 1996, Szymborska received the Nobel Prize for Literature and delivered a famous speech about poetry as a profession and the irony that that statement implies.

about the translator

VANJESSICA GLADNEY has lived in Georgia, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Massachusetts, and now Philadelphia. She is a third-year student at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is an English major. She has a gorgeous and very beloved cat named Prism.

Poland. Photo by Natalia Pleśniak

 

Lá no Água Grande

Alda do Espírito Santo

Lá no <<Água Grande>> a caminho da roça negritas batem que batem co’a roupa na pedra. Batem e cantam modinhas da terra.

Cantam e riem em riso de mofa histórias contadas, arrastadas pelo vento.

Riem alto de rijo, com a roupa na pedra e pōem de branco a roupa lavada.

As crianças brincam e a água canta. Brincam na água felizes... Velam no capim um negrito pequenino.

E os gemidos cantados das negritas lá do rio ficam mudos lá na hora do regresso... Jazem quedos no regresso para a roça.

By the Água Grande

translated by Marisa Bruno

Bound for the fields, by Água Grande*,

Black women beat and beat cloth against stone.

They beat and sing songs of their home.

They sing and laugh laughs full of scorn,

Tell stories... tossed into wind.

Strongly they laugh, keeping cloth against stone,

Turning to white the cloth that they clean.

The children play! And the waters sing!

The children in gay waters play...

Keeping baby black boy in the reeds.

...

The cries that the black women by the river sing

Go quiet at the hour of return... Fall still returning to the fields.

*The Água Grande River runs through São Tomé’s most populated province, which is also called Água Grande.

translator's note​

I have made what feel like thousands of attempts to properly translate Alda do Espírito Santo’s “Lá no Água Grande,” and have failed in each of them. But, here, I submit one such attempt for publication in the hopes that my translation can help shed light on this important woman poet.

about the poet

ALDA DO ESPÍRITO SANTO, as both writer and government leader, played an essential role in São Tomé and Príncipe’s transition to independence from Portugal. She writes as a woman, to women and for women, presenting her readers with images of strong women who have the power to liberate the islands from Portuguese colonial oppression. Despite her privileged upbringing, she dedicates her words to the working class women of the islands who carried, both figuratively and literally, the future of the islands on their backs. The women she describes in poems like “By the Água Grande” are mothers, workers, and, most importantly, fighters.

Alda do Espírito Santo’s poetry, which so lauded the islands’ women, celebrated and nourished a culture that relied on the power and strength of women. It points to the many ways in which women poets in Africa have played—and still play—an important role as agents for change in the liberated Portuguese colonies. Despite her influence in São Tomé, her poetry, like that of most Lusophone African (and especially women) writers, has been relegated to the periphery of post-colonial studies.

about the translator

MARISA BRUNO wrote her senior thesis on Alda do Espírito Santo, hoping to bring some attention to two marginalized categories of Lusophone (Portuguese-language) writers: African Lusophone writers, and women Lusophone writers. She was a Portuguese target in the Huntsman Program and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in May 2016.

 

Пътеките

от Павел Матев

 

Пътеките, пътеките на птиците,

на полуделите треви,

останаха зад нас, уви!

И в твоите сълзи -

по ресниците.

 

Самотното ни връщане

не ще ни отведе далеч.

О, те останаха без реч

от страстни ветрове прегръщани.

 

Желаното спасение

при спомена се приюти

и с него се загърна ти -

едно невиждано видение.

 

Не ме търси... Не ме търси...

Загинаха сами плачът и любовта.

И оня смях. И радостта.

С пътеките, с пътеките отминаха.

 

Понякога в зениците

ще пламнат с таен зов

ту изгорялата любов

или пътеките на птиците.

The Paths

translated by Mirela Zaneva

The paths, the paths of birds,

of maddened trees,

they have remained behind,

and hidden barely

in your tears.

 

This solitary return

will not return us far.

Oh, these paths have left

without a word, embraced

by ardent winds.

 

And I know you too have embraced

old memories as shelter,

a wanted salvation,

a sight that’s still unseen.

 

Don’t look for me. Don’t look for me…

laments and love have died alone.

And if you think about the laughter

and that joy - it’s with the paths,

with the paths, they passed us by.

 

Only sometimes in your eyes,

a secret call will set alight

perhaps the love that burned,

perhaps the paths,

the paths of birds.

translator's note​

 

My initial steps in translating a given work are attempts to place the poem inside a larger context of the author’s life, views, experiences. Afterwards, I begin with a quick translation, something crude and instantaneous. I focus on the new text and circle, underline, highlight all ideas that come up until there is more ink than words on the page. I then look at the original and take on more edits based on both the rough translation and the original. I rinse and repeat quite a bit over a day or two and then try to forget the whole matter ever happened. When I return to the poem, fresh connections usually appear. So far, this is what I have done with “The Paths.” The current version is still a quite humble attempt to carry over the images from Bulgarian to English. I have recently memorized the poem fully and have created a memory palace of sorts, with the hopes that this will aid me in future revisions.

about the poet

PAVEL MATEV (1924–2006) is celebrated as one of the best lyricists in Bulgarian poetry. Growing up in the countryside, he devoted his work to the study of nature and love, and focused on the quiet, simple beauty of both. He is considered notoriously difficult to translate because his distinct melancholic tone is rooted in his rhyme patterns and heavily embedded in the minimalism and succinctness of his phrases.

about the translator

MIRELA ZANEVA a psychology graduate student at Oxford University, has not counted poetry as central to her academic pursuits. However, after taking a translation class at Penn, her interest in translation and her connection with poetry grew. Nowadays, most of her time goes to applying concepts from game theory to evolutionary models, but translating has become a favorite hobby.

Bulgaria. Photo by Mirela Zaneva

 

Реквием

Анна Ахматова

               Нет, и не под чуждым небосводом,

               И не под защитой чуждых крыл,-

               Я была тогда с моим народом,

               Там, где мой народ, к несчастью, был.

                                       1961

 

Вместо предисловия

 

В страшные годы ежовщины я провела семнадцать месяцев в тюремных очередях в Ленинграде. Как-то раз кто-то "опознал" меня. Тогда стоящая за мной женщина, которая, конечно, никогда не слыхала моего имени, очнулась от свойственного нам всем оцепенения и спросила меня на ухо (там все говорили шепотом):

    - А это вы можете описать?

    И я сказала:

    - Могу.

Тогда что-то вроде улыбки скользнуло по тому, что некогда было ее лицом.

 

1 апреля 1957, Ленинград

 

II

 

Опять поминальный приблизился час.

Я вижу, я слышу, я чувствую вас:

 

И ту, что едва до окна довели,

И ту, что родимой не топчет земли,

 

И ту, что красивой тряхнув головой,

Сказала: "Сюда прихожу, как домой".

 

Хотелось бы всех поименно назвать,

Да отняли список, и негде узнать.

 

Для них соткала я широкий покров

Из бедных, у них же подслушанных слов.

 

О них вспоминаю всегда и везде,

О них не забуду и в новой беде,

 

И если зажмут мой измученный рот,

Которым кричит стомильонный народ,

 

Пусть так же они поминают меня

В канун моего поминального дня.

 

А если когда-нибудь в этой стране

Воздвигнуть задумают памятник мне,

 

Согласье на это даю торжество,

Но только с условьем - не ставить его

 

Ни около моря, где я родилась:

Последняя с морем разорвана связь,

 

Ни в царском саду у заветного пня,

Где тень безутешная ищет меня,

 

А здесь, где стояла я триста часов

И где для меня не открыли засов.

 

Затем, что и в смерти блаженной боюсь

Забыть громыхание черных марусь,

 

Забыть, как постылая хлопала дверь

И выла старуха, как раненый зверь.

 

И пусть с неподвижных и бронзовых век

Как слезы, струится подтаявший снег,

 

И голубь тюремный пусть гулит вдали,

И тихо идут по Неве корабли.

From "Requiem"

translated by Yehudith Dashevsky

               No, not foreign heaven’s shield

               Protected me, nor foreign wings

               I was with my people then

               When my people endured suffering

                                     -1961

Instead of a Preface

In the horrid years of the Yezhov terror I spent seventeen months waiting in line outside the prison in Leningrad. One day somebody “identified” me. Then, the woman who stood behind me, whose lips were blue from the cold, and who, of course, had not known who I was, came out of the stupor in which we all were and asked me in a whisper (everyone whispered there):

“Can you describe this?”

And I said, “I can.”

Then something resembling a smile slid over that

which had once been a face.

1 April 1957, Leningrad

Requiem II.

 

Memorial hour strikes anew.

I see and I hear and I feel all of you –

 

The one whom we scarcely dragged to the window to breathe,

And the one who from earth’s bounds was set free,

 

And that one, shaking her beautiful head,

"I come here as if to my home," she said.

 

Each one, name by name, I want to recount,

But the list was torn up; there’s no place to find out.

 

For them, I have woven a shroud out of words,

Out of their poor words, which I overheard.

 

Them - I remember, all the time, in every place,

New woes cannot drive them from memory's space,

 

And if time clamps shut my long worn-out mouth,  

Through which a hundred million people shout,

 

Let the people recall me in a similar way

On the eve of my own memorial day.

 

And if at some point, this country should see

Fit to erect a statue of me,

 

My consent I grant to this one note of grace,

But on one condition - that it be placed

 

Not near the sea, where I first opened my eyes:

With the sea I have long since severed all ties,

 

Not in the Tsar's garden, near that much-cherished tree,

Where an inconsolable shadow searches for me,

 

But here, where for three hundred hours I stood in wait

And where they didn't unbolt the iron-barred gate.

 

Because even in blissful death I fear

Forgetting the clamor of the Black Marias,

 

Forgetting how that dreaded car door banged

And that old mother wailing, like a wounded hound.

 

And let the snow melt, in streams of tears, cries,

From the rims of my motionless, bronze-lidded eyes,

 

And let a prison dove coo, somewhere, far away,

And the ships sail softly by the Neva's bay.

translator's note​

One distinct feature of Akhmatova’s poetry is that it is precise. Akhmatova reads as if there can be no other word or sound or even syllable stress for each image and no other image for each meaning. Although I chose to focus on staying as true to her images as possible, there were several places where I chose to stray from the images. One such place is in the fourth couplet, “and the list was torn up.” The Russian language makes use of embedded pronouns, so the original reads “and (they) took away the list,” with an implicit plural actor. However, I thought that using another “they” may create pronoun confusion in the translation. It would not be clear when the “they” refers to the regime and when to its victims. I therefore chose the passive. Another such place is in the seventh couplet, where the original reads “and if (they) clamp shut.” There, I chose to include an actor, although “time” is not true to the image or meaning in its full sense. It is not to time, ie. old age, that Akhmatova is referring, but to Stalin and his men. However, because the original only had an implicit “they,” I chose to avoid explicitly naming of Stalin in the translation. Another significant change I made is in the last line. The Neva, a river in Russia, has a riverbank, not a bay. However, I thought that the perfect rhyme in the end couplet was more important for the tone of the poem at its close than preserving a well-known geographic fact. I admit, however, that this may be a contentious point, and native Russian speakers have all the right and reason to disapprove of this choice. A fourth change is adding specificity to the images in the third to last couplet, where I thought that only those who had undergone those times would understand what kind of door was banging and who was wailing. As a final point, I wish to clarify that “Black Marias” are the police cars that would come to round up citizens, often at random, to bring them to jail, or worse. A fear of those black cars was ingrained in the generation of that time.  

about the poet

ANNA AKHMATOVA (1899–1966) is one of the canonical poets of Russian literature. She grew up near the Black Sea port of Odessa. After studying literature in St. Petersburg, she, along with poets Osip Mandelstam and Sergey Gorodetsky, founded the Acmeism school of poetry, which valued the craft of poetry above its mysterious or symbolic qualities. Akhmatova was known for her rather terse, concise mode of expression, which soon became the model of a new form of expression for Russian women. Some of Akhmatova’s poems were, at a certain point, banned by Stalin, and still others remained unpublished, because they contained explicit anti-regime references. Despite that, her poetry continued to circulate throughout Russia. When her son was sentenced to ten years in a prison camp in Siberia, she attempted to have him released in various ways, including writing propaganda poetry for Stalin. During World War II, Akhmatova would read her poetry to soldiers in military hospitals, as well as write poems that reflected the voices of the people who were victims of Stalin’s regime. She became known as the poet of the Russian people.

about the translator

YEHUDITH DASHEVSKY is a sophomore studying English literature with a concentration in poetry. She is a native Russian speaker, fluent in Hebrew, and is learning Arabic. She thinks that translation is at the core of what humans do every day in their lives – constantly translating from one register of language to another, but also from thoughts and ideals to reality and back again. Yehudith was first introduced to the methods of translation in a poetry translating class last spring.

 

musings

An Exercise in Compromise: A Conversation about Literary Translation with Professor Suvir Kaul

interview conducted by Shailly Pandey

Suvir Kaul is the A.M. Rosenthal Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania as well as the author of four books, including most recently Of Garden and Graves1, a collection of his essays on the conflict in Kashmir as well as poems that Kaul has translated into English.

 

First published in local journals, the book’s poems were all written by authors—Hindu and Muslim alike—who at some point lived in Kashmir. They detail the conflict’s effects in the most intimate of ways, as their words are those of people who have directly suffered the consequences. Kashmir refers to the northern most territories of India, the Himalayan regions that make up the border between India and Pakistan, and some parts of the Indo-Chinese border. India and Pakistan have been engaging in brutal, though sporadic, warfare since 1947, the year of Indian independence, over this land. Pakistan argues for control since Kashmir is an area of Muslim majority, while India claims that Pakistan has supported separatist groups fighting against government control.

 

The issue extends beyond politics, as Hindus and Muslims alike live in fear, not of each other but of military forces from both governments that crack down on their respective territories. They once lived in harmony and they now distrust each other. The only bridge between these two communities, these two countries, is their shared pain and the common language. Of Gardens and Graves includes classical forms, such as the ghazal and the nazm2, as well as poems following the more spontaneous forms of the poet’s desire. These translations explore the chaos and anxieties that Kashmiri citizens face via the structure and artistry of poetry.

 

DoubleSpeak was lucky enough to talk with Professor Kaul about his work, as well as the larger, global scope of translation. Below is a transcript of our conversation followed by two excerpts from Of Gardens and Graves.

***

 

Why did you specifically choose poems written in Kashmiri? Is it because the poems you were looking for just happened to be written in it, or because Kashmiri is starting to die out?

Kashmiri is not dying at all, but it does not receive the kind of attention reserved for other major languages in India. But there is a reason why I only wanted Kashmiri poems in this book. There is lots of Urdu poetry in Kashmir. Urdu is the state language; it is the language taught in schools. Kashmiri [wasn’t] taught in school until very recently. It used to be the language of the home, of domesticity, of colloquialism on the street, not the official language.

 

Kashmiri is [also] a very idiomatic language. The idiom of spoken Kashmiri, even if you follow a casual street conversation, is particularly clever and inventive. Some of that is available in the poetry. It’s also a more intimate language. When someone in Kashmir wants to make a formal or important point, they will switch to Urdu. But if they’re just talking about the way they feel, within the family, between parents and children, they’ll be speaking Kashmiri. And it’s that intimacy that I find very attractive. Many of my friends said to me, “Here, these are wonderful poems, and they’re all in Urdu,” and I said no, this is a collection of Kashmiri poems.

 

Originally, was this meant to be a book of translation or a book of essays?

This didn’t begin as a project in translation of poetry at all. I kept writing longer, quasi-journalistic think-pieces about what I was seeing there in visits to my ancestral home in Srinagar. This wasn’t the Kashmir of my childhood. This wasn’t the Kashmir that most people around me, Hindu or Muslim, understood. They suffered it, but they didn’t understand it. So I started to write articles in my own effort to educate myself: what allowed us to get to this point? But I was still not tapping into something I might be able to do that other journalists or political observers would not be able to do. And that really is to try and generate an archive of poetry, and to use my skills as a literary critic, which is what I am by training, to say to people who pay attention only to political developments that if you really want to understand political feelings, it’s not only through formal politics alone that you understand them, but it’s also by turning to poetry, to cultural production. That’s what lies behind the addition of these poems to this project.

 

In my introduction, I speak about the poem “Corpse” by Shabir “Azar.” It’s an English translation of an Urdu poem, published in Uzma Weekly, a local Kashmiri newspaper. In 2014, there were these floods in Kashmir. I lost the Urdu original I had photocopied, and I have not been able to find it since, because the newspaper is no longer published and all other places I thought I would find it don’t have a copy either, either because of the flood or because of bad housekeeping. So the original Urdu from which I have translated, I no longer have. This is just one of the ironies of translating poems from Kashmir.

 

The other irony is that, when I began this project, I kept telling my friends that I was the wrong person to do it because my Kashmiri really isn’t good enough. But then I realized that more important than language facility was a desire peculiar to translation, and here I’ll use the phrase that is often bandied about in literary criticism: inhabiting the space of the other—the space of the other language, the other poet, etc., and doing so empathetically. As a matter of fact, you will not get any two Kashmiris to agree on what they think a single line of poetry means. It’s not literal meaning, so there will be a lot of discussion. But the discussion is the point. That’s when you begin to understand the manifold resources of poetic language, the way it allows people to find elements of themselves, their own experiences, their own differences in that space. That, for me, is what it means to think of translation not just simply as an individual encounter with language, but as a cultural engagement with language.

 

How did the fact that these originals were so susceptible to being lost forever change your process of first finding and then translating them, knowing that you’re preserving something that would have otherwise vanished?

I should note that not all of the journals or newspapers that these poems were published in will disappear like issues of low-circulation newspapers do, but it is true that publishing these poems is a way of preserving them and giving them new life in a second language. That’s the responsibility I learned to believe in. I knew I couldn’t include more than twenty-five or thirty poems in a book like this. So I was always looking for poems that I would think of as representative in some ways. I read and did drafts of a great many more poems than these, perhaps around one hundred and twenty, till I got to these poems. And so I suppose the choices are comparatively opportunistic; there’s not anything that represents a rock solid archive. It’s a combing through elements.

 

One of the poems I discuss here, available only in my English translation, was actually brought to me on a scrap of paper. And that was because the person who wrote it is in jail. He’s never going to be publishing the poem, but he wrote it. For me, that is weightier than the kind of ephemeral quality suggested by a person in jail writing on scraps of paper and then passing it on to his brother who passed it on to a friend who passed it on to me because he knew I was interested in collecting these poems. My friends there kept telling me, “Look, what you’re doing is not inconsequential because at the very least, we’ll have a book that will preserve some of these poems and make them available.” It sounded a little grandiose and hyperbolic, but it’s not. It makes these twenty-five poems available. The fact is that English is an Indian language and indeed the global lingua franca by now. So any entry point into English is useful for local poets.

 

Out of those one hundred and twenty drafts, how did you pick—and order—those that you felt most engaged with the contemporary situation?

I was looking for poems that I thought were representative of what I believed to be certain emotions, states of feeling, forms, that are characteristic of the larger volume of poems. Yes, there are a great many ghazals here, but then there are ghazals that use the form of the ghazal, precisely the repetition that you are asking about, to emphasize the disorderly conditions that obtain in Kashmir. It’s a very odd phenomenon: you are using a very regular form, a form that is structured around repetitions, but the events you’re describing, the feelings you’re describing, are those of endless rupture, frustration, fear, anxiety, misery. To an extent, these are personal choices, so once I felt I had found a poem that worked with a conventional form, but did it interestingly, innovatively, those were the kinds of poems I chose.

 

And then it came to deciding how to order the book. I went back and forth with the order for a long time…and it’s not as if I can offer you a precise template that governed my decisions, but there was a sense in which I wanted, in the beginning, to open with poems that spent time describing what Kashmir felt like to people on the way to its becoming alienating or disturbed. And then I wanted poems that were innovative in form, that aren’t necessarily nazms or ghazals. I’ll give you an instance of what I mean. A poem like Naji Munawar’s “Then and Today,” is staged as a little dialogue. We don’t know who these people are, but you can guess the situation. Slightly older people, a man and a woman, sitting inside their home, the light is off, there’s fear in the air. “Now what are you getting enraged about?” asks one of them (I imagine it is the man), and the question is the little turn in the poem. Or rather, the answer is the unexpected irony: “Alas then it used to be said the darkness might swallow—/and now the light truly comes to devour.” The context of this poem, and why it’s particularly evocative, is the so-called crack-downs that became a feature of Kashmiri villages and small town life. Everyone turns off the lights. The police and the military are outside. You’re really scared. Light, when you see it, is not something that brings hope; it brings the chances of unwarranted attention. So this was a poem I found really startling precisely because of its form.

 

You could very clearly see that some poems followed a conventional form, and some didn’t; they were just written in a moment, in the way they were meant to be written.

Exactly. Those poems are much more urgent in their sense of things. The last couple of poems will tell you what my own hopes are. Som Nath Bhat Veer’s poem, “A New Day will Dawn,” is a song of hope in the middle of this misery, as is Zahid Mukhtar’s poem, “Who will change our destiny?” These are not poets I know, but I made it my business, once I had chosen their poems, to try and find them. Kashmir is still a small enough world that if I made phone calls to my friends, they would make phone calls to their friends, and somebody or other would be in touch with these poets, and many of them were on email.

 

When I wrote to Zahid Mukhtar and I sent him this translation, he wrote back very kindly. He said “You know, I’m very touched that you have chosen to do this,” because I am a Hindu, and he is not, and that is part of the unfortunate, polarizing of life in Kashmir. And he said, and this was his phrase that I mention in my book, “It must be that our common pain which I have attempted to describe in my mother tongue,” which I found a very hopeful sentiment. It’s an almost lost sentiment, but that’s the only sentiment that allows for hope. So that’s why I close the book with these two poems, both of which look forward.

 

I’m assuming Som Nath Bhat was Hindu?

 

He is Hindu, and Zahid Mukhtar is Muslim. Arjun Dev Majboor, whose poem is at the beginning of the book, is Hindu, and the next poet in the book is Muslim.

 

You translate a line in Maqbool Sajid’s ghazal as, “Eyes upon eyes weep, now what is left,” and in a note below the poem you explain, “It could also be translated as ‘Word upon word weeps, now what is left.’” You made notes like this in a few other poems too, I think. I remember specifically the translation of jigar3: I thought about it long and hard, and I couldn’t think of a word for it in English. It’s not quite “heart.” How did you translate these lines that didn’t have an exact meaning in English, or that could be interpreted one of two ways?

 

In the second edition, the version I’ve decided to use is, “Word upon word weeps here, now what is left.” Why? A literary friend pointed out that the duality of meaning might well be the result of poor copyediting of the original. Here is the problem: when Urdu is written in Nastaliq4, vowel markers are often dropped. So you literally have to recognize the word to be able to tell what kind of vowel to use. Now, Kashmiri has a great many more vowel markers, but when the poetry is printed in these journals, very often the calligrapher or the typesetter doesn’t use these vowel markers. In the original that I saw of this poem, the phrase “ashar, ashar” could have been read as “akshar, akshar.” It’s a question of uncertain or missing vowel markers, so I maintained both meanings. But then in conversation after the book was published, my friend said, “look, it’s unlikely to have been that, I bet it was a typo.” I was persuaded by her to drop the original translation I had used, and now in the new edition that note has disappeared.

 

Is all of Kashmiri written in Nastaliq?

 

Not quite, but increasingly so. This is part of what happens to language in a polarized situation. The original script of Kashmiri was a script called Sharda, which looks like Devnagari5, but with additional consonants and vowel sounds. That script has disappeared. Sadly, what happened is that if you are a Muslim who writes in Kashmiri, you will prefer to write it in Nastaliq, plus Kashmiri vowel sounds with these new vowel markers. The State literary Academy, the Sahitya Academy, is actually formulating ways in which this language can be orthographically more precise than it is when written in Nastaliq as Urdu is written. But a great many Hindus who write in Kashmiri choose to write it in Devanagri.

 

So the language itself is becoming cut in half.

 

The language itself is being represented in two different scripts. The future is likely to remain based in Nastaliq, because the largest numbers of users are those who write in Urdu, and know Nastaliq, and are likely to write Kashmiri in it. The language politics are interesting. Ever since this was a Dogra kingdom6, that is before independence and partition, the official language of the court was Urdu. Never Kashmiri. English was used, and Urdu was used: these were the languages of classical, literary, and philosophical education. Kashmiri was the people’s tongue; it was literally the vernacular.

 

When you started, did you think you were going to preserve the very apparent musicality of the ghazals and nazms, or did you know it wouldn’t be possible?

 

As I said, Kashmiri is very idiomatic. The hardest terms to translate from one language to another are idioms. There were times when I abandoned the effort. It would make no sense in English. It’s always a series of compromises. But when I read them in English, if I didn’t know the Kashmiri, I would sometimes think that there’s not a very particularly melodic progression in each of the lines. There are moments in the original with alliterative sounds and certain kinds of repetition, but it is just not possible to replicate all of them in English and retain meaning.

 

Thus, and these are difficulties you discover, you always hope to find an idiom, a certain phrasing or a tone that will replicate the original. Then you recognize that is only aspiration, that it is not how it works in practice. Translation is as much compromise as anything else. The best I can claim for these translations is that [they] are compromises that [hopefully] work as poetry in English. I know some translators think of their writing as transcreation. They will take what they understand to be the sentiment, the approximate meaning, sometimes the arresting images of the original, and rewrite them into the new language, generating essentially a poem in response to that [original] poem, a poem that is much more overtly poetical in the new language. And that’s not what I was prepared to do. I wasn’t prepared to overwrite what I took to be some of the characteristic features of the original. And there the real challenge began, because you can’t overwrite, yet you can’t remain entirely faithful to the original.

 

How did you get from your very literal, word-for-word first drafts to this finished product? That’s kind of a big step.

 

Of course it is. But it isn’t a single step; it’s many steps. And many steps that you redo and go over and fix again. I wish I could say to you that here is a single principle I used, and this is what enabled me to keep redrafting. There was no single principle. You see something really arresting idiomatically and you think, “Okay I’m going to find a way to replicate that idiom,” but what do you do with the rest of the line? You have to produce syntax that will allow it to make sense in English. You feel your way through this. And you recognize that you risk someone else [saying], “This particular image ought to have resulted in this kind of translation.”

 

Once you recognize it in the original, trying to find a way of recreating it in the new language doesn’t always work, but it becomes one more thing you are alerted to. You have to find these little elements of the original and somehow find a way to bring as many of them over with you. That’s what compromise means. I think working compromises are precisely getting translation right.

 

You talked about these poems engaging with contemporary circumstance, and of course what’s happening in Kashmir right now is very near to your heart. When you were compiling these essays and poems, did you mean them as political statement or did you mean them to just say, “This is what Kashmir is,” or something else entirely?

 

You know, when you’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for as long as I have, you no longer believe that anything can stand on its own. My very choice of this project, my decision to take it from individual essays to these translations is political too…but part of the work of these translations is a sign of my own desperation. When you go there and you visit…my parents would be there, and my mother and my sister…  I would look around and say, “What I see here is not India, this is not democracy, this is not anything I love and value about India.” And then you think “Okay, so then what?”

 

And the answer is that I’m not going to become a politician, or a political theorist, or an advisor to the governor, but I have certain skills that can, I hope, generate the picture of a world under siege, both in terms of its cultural productivity in these poems, but also in terms of my own understanding and my own commentary. To that extent, it is meant to be an intervention. If people read this, I hope the book will change their mind, so that the “Kashmir problem” doesn’t remain a binary between India and Pakistan, as if Kashmiris do not matter. It’s a very mottled, ugly history that has been put into place there. I think of myself as an Indian. I think of myself as a democrat. I think of myself as a Kashmiri. Those three terms right now are not in easy alignment. So that’s what this book is meant to be. It’s almost a cry, in its own minor key, that says, “Pay attention.”

 

I also saw it as a small reconciliation of some of the differences, because you’ve published Hindus and Muslims side by side, because you chose to stick to Kashmiri, which is written in both Nastaliq and Devnagari. You know, Kashmiri is literally a bridge between those two communities, which is special and rare.

 

That’s what I argue: that it’s in Kashmiri that you find commonality. In the language, the common pain, the common history, and I hope the common future. I wrote this book fully cognizant that I am a Hindu writing about what is commonly perceived to be a Muslim problem. But it’s not a Muslim problem alone. It’s a Kashmiri problem, and it’s a problem for Indians who are democrats. I’m hoping that if this book enacts the necessity of empathizing with those who have suffered, it will work as a model for those who live and work in Kashmir too. I hope that young Muslims will start thinking of the kinds of resources of culture and community that have been lost in the last so many years, as the bulk of Hindus have left. I hope Pandits (which is what Kashmiri Hindus are called) will work to extend their own feelings of loss and alienation into empathy for all that their Muslim neighbors have suffered. And, projects like this one and other parallel ones are an attempt to say there is a commonality of language, expression, feeling, belief, not religious belief in its particularity, but belief in something larger, that needs to be rebuilt.

 

Notes

[1] Of Gardens and Graves is being published by Duke University Press in the United States, 2017.  https://www.dukeupress.edu/of-gardens-and-graves

[2] A ghazal is a lyrical poem typical of Middle Eastern and Indian literature and music, with a couplet structure and a repeating refrain. A nazm is simply a song, characterized by rhymed verses but is not governed by any specific structural laws.

[3] “Jigar” is a common term in Hindi and Urdu. It is akin to life force, but is often translated as heart or liver.

[4] Nastaliq is the traditional script of Urdu, Arabic, and other languages that use a Persian script. It is also often used for writing in Kashmiri.

[5] The traditional script of Hindi and other Sanskrit derived languages.

[6] A Hindu Rajput dynasty which traced its roots to the dynasties of northern India. The rulers of the dynasty were Dogra Rajput and the ruling family is also known as the "royal house of Jammu and Kashmir."

 

Allahabad, India. Photo by Shailly Pandey

Teli tu' az

Naji Munawar

“Tshạvrāv gāś”

           “Bihith kath pẙṭh chukh?”

“Dah ziādư āsan bajēmưts”

           “Teli hē rạ̄ti rātas ōs gāś vuzvun āsān!

Dazvunuy āsān!”

“Voni kath pẙṭh chakh vōlān?”

“Vāhi teli ạ̄si dapān anigoṭ mā nẙnglāvi

Tư voni chu gāś pazī khẙni yivān.”

 

Then and Today

translated by Suvir Kaul

"Put out the light"

               "What are you sitting on?"

"It must be past ten o'clock"

               "Then oh! all night the light kept burning.

Kept on burning."

"Now what are you getting enraged about?"

"Alas, then it used to be said that the darkness might swallow—

and now the light truly comes to devour."

about the poet

NAJI MUNAWAR was born in 1934 in Kaprin (Shopian). He writes poetry, literary history and children's literature, and has discovered and compiled the work of ninetheenth century Kashmiri poets. He has also translated Sophocles and Shakespeare into Kashmiri. His volume of criticism, Pursaan, won the Sahitya Akademi award in 2002.

Excerpted with permission from Of Gardens and Graves: Kashmir, Poetry, Politics by Suvir Kaul. Copyright Duke University Press, 2017. 

https://www.dukeupress.edu/of-gardens-and-graves

 

nov subah pholi

Som Nath Bhat 'Veer'

Kālu’pẙṭhu’ cī kitsh vẙkhu’ts vạ̄nākh rāth

Rạ̄ts hund pot pạhar gaṭu’ zạli

Thạ̄vmu’ts ạ̄s mạ̄ntu’rạ̄vith śīntsrạ̄vith kāyināth

kāvrēmu’ts sarzamīn ḍạjmu’ts ḥẙsav

Ghạ̄b tārakh nab nu’ kuni ākạ̄śigang

Kālu’ obran nāl volmut āvrith śanvay taraf

Ạchdaran hu’ndi ạ̄s vạhrith

Ḍōnṭhu’ chapu’ mạnzi rūdu’ traṭu’ gagrāyi grẙni

Kot gatshan bēcāru’ bēgar rāh musāfir kot gatshan

Vānu’ penjan pẙṭh vọthān tim vūri vūri rạ̄tirātas

Natu’ zacal khū’man andar

Kuli gọgar ālẙn andar śrepith karān zip’ jānvār

Chus divān lari phirni kun zon jānvār

Kamli tal yath zạdi tu’vuli

Khū’mu’ kūnjas manz me ditsmu’ts śāndu’ sīr

Karsanā phọli gāś bulbul kar pican

Ḍōnṭhu’ tsādar zantu’ kani śāvay karān

Hōś kạritav yithu’ nabā gari nēri kānh

Chusbu’ prārān

Karsanā gatshi mandru’cē ganṭāyi ṭhas

Masjidi manz diyi bạ̄ngi bang

Bod chu day al-lāhu akbar gatshi kanan

Saḥru’ waqtan siryi sakhrith

Cāri beyi lāqam rathas

Vuni nu’ vuni sognẙār kari yiyi sāsu’ gāś

Chalu’vạdu’r gatshi kālu’obras trāvi dav

Vọlru’ kẙn malran vuniundur gav sẙṭhāh

Vọni bihan loti pạ̄ṭhi dẙv rasu’ pursakūn

Vọni phọlu’ni hẙn mālu’ nạ̄npan bālu’ tēg

Vuzmalu’ni joś gatshi Afarwat bālu’ gạ̄b

Bāmbrith beyi obru’ longi chali chali gatshan

Nal nakh phuṭith phambu’ tombi zabarvan bālu’ pẙṭhi

A New Day Will Dawn

translated by Suvir Kaul

Since last evening, what a devious, threatening night

The last, darkest hour of the night

We had kept consecrated and orderly the universe

Trembling the blessed land, its consciousness lost

Disappeared the starry sky, nowhere the Milky Way

Dark clouds have enveloped and busied all the six directions

The pythons' mouths are open

In hailstorms, though sheets of rain, in the thunderstorm

Where will the poor and unhoused wayfarers go, where

                                                           will they go

From the thresholds of the shops, they leave for faraway places

                                                                all night

Or inside ragged tents

In tree-holds, shrinking, birds doze

I toss-and-turn, a lone bird

Once under the blanket, torn and holey

In a corner of the tent, my pillow a brick

When will the light dawn, when the bulbul sing

The hailstorm seems to rain stones

Beware, let no one leave the house

I am waiting

When will the temple bell sound

From the mosque, the muezzin will call

God is Great, Allah-o-Akbar, ears will hear

At dawn, the sun prepares

Pulls on the chariot's reins

Just about now, a soft light will spread

The dark clouds will be scattered, will flee

The waves of the Wular have slept badly long enough

Now they will settle quietly, calmly, peacefully

Now they will bloom, the hill tops will wear bright garlands

Lightning's edge will disappear in the Apharwat hills1

Scurrying again, banks of clouds will dissipate

Limbs broken, they will turn cotton puffs over the

                                                       Zabarwan hills2

about the poet

SOM NATH BHAT 'VEER' was born in 1940 in Lok Bhawan, Dooru, Anantnag. After an MA in Hindi he worked as a teacher and retired as Headmaster of the Government High School, Dooru. He also read radio news in Urdu and Kashmiri. He has published several volumes of poetry and prose including Deewan-e-Veer (collected works). This poem was originally published in Aalav (November–December 2003), 40–41. 

Notes

[1] The Gulmarg hills

[2] The Srinagar hills

Excerpted with permission from Of Gardens and Graves: Kashmir, Poetry, Politics by Suvir Kaul. Copyright Duke University Press, 2017. 

https://www.dukeupress.edu/of-gardens-and-graves

 

musings

Notes on the Afterlives

Keyla Cavdar

 

I don’t like talking about origins because I don’t know where anything comes from, at least anything that is not matter. When I am listening, or walking, or talking to someone, I pick out their words and I save them. Sometimes these are words from my mother tongue, the language I heard before all else. Sometimes these are words I could not locate in that tongue but found first in English or French. A notebook full of written words I want to say: seeps, salt, mulberry. And the words I extend into other languages from Turkish: susuz: without water. Rüya: dream. Uzaklık: distance. My uzaklık belongs to a simple intention. A’dan b’ye olan uzaklan: the distance from point A to point B. From Istanbul to Philadelphia, two flights: 9,649 kilometers. From Istanbul to Moscow, where the poet Nazım Hikmet fled to exile after decades in prison: 1,753 kilometers. He would die there after writing “Things I Didn’t Know I Loved.” The sun I have loved it seems, even as it sets, covered in sour cherry marmalade. With Hikmet my uzaklık reappeared. Changing, unstable, the word distance multiplies and scatters. It’s a physical space, and it’s inside the mind. And it’s between hearts. There’s a deadly distance.

 

13 Kasım 1945

 

Kara haberler geliyor uzaktaki şehrimden:

namuslu, çalışkan, fakir insanların şehri —

                                                               sahici İstanbulum,

sevgilim, senin mekânın olan

ve nereye sürülsem, hangi hapiste yatsam

                                          sırtımda, torbamın içinde götürdüğüm

                             ve evlât acısı gibi yüreğimde,

                          gibi gözlerimde taşıdığım şehir...

13 November 1945

 

Black news coming from my distanced city:

the city of honest laborers, of poor people —

my genuine Istanbul,

my love, that city which is your place

so wherever I am driven out to, whichever prison I am in,

on my back, in the sack I carry

and like pain for a lost child in my heart,

the city I keep, in my eyes, like a dream of you…

 

All these things I have loved all this time, it seems, and yet never knew. I had not known Nazım the prisoner. Nazım the lover. Only a name, Nazım Hikmet, one of our poets, here in Istanbul. He had slipped away between so many other words; to whom those other words belonged I could never remember. My city, where I was born and raised, where my mother and father were born and raised, where I lived for seventeen years, fourteen years at the same school with the same seventy people. A stranger in a strange place there, yet I still don’t belong anywhere else. My city, eight thousand kilometers away from me, at five thousand miles’ distance; I’m sitting in class and a teacher—a stranger—writes Atatürk on the board. We’re talking about Turkey in the 20th century as I set up my presentation on Hikmet. None of the students know who he is. We had just met too, in a way, Nazım and I. Two strangers, now side by side. Hikmet was sentenced to twenty-eight years in prison in 1938. After twelve of them he was exiled, his nationality revoked. He went to Russia, but his lover was left behind. Piraye, the lover I know from his “9pm-10pm” poems, which he wrote each night in prison before lights out. Hikmet, one of many who were silenced, but one of few who managed to scream. I share the scream, share my uzaklık with the class. His uzaklık.

 

“Just as the manifestations of life are intimately connected with the phenomenon of life without being of importance to it, a translation issues from the original – not so much from its life as from its afterlife.”

–Walter Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator”

It’s strange to encounter his afterlife, Hikmet in translation.

 

“All purposeful manifestations of life, including their very purposiveness, in the final analysis have their end not in life, but in the expression of its nature, in the representation of its significance… Languages are not strangers to one another, but are, a priori and apart from all historical relationships, interrelated in what they want to express.” Reading Benjamin, I think about how Hikmet’s resistance to silence echoes through Turkey now, his manifestation of life so clear and insistent that I can hear him singing in the prison cell even before I learn that he was locked away. His afterlife survives, traveling from one language to another, bringing him closer to me.

 

In a video his last love Vera made, I see him dancing in Moscow, spinning round and around on the grass, near the end of his life.

 

I silently read his poem “On Living,” in English:

 

Living is no laughing matter:

You must live with great seriousness

like a squirrel.

 

My mother taught me to live sincap gibi (like a squirrel), to take life lightly but to live seriously, amorously, sımsıkı tutunarak (holding on tightly). I remembered, from the echo of the original, Hikmet’s words that were with me at a distance. They multiply. I multiply. Questions multiply. The students around me ask, Who is Atatürk? They don’t know the face that hangs next to the clock in every classroom of my childhood. Every Monday morning, every Friday before class is dismissed, the face projected upon the Turkish flag as we sing the national anthem. Atatürk, and with him, fake nostalgia. I am afraid to speak of him now, of this man or god, but I know the minds of the students around me are untouched, that Atatürk is just a name. So I speak despite the fear. I tell them of how poisonously my people cling to him, transformed him into a euphemism for fascism. I try to explain how thoughtlessly we praise the past and think that it can resurrect in the present. What a narcissistic view of history, textbooks full of instruction without vitality.

 

What I don’t say to my class is that it was against this void that I began searching. Like a survival instinct, a defense: What I believed my language obscured, or didn’t allow me to know, I tried to find in English. And English was trying to find something in me. Already in the 20th century as the modern Turkish alphabet left behind an Arabic script, English was being taught as a second language in schools. It had already invaded who I was going to be, before I was born. A problem of unwritten genealogy. (Genealogy. A word Nietzsche taught me in a class during my freshman year. It was in Beyond Good and Evil that I encountered it first, a way to describe the relationship of things to one another. A string of points in history, points in time, their distance from one another connected by a motive. Uzaklık. Distance.)

 

In my Istanbul classrooms, yesterday and today were always forgotten. History would not be found in poetry, in individuals, in honest words. So the history of my birthplace became what I could glean from my mother’s childhood. She grew up in the seventies, and she’d play on the streets for hours with her brother and his friends. I look at a black and white photograph of my mother and my uncle, neither older than ten and with the same boyish haircut. They’re running in a field with a ball. I never played on the streets of my neighborhood, or threw a ball to kids there.

 

Someone in the class asks me about the present. The nostalgia is blinding, vicious; the fields are gone, and there are no children. I suddenly remember the little boy who died when I was in high school, in between the sadness of forgetting him. Only five, he goes out to get bread for his family. A tear gas canister takes his life. Only two years ago. I tell the students sitting around me about the Gezi Park protests, which started when the government decided to demolish Gezi Park, one of the few remaining green spaces in Istanbul; the Prime Minister’s plans included the construction of a shopping mall, a mosque, and Ottoman Empire replicas in its place. A community started to gather in the park, made up of people from all over Istanbul, some even stayed in tents overnight. They wrote, and they sang, and they shared with each other. But words are dangerous. The demonstrations were broken up when the police arrived; they used water cannons and tear gas, beat the protestors and burned their tents. Many lost their lives. Vatan hainleri (Traitors of the nation). Journalists and poets, kids, college students, people passing by, a boy buying bread. I learned what was going on through friends and family. All social media was blocked. All communication forbidden. News channels went black. A terrifying darkness. A darkness that was already everywhere, but one I hadn’t seen, one I was distanced from. The point from A to B. An intention. Hikmet’s exile had entered into those dying on the streets. An afterlife. Yet how can it be so dangerous to write? I wanted to tell the students sitting around me and watching, puzzled, how with Hikmet’s poetry began a yearning for the language that thought me. The language of my first signs. A drive to uncover fragments, doubles, associations and so, to recover the skin that was peeled off:

i am a kid

and the skin of a peach

fuzzy and foreign

is too strange on my tongue.

impatient

i skin the peach

 

“But you don’t sound Turkish,” say countless voices.

 

What is a skinless peach? What is it to sound Turkish, or to look Turkish, or to feel Turkish. Is it the “r” that rolls too strongly, the “t” that is a touch sharper, the “o” that is not round enough? Hatirlamak, to remember, its “t” carves itself on the tongue and then immediately pours into that rolling “r”— they hiss together as they’re lost into the “l” and solidified with that final “k.” Mor, purple, its “o” like a ring of smoke, slightly imperfect, how it sounds like an impatient “more.” I miss my voice, so I get lost thinking of it. The violets in my garden are riddled with circles where caterpillars have bitten through; an image of these violets comes to mind. What is it inside of me upon which English intrudes? And how. In the garden, next to the violets, my father is sitting in his green chair. Legs crossed. Yaz kokuyor: it smells like summer. His beloved season, my father, a boy in the sun. He plays “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” for me, and sings along with Eartha Kitt. We dance on the grass, my hand the size of his thumb. Innocence, like honey melting in warm milk. Which is how English seeped into my thoughts. I am drinking warm milk with honey, enveloped in my mother’s bed as she reads Where the Wild Things Are in English. My uncle lived in Los Angeles at the time, and he would bring us suitcases filled with books. Shell Silverstein’s Falling Up and The Giving Tree, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, James and the Giant Peach, and The Little Prince. I would insist that my mother read to me about the Wild Things, and how Max would tame them with the words “Be still,” and how their hearts were as soft as their fur, and the look in their eyes. One night I sat up straight in bed while still asleep, turned, and pointed toward my mother, saying: “Be still!” Do I dream in and with language, then? Was I even dreaming? I don’t remember. In all of us I think there is this urge to say certain things, to speak certain words. And we carry them with us, like ants swarming in and around our body, little particles waiting to escape. Maybe when our guards are down, they speak with us.  

 

I came across an interview of Eartha Kitt once, not too long ago. She’s been asked, “Isn’t love a union between two people? Or does Eartha fall in love with herself?” Eartha lets out that divine laugh, long, devilish and sublime: “Yes. I fall in love with myself, and I want someone to share it with me. I want someone to share me with me.” To want to know someone, or something, completely—not for just one moment in time but for all the moments preceding. To let them be themselves, and to love only that. And how can such a want manifest in translation? I watch Eartha as she sits against a backdrop of pink flowers, the same ones my grandmother loved; her gaze meets mine for an instance as she speaks. I feel in awe as I sense her strength, her sensitivity, her respect for herself. Eartha Kitt, one of many who exist as a fragment of me. Eartha, carved in my memory. She slips back into existence from time to time, somehow knowing when to reappear. I’m sitting on the carpet floor of my apartment in Philadelphia. It’s nighttime and my living room is illuminated by broken string lights. I’m tired and all I want to do is lie on the floor. I put on The Best of Eartha Kitt. “Après Moi” begins to play. With a crackle, We’ve been friends for a long long time, we’ve shared again and again; we like the same clothes and we like the same wine. I get up to make coffee, and gather my books to work. The record continues now, and I don’t notice the passing songs. My guard is down. Unfamiliar words with familiar sounds capture me through the recorded songs. “Üşküdar'a gider iken…” She’s singing On the way to Üsküdar, but in Turkish, and with the most charming of errors; she utters my beloved “ş” instead of “s.” How is it I’ve never noticed, the countless times I’ve played this album? It’s a subtle difference, but you can feel it inside of your cheeks, a puff of warm wind. “Ş,” pronounced “sh.”, I sit and listen to this Turkish ballad we learned in music class when I was eleven years old. Now I’m nineteen and she speaks to me, sings my country’s tale of a nineteenth-century woman in love with her much younger clerk. He is hers, and she, his. “Kâtibimi arar iken yanımda buldum”… As I was looking for him, I found him beside me.

 

I am Max. Sitting on my white carpet in my living room in West Philadelphia. My walls become a forest. I do not know under whose sky I am. But my mother has left soup on the bedside table, the supper that, for my wildness, I was once denied. On the way to Üsküdar. I breathe in the displacement. Even as I write now, I feel I am imitating an intimacy I can’t truly grasp. It’s fragmented. I caught myself divided, thinking in English, and something shifted. I sing, soundless, with the afterlife of Eartha’s voice. I sit with her ghost figure scattered in my mind, accepting the mystery. In between languages, I have come to accept uncertainty, distance, susuzluk (thirst). I leap with the words from myself, unfolding with their translated lives. Sıvılaşmış. Liquefied. Mine sounds warm, with its doubled “ş”, whispering, melting matter, muddy with its muted, unembellished, “ı.” The other, liquefied, whose knifelike “q” is absent in my alphabet: how in the beginning it’s crystallized, and then dissolves. Hiss of water touching ice. Both words belong to the same substance, amalgamated, only different in form. And where they touch, so lightly, they absorb each other. Su kristalleşir, buz sıvılaşmış (Water is crystallized, ice liquefied). And I live right here in the middle, sometimes far, sometimes close, as now, when I listen to my mother tongue in this beloved other’s voice. “Üskü Dara.” A split destination, Üsküdar cut in half. My white walls reappear, and with them that capital “I” that is becoming. That grand “I” which I still cannot embrace. The “I” that I don’t want: the excess of the first person — too great and everywhere. A longing: kendini paylaşan küçük “ben” (the little “i” who shares itself). An “I” distanced from its action, scattered almost physically. Some words I have saved: içimde (inside of me), dışımda (outside of me), papatyalarım (my daises), ölüyorum (I am dying). In translation, my “I” is separated. Severed. I want to catch it as it runs off.

 

Driving to the Western coast from Istanbul, I’m in the backseat, six years old, maybe seven, maybe nine, watching asphalt turn into sunflowers, and then asphalt again. A memory outside of my Istanbul, where most memories had to belong. A memory from point A to point B. White storks wander in the fields. A few small stone houses, trembling, the smoke from their chimneys are different from the clouds. I watch a donkey waiting in the shade, his neck tied to the tree. O gözleri mahzun eşek. That donkey with tragic eyes. I remember him and sorrow overtakes me. And as we drive, I cry from time to time at what I see on that ten hour road. We travel through everlasting moonflower fields. Ayçiçekleri (Ay: Moon. Sunflowers). My dad plays music throughout the entire drive, and I listen. "Le Vent Nous Portera" by the French band Noir Desir is playing: Je n'ai pas peur de la route. Un instantané de velours. Et mon tapis volant dis? Le vent l’emportera. (I’m not afraid of the road. An instant of velvet. And my flying carpet says? The wind will carry us). I don’t listen to that song much anymore. Now when we drive I put my headphones on, and listen to my own songs. But then, when I was six or seven or nine, among the moonflowers and all the distance between A and B, my parents shared with me all that was shared with them: The Beatles, Billie Holiday, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Serge Gainsbourg, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Tom Waits. Faceless voices that meant so much to me. Some I lost and they never found their way back, some I met throughout the years. I do not belong to them, perhaps, but parts of them now belong to me. Billie sings:

 

Yesterdays, yesterdays

Days I knew as happy sweet

Sad am I, glad am I

For today I’m dreamin’ of yesterdays

 

She shares herself with me. I share myself with her afterlife. A translated afterlife. Doubled. And so now I think about memory, the language of memories. I think of the many ways of representing the same thing. Noticing I am in between two wholly distanced ways of thinking, I undergo a change. A sort of alchemy. I see how a world outside of my own has seeped in, sweet like honey; it felt so natural that I missed the transition, and the loss. Whatever matter formed me before has amalgamated with another, and I am forgotten. In parting. — Not how one soul comes close to another but how it moves away shows me their kinship and how much they belong together (Genealogy of Morals).

 

I look behind words. I look at their history, the points where they entered my history. Ayçiçekleri. Moonflowers. I will never say, “this is this and this” because on the way from one to nineteen, I realize that no one meaning seals one word. So I laugh with the forgetfulness of rigid, indestructible definitions, and I let them multiply. My kingdom is of this world, says Nietzsche: “He collects from everything he sees, hears, lives through, his sum. He is always in his own company, whether he associates with books, human beings, or landscapes: he honors by choosing, by admitting, by trusting. He knows how to forget.” This figure who I want to be. Noticing how written words travel, and speak, in the strangest form. We are like pickpockets, stealing letters from Eartha and Nietzsche and countless others. Stealing philosophies, and placing them somewhere in between ourselves and those from whom they came. I translate for myself, and in a way, like Eartha, I share me with me. Birleşiyorum (I’m fusing).

 

Every word a point of memory. I leap again, from myself, out the window and soar above the yellow. I’m in a train, by the window. Nineteen, my headphones on, from New York to Philadelphia. I watch red rusty steel turn into concrete, into ghost towns with broken windows, into a mixture of grey and green, undiscovered fields. I’m listening to Tom Waits as I travel from home to home, in the train, to Philadelphia. Come closer don’t be shy, stand beneath the rainy sky, the moon is over the rise, think of me as a train goes by. Lay down in the green grass. Remember when you loved me. The yellow fields slowly fade into the industrial landscape. I look at the factories, those factories I despised back home: here now they look like magic. Now at night, their clouds turn into fire. I watch these burning steel stars illuminate everything. A new memory sits next to the old; they look at each other and smile. Üskü dara gider iken…Üsküdar’a gider iken…The same but split. The distance from üskü to dara. That is where I lie now in my apartment, on my white carpet, in West Philadelphia, knowing that somehow somewhere point A and B meet. I listen to the song my father cried to as we drove,

 

Yuksek Yuksek Tepelere:

Babamın Bir Atı Olsa Binse De Gelse,

Annemin Yelkeni Olsa Açsa Da Gelse,

Kardeşlerim Yolları Bilse De Gelse.

 

To the tall tall hills:

I wish my father had a horse so he could ride it and come to me

I wish my mother had a sail so she could open it and come to me

I wish my siblings knew the way so they could come to me

 

I am not satisfied with the word “nostalgia.” What I feel is not just longing, or missing my home. It is a rush of wind, stained with the violets in my garden, and the soup on the table, and the gloves Holden lost, and how his mother got mad at him, and the wild things that were told to be still, and became still, and the donkey with the almond eyes, and Eartha’s purr. I breathe in a violet wind. And as I breathe out, the wind takes something into the distance. Some sort of matter. It’s as if the wind takes the tangible away. As if my scarf has fluttered off, but the warmth it gave me remains. So whenever I am cold, I wait for another wind to blow it back to me. And it does, from time to time.

 

“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.” —Maurice Sendak

 

I ate the peach, swallowed the violet wind. I lost the gloves but not the warmth. Sımsıkı tutunarak uzakligin kendisine (Holding on tightly to distance itself). I let the distance keep itself. And I let myself flutter from point A to point B… yeryüzünü dönülmez bir yolculuğa çıkmışım gibi seyrederek, as Hikmet says at the end of his poem “Things I Didn’t Know I Loved”: watching as if I’m on a journey with no return to earth.

 

Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Naomi Bernstein

Salatalık

Nâzım Hikmet

 

Ekber Babayef’e

 

Avluda diz boyu kar

lapa lapa da yağıyor

hızını alamadı sabahtan beri bir türlü.

Mutfaktayız.

Masada, muşambanın üstünde bahar

Masada, muşambanın üstünde körpecik bir salatalık

çiçeği burnunda, pütürlü.

Çepçevre oturmuş bakıyoruz ona

şavkı vuruyor yüzümüze yumuşacık

bir tazeliktir kokuyor bir tazelik.

Çepçevre oturmuş bakıyoruz ona

şaşkın,

düşünceli,

iyimser.

Rüyada gibi bir halimiz var.

 

Masada, muşambanın üstünde umut

Masada, muşambanın üstünde güzel günler

yeşil bir güneşle yüklü bir bulut

yaklaşan sabırsız zümrüt bir kalabalık

açılıp saçılacak sevdalar

masada, muşambanın üstünde körpecik bir salatalık

çiçeği burnunda, pütürlü.

 

Avluda diz boyu kar

lapa lapa da yağıyor

hızını alamadı sabahtan beri bir türlü.

 

Mart 1960, Moskova

Cucumber

translated by Monica Wojciechowski

 

for Ekber Babayef

 

In the yard, snow sits tall

and still, flake after flake falls

since morning, unfulfilled.

We're in the kitchen.

On the table, atop the cloth, spring

on the table, atop the cloth, a tender little cuke,

        with bumpy husk and blossomed stalk.

We surround it, staring.

Its cool glow soothes our faces

with a satin sweep.

How fresh its scent, how fresh

We surround it, staring

baffled

              pensive

                              light

as if we're in a dream.

On the table, atop the cloth, hope

on the table, atop the cloth, mended pep,

a cloud set to spill

                a sprouting sun,

seas of eager seeds

                    nearby,

blooming loves uncovered.

On the table, atop the cloth, a tender little cuke,

        with bumpy husk and blossomed stalk.

In the yard, snow sits tall

and still flake after flake falls

since morning, unfulfilled.

 

Moscow, March 1960

translator's note​

Due to what some might call an unusual affinity towards cucumbers, I was immediately drawn to this poem by Nâzım Hikmet. While it was the title that initially caught my attention, it was Hikmet's descriptions and language (and the feelings they evoked) that drew me to translate the poem. The first line of “Cucumber” talks about the snow outside piling up, despite it being the start of spring. In a conspicuously similar manner, while I was reading the poem one April morning in Philadelphia, it began to snow outside of the library! Through my translation, I sought to replicate the essence of sincere (but slightly irrational) hopefor spring, for a fresh start, for changeas present in Hikmet's words today as it was years ago.

about the poet

NÂZIM HIKMET (19021963) was a Turkish poet, playwright, and revolutionary figure. He is considered Turkey's first modern poet and was influenced by the Russian Futurist movement. Hikmet was jailed in Turkey for long periods of time for writing what the government claimed was revolutionary poetry. In 1950, Hikmet started a hunger strike protesting the Turkish government's failure to include an amnesty law in its agenda. Later that year, Hikmet received the International Peace Prize. After his final release from prison, Hikmet moved to the Soviet Union. He continues to be revered by Turkish youth as the voice of revolution

about the translator

MONICA WOJCIECHOWSKI grew up in Denville, NJ, but considers Poland to be her second home. She spent this past summer traveling through Eastern and Central Europe, and she stayed with family in Poland's countryside, harvesting fruit, taking long walks, picking mushrooms, and translating poetry. Nothing makes Monica happier than sharing her heritage with others, and whether through stories, food, music, or language, she is always grateful for the opportunity to do so. It was not until recently that Monica discovered the captivating world of literary translation, but now that she has, she doesn't plan on leaving it anytime soon.

 

على رصيف المحطة

الرسالة التاسعة

 

. .أعرفُ

ونحنُ على رَصيفِ المَحَطَّة

. .أنَّكِ تنتظرينَ رَجُلًا آخَرَ

وأعرِفُ أنني لَم أكُنْ

سِوى مِروَحَةٍ صِينِيَّةٍ خَفَّفَتْ عنكِ حَرارةَ الصَّيفْ

. .ورَميْتِها بعدَ الصَّيف

أعرِفُ أيضًا

أنَّ رَسائِلَ الحُبّ التي كتبتُها لكِ

. .لم تَكُن سِوى مَرايا رأيتِ فيها غُرُورَكِ

.وَمَعَ هذا

. .سَأحمِلُ حَقائِبَكِ

. .وَحقائِبَ حَبيبِكِ

لأنني أستَحي أن أصفَعَ امرأةً

تحمِلُ في حَقيبَةِ يدَيْها البَيْضاءْ

. .أحلَى أيامِ حَياتي

The Ninth Letter: On the Platform

translated by Michael Karam

I know …

as we stand here on the platform

you’ve been waiting for someone else…

And I know I was nothing

but a cheap fan to ease summer’s heat

till summer ended ...

I know too

that in my love letters to you,

you saw a mirror.

Still.

I’ll carry your luggage …

And I’ll carry your lover’s luggage …

for I’m too honorable to hurt a lover

who holds, in the white bag

swinging gently from her hands,

the best days of my life ….

translator's note​

I chose to translate a Qabbani poem because of how much his name and works remind me of my early schooling in Lebanon. While he is not as famous in America, I hope this is a step towards a growing fascinated audience. Even if you’ve never stood on a train platform, this image of fleeting love is a familiar one. There were some key decisions I had to make in this translation process. I wanted to remain true to the original’s punctuation and shape on the page even at the risk of its flow, in English. I did translate Chinese fan (from the literal Arabic) to cheap fan, because the former doesn’t enlist the same enthymematic suggestion for the English-language reader as it does for the reader of Arabic.

about the poet

NIZAR QABBANI (1923–1998) is a timeless Arab poet known for his sensual and romantic verse. Beyond his two dozen volumes of poetry and contributions to the Lebanese newspaper Al Hayat, his poetry is often sung by Lebanese and Syrian vocalists who have popularized his work. Young and old people in Lebanon (where he lived for years) and in Syria (his home country) love these familiar tunes. Qabbani writes of romantic and political despair; his poetry advocates for Arab nationalism and social freedoms for women.

about the translator

MICHAEL KARAM is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania studying economics and international relations with a math minor. He is passionate about languages and bringing communities together. Michael loved memorizing and reciting Qabbani’s poetry when he was in elementary school in Lebanon. Poetry by Qabbani is also a reminder that the people suffering from the war in Syria are humans who have the right to live and love too.

 

Ты меня не любишь, не жалеешь

Сергей А. Есенин

Ты меня не любишь, не жалеешь,

Разве я немного не красив?

Не смотря в лицо, от страсти млеешь,

Мне на плечи руки опустив.

 

Молодая, с чувственным оскалом,

Я с тобой не нежен и не груб.

Расскажи мне, скольких ты ласкала?

Сколько рук ты помнишь? Сколько губ?

 

Знаю я — они прошли, как тени,

Не коснувшись твоего огня,

Многим ты садилась на колени,

А теперь сидишь вот у меня.

 

Пусть твои полузакрыты очи,

И ты думаешь о ком-нибудь другом,

Я ведь сам люблю тебя не очень,

Утопая в дальнем дорогом.

 

Этот пыл не называй судьбою,

Легкодумна вспыльчивая связь,—

Как случайно встретился с тобою,

Улыбнусь, спокойно разойдясь.

 

Да и ты пойдешь своей дорогой

Распылять безрадостные дни,

Только нецелованных не трогай,

Только негоревших не мани.

 

И когда с другим по переулку

Ты пройдешь, болтая про любовь,

Может быть, я выйду на прогулку,

И с тобою встретимся мы вновь.

 

Отвернув к другому ближе плечи

И немного наклонившись вниз,

Ты мне скажешь тихо: «Добрый вечер!»

Я отвечу: «Добрый вечер, miss».

 

И ничто души не потревожит,

И ничто ее не бросит в дрожь, —

Кто любил, уж тот любить не может,

Кто сгорел, того не подожжешь.

You don't love me, you don't pity me

translated by Malika Kadyrova

You don’t love me, you don’t pity me.

Don’t you find me at least a little handsome?

You won’t look at my face but you lose control

with your hands on my shoulders.

 

You’re young, sensual, teeth bared;

I’m neither gentle with you nor rough.

Tell me, how many have you caressed?

How many hands have you touched? How many lips?

 

I know – they passed like shadows

without touching your flame.

You’ve made your home on many laps

and now you’re here on mine.

 

I’ll let you keep your eyes half-shut,

maybe I’m not the one you want to see.

I’m not head over heels either,

drowning in the treasured past.

 

Don’t call this ardour destiny,

this connection of ours quick to spark -

as easily as I fell into you,

I’ll find it just as easy to part.

 

And so will you, you’ll find your path,

leaving unhappy days in your wake.

Just don’t touch those who haven’t been kissed,

just don’t tempt those who haven’t been burned.

 

And when you’re out with another,

strolling arm-in-arm, talking about love,

maybe you’ll see me crossing the street,

and you and I will meet again.

 

You’ll lean into your companion

and with a tilt of your head,

you’ll whisper to me: ‘Good evening!’

and I’ll answer: ‘Good evening, miss.’

 

And nothing will worry my soul,

and nothing will drive it to shiver –

one who has loved won’t love again,

one who has burned won’t ignite.

translator's note​

I tried to keep the tone if not light then at least uncomplicated. This was tricky for me; I must confess to a fondness for fluffy words. Russian grammar allows for relatively easy rhyming; I chose to forgo an attempt at Yesenin’s rhyming stanzas in favour of a more free structure that would hopefully convey the casual air of Yesenin’s language. Yesenin’s diction often takes on a colloquial character, and his imagery is bright and occasionally jarring. An example of this is the woman in “You don’t love me,” who is flirty and untouchable and for whom he uses a phrase that has more echoes of a wolf baring its teeth than anything a human could do with their mouth. Despite the overall gentle tone of the poem, the narrator’s bitterness shows through his reserve, and for this reason I decided to leave the animalistic imagery.

about the poet

SERGEI YESENIN (1895–1925) was a Russian Imagist. Yesenin’s reputation as a “peasant prophet” stemmed from his rural upbringing and the fact that he was most inspired by village lifestyle and lore, later accentuated in his poetry by post-revolutionary melancholy. In the words of literary critic Yuri Prokushev, Yesenin’s imagery was “not obscured by religious symbols or vocabulary,” which endeared him to a huge readership.  

about the translator

MALIKA KADYROVA graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015 with a major in Comparative Literature and minors in French and Classical Studies. She’s currently at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, wandering along the postgrad brick road in the direction of a career in simultaneous interpretation.

 

Propiedad de la Espera

Alejandro Zambra

Trata de sentir el suelo
Sus pies se hunden en la arena seca
Busca sus pies
Detiene el movimiento de sus manos
Ha encontrado sus pies pero no los mira
Todo es igual a como era antes
Necesito explicar que es así,
que todo es igual a un momento anterior, 
doloroso.
Supongo que hay mar ante sus ojos 
y que ella mira el mar
como mira el centro de un espejo difícil.

Under the Custody of Time

translated by Roberto Rodriguez

She tries to feel the ground

Her feet sink on dry sand

She looks for her feet

She stops the movement of her hands

She has found her feet, but she does not look at them

Everything is as it was before

I need to explain that it is this way,

that everything is like a moment already lived,

painful.

I suppose there is an ocean in her gaze

and that she looks at it

the way she looks at a complex mirror.

translator's note​

"Propiedad de la Espera" was exactly the poem I didn’t know I was looking for. Several others were tested, but this one struck me on a more personal level. Zambra has a subtle way of transmitting verse with intimidating simplicity, or better yet, decisiveness, which makes it daunting to translate when trying to stay as faithful to the original as possible. At first, I tried to alternate nouns when talking about a subject more than once, such as with “her feet.” I thought about switching between feet and legs in order to counter the more repetitive nature of the English, considering that in Spanish there is no need to directly imply a person’s gender when talking about him/her. She tries/Her feet/She looks/She stops/She has could not have been avoided without making the poem suffer. For example, the first line would translate literally into something like: Tries to feel the floor. The line uses a gender neutral pronoun. “It” would be the closest comparison. The penultimate verse in the original, Y que ella (she) mira el mar, is the only indication of this figure’s gender. After reading the poem many times, a title instantly came to mind: "Under The Custody Of Time." "Propiedad de la Espera" literally translates to Property of Waiting, which I don’t think fully grasps the poem’s meaning. To me, this poem is about how bittersweet it is to look back at our past, or even about how we sometimes feel our lives might be slipping from our hands, how we idly stand in place while the world just keeps turning without us. Under The Custody Of Time… We are all left to  time’s doing, after all.

about the poet

ALEJANDRO ZAMBRA is a twenty-first-century Chilean poet, short story writer, and novelist. He graduated from the University of Chile in 1997 with a degree in Hispanic literature, obtained an MA in Hispanic studies in Madrid, and received a PhD in literature in Chile. Zambra is most known for his first novel, Bonsái, which won the Chilean Critics Award in 2006. He has been recognized multiple times in magazines such as The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Tin House for his literary works. He currently teaches at the School of Literature at Diego Portales University in Santiago.

about the translator

ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He works at a bookstore and enjoys sharing his favorite books with any who bother asking him. His favorite hobbies include reading and writing, and he longs for the day when he can make a living out of doing what he loves. At gatherings, you might find him engrossed in deep conversation, often mid-pitch through his latest idea for the wildly fantastic novel he is surely destined to write one day.

 

Three Sonnets

La Compiuta Donzella

(1)

A la stagion che ’l mondo foglia e fiora

acresce gioia a tut[t]i fin’ amanti:

vanno insieme a li giardini alora,

che gli auscelletti fanno dolzi canti;

la franca gente tutta s’inamora,

e di servir ciascun trag[g]es’ inanti,

ed ogni damigella in gioia dimora;

e me, n’abondan mar[r]imenti e pianti.

Ca lo mio padre m’ha messa ’n er[r]ore,

e tenemi sovente in forte doglia:

donar mi vole a mia forza segnore,

ed io di ciò non ho disio né voglia,

e ’n gran tormento vivo a tutte l’ore;

però non mi ralegra fior né foglia.

(2)

Lasciar vor[r]ia lo mondo e Dio servire

e dipartirmi d’ogne vanitate,

però che veg[g]io crescere e salire

mat[t]ezza e villania e falsitate,

ed ancor senno e cortesia morire

e lo fin pregio e tutta la bontate:

ond’io marito non vor[r]ia né sire,

né stare al mondo, per mia volontate.

Membrandomi c’ogn’om di mal s’adorna,

di ciaschedun son forte disdegnosa,

e verso Dio la mia persona torna.

Lo padre mio mi fa stare pensosa,

ca di servire a Cristo mi distorna:

non saccio a cui mi vol dar per isposa.

(3)

Ornato di gran pregio e di valenza

e risplendente di loda adornata,

forte mi pregio più, poi v’è in plagenza

d’avermi in vostro core rimembrata,

ed invitate a mia poca posseza

per acontarvi, s’eo sono insegnata,

come voi dite, c’ag[g]io gran sapienza,

ma certo non ne son [tanto] amantata.

Amantata non son como vor[r]ia

di gran vertute né di placimento;

ma, qual ch’i’ sia, ag[g]io buono volere

di servire con buona cortesia

a ciascun ch’ama sanza fallimento:

ché d’Amor sono e viogliolo ubidire.

Three Sonnets

translated by Samantha Pious

(1)

The jolly pretty lovely lusty month of May

when every heart springs buds begins to rise

the little birds sing sweetly and completely in their Latin lingo

and maken melodye all night with open eyes

and every noble free frank French good person

falls in love and strives to serve his lady

who lives in great joy gaudia rejoicing jouissance:

I’m miserable. I may be going crazy.

My father’s thrown me into sin and error —

he holds me down in torture torment terror:

a lord and a master are his intent.

My will and my desire won’t consent!

I live in greater agony each day.

Therefore I have no joy this month of May.

(2)

To leave the world behind is what I want:

forsake its vanity and serve my God,

for mad insane base villainy and falsehood

swell rise take wing from out Pandora’s box.

Intelligence and courtesy are dying

and prix worth goodness generosity:

therefore I want no master and no lord

nor profane and urbane mundanity.

Remembering the evil which adorns all men,

I scorn despise abhor them in contempt

and it’s toward God my soul self body flee.

My father hurts wounds puts me in grave pain:

from Christ he turns me to the world again,

and I don’t know whose wife, whose bride, I’ll be.

(3)

Oh lord arrayed in prix price value valiance,

in shining praise and worthiness adorned,

I prize myself more worthy, since you’re pleased

to have me in your heart, and you implore

what little strength I have, to tell you, if I can,

if I am Latin literate, because (you say)

I have intelligence — but certainly I’m not

adorned in such cloak mantle fine array.

Mantled am I not, as I would like to be,

in virtue or the courtier’s art of pleasing;

whatever I may be, I have good will always

to serve all those in courtly courtesy

who truly love withouten lie deceiving:

for Love’s I am, and him I will obey.

translator's note​

I first encountered La Compiuta Donzella a year or two ago, when I was first learning Italian, in a historical anthology of medieval and early modern literature. As a woman translator, I have always found it convenient to assume female authorship unless otherwise specified. I made no exception while reading and re-writing the sonnets of La Compiuta Donzella. Even knowing, as a student of medieval literature, that medieval poets and writers tend toward self-camouflage rather than self-revelation, I persisted in reading her poems autobiographically — or semi-autobiographically, at least.

My translations of La Compiuta Donzella’s sonnets do not follow a literal phrase-by-phrase procedure, nor are they conventionally literary verse renderings. Instead, inspired by Caroline Bergvall’s Chaucerian re-visions in Meddle English, I opted for a sort of poetic archaeology, digging up buried idioms and lost meanings that were once common to the English and Italian vernaculars. At a practical level, this has entailed amplifying key words and abbreviating various others, as well as a certain amount of free association. I hope that parts of these translations will sound familiar to readers of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, and anonymous early modern English and Scottish balladry.

The versions of the original texts reproduced here are drawn from Gianfranco Contini’s anthology Poeti del Duecento: Poesia cortese toscana e settentrionale (1960).

about the poet

(LA) COMPIUTA DONZELLA, if she truly existed, was a thirteenth-century Italian poet and the first woman to have written poetry in the Italian vernacular. However, some theorize that the poet is simply a creation of male poets, as there are no records of her existence other than her three sonnets. In this piece, she writes about her life and how she was torn between becoming a nun and succumbing to her father’s wishes to marry a man her father has chosen for her.

about the translator

SAMANTHA PIOUS is a graduate student in comparative literature and literary theory at the University of Pennsylvania. Her first book, A Crown of Violets (Headmistress Press, 2015), offers a selection of the French poetry of Renée Vivien in English translation. Some of her other translations and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Berkeley Poetry, Review, Mezzo Cammin, and Queen Mob’s Teahouse, among other publications.

 

Może być bez tytułu

Wisława Szymborska

Doszło do tego, że siedzę pod drzewem,

na brzegu rzeki,

w słoneczny poranek.

Jest to zdarzenie błahe

i do historii nie wejdzie.

To nie bitwy i pakty,

których motywy się bada,

ani godne pamięci zabójstwa tyranów.

A jednak siedzę nad rzeką, to fakt.

I skoro tutaj jestem,

musiałam skądś przyjść,

a przedtem

w wielu jeszcze miejscach się podziewać,

całkiem tak samo jak zdobywcy krain,

nim wstąpili na pokład.

Ma bujna przeszłość chwila nawet ulotna,

swój piątek przed sobotą,

swój przed czerwcem maj.

Ma swoje horyzonty równie rzeczywiste

jak w lornetce dowódców.

To drzewo to topola zakorzeniona od lat.

Rzeka to Raba nie od dziś płynąca.

Ścieżka nie od przedwczoraj

wdeptana w krzakach.

Wiatr, żeby rozwiać chmury,

musiał je wcześniej tu przywiać.

I choć w pobliżu nic się wielkiego nie dzieje,

świat nie jest przez to uboższy w szczegóły,

gorzej uzasadniony, słabiej określony,

niż kiedy zagarniały go wędrówki ludów.

 

Nie tylko tajnym spiskom towarzyszy cisza.

Nie tylko koronacjom orszak przyczyn.

Potrafią być okrągłe nie tylko rocznice powstań,

ale i obchodzone kamyki na brzegu.

Zawiły jest i gęsty haft okoliczności.

Ścieg mrówki w trawie.

Trawa wszyta w ziemię.

Deseń fali, przez którą przewleka się patyk.

Tak się złożyło, że jestem i patrzę.

Nade mną biały motyl trzepoce w powietrzu

skrzydełkami, co tylko do niego należą

i przelatuje mi przez ręce cień,

nie inny, nie czyjkolwiek, tylko jego własny.

Na taki widok zawsze opuszcza mnie pewność,

że to co ważne

ważniejsze jest od nieważnego.

Fine Untitled

translated by Monica Wojciechowski

It's come to this: I'm sitting under a tree

by a river

on a sunny day.

It's really no big deal,

and won't go down in history.

It's not a battle or accord

whose motives scholars probe,

or the death of a dictator all easily recall.

 

But still, it's true, I'm by the river.

And since I'm here,

I must've come from somewhere else,

and before that

been in other somewheres still,

just like the sailing conquerors

before setting foot on deck.

 

A passing moment has an ample past,

its Friday-before-Saturday

its pre-summer May.

Its horizons are just as clear

as the sharpest sniper's gaze.

 

This poplar tree's stood firm for years.

This river - the Raba - didn't spring just now.

The flattened path through the brush

wasn't crushed last week.

To clear the sky's clouds,

wind must've earlier blown them here.

 

And although nothing big's going on nearby,

the world isn't any less intricate,

defined, legitimate,

than when wandering swarms roamed its dirt.

 

Silence doesn't just shroud muffled mischief.

Songs and strolls don't just trail grand parades.

Stones from shore can be skipped just the same

as work on a national holiday.

 

The web of circumstance is tangled and dense.

Stitches of ants woven through grass,

the grass itself sewn tight to the earth.

The shape of a wave traced by each drifting twig.

 

It just so happened that I am, and I watch.

Above me a white butterfly floats

with a light flap of wings that only he owns,

and a shadow flies across my arm—

not another, not any other's, but his alone.

 

At times like these, I'm always less sure

that what's important

is more important than what's not.

translator's note​

The title itself is an ironic showcase of Szymborska’s subtle irony and humble disposition. While it’s difficult to replicate the subtleties of Szymborska’s poetry and the nuances of the Polish language that make her work so light, her words always encourage the translator with a forgiveness and levity that only Szymborska can offer.

about the poet

WISŁAWA SZYMBORSKA (1923–2012) was a Polish poet whose poetry is known for its layers of profundity under a lighthearted and witty surface. She lived in Krakow, Poland most of her life and wrote about the Polish countryside and historical events of the time. Her poetry is well-known internationally and has been translated into multiple languages. In 1996, Szymborska received the Nobel Prize for Literature and delivered a famous speech about poetry as a profession and the irony that that statement implies.

about the translator

MONICA WOJCIECHOWSKI grew up in Denville, NJ, but considers Poland to be her second home. She spent this past summer traveling through Eastern and Central Europe, and she stayed with family in Poland's countryside, harvesting fruit, taking long walks, picking mushrooms, and translating poetry. Nothing makes Monica happier than sharing her heritage with others, and whether through stories, food, music, or language, she is always grateful for the opportunity to do so. It was not until recently that Monica discovered the captivating world of literary translation, but now that she has, she doesn't plan on leaving it anytime soon.

Poland. Photo by Natalia Pleśniak

 

בובה ממוכנת

מילים: דליה רביקוביץ

 

בלילה הזה הייתי בובה ממוכנת

,ופניתי ימינה ושמאלה, לכל העברים

ונפלתי אפיים ארצה ונישברתי לשברים

.וניסו לאחות את שברי ביד מאומנת

 

ואחר כך שבתי להיות בובה מתוקנת

,וכל מנהגי היה שקול וצייתני

אולם אז כבר הייתי בובה מסוג שני

.כמו זמורה חבולה שהיא עוד אחוזה בקנוקנת

 

ואחר כך הלכתי לרקוד בנשף המחולות

אך הניחו אותי בחברת חתולים וכלבים

.ואלו כל צעדי היו מדודים וקצובים

 

והיה לי שיער זהב ועיניים כחולות

והיתה לי שימלה מצבע פרחים שבגן

.והיה לי כובע של קש עם קישוט דובדבן

Clockwork Doll

translated by Alexandra Pierson

And on that night I dressed as a clockwork doll

turned to the right and left, twirled for all

until the crash cracked my face,

and they ran to piece me back into place.

 

Then, again, I was a clockwork doll

and I was polite and poised, in spite

of becoming a very different doll that night—

a splintered stem veiled from sunlight.

 

Still I dreamed to dance at the ball,

but they saw I was weak, just scraps of a shawl,

left me in a pile of candles by the cats and dogs

though my feet could still tap the songs.

My hair was golden, my eyes the ocean

my dress stolen from flowers in the garden

its ruffles carrying a cherry now forgotten.

translator's note​

In translating “Clockwork Doll,” I wanted to keep the original sonnet’s essential theme of losing oneself along with its beautiful imagery. In order to heighten the mythical and fantastical elements of the poem, I chose to add some internal rhyme in place of the original’s end rhymes, especially in the last stanza of the work. I also wished to make a few of the images new. Instead of literally translating that the doll’s hat is decorated with a cherry, I chose to say that the doll has a cherry in its dress. To me, a dress carrying “a cherry” in “its ruffles” expresses a piece of humanity the doll still has tucked away somewhere.

 

I think this poem is incredibly relevant to today’s world, where we can all at times feel like clockwork dolls, moving through the motions and sometimes falling on our faces.

about the poet

 

DAHLIA RAVIKOVITCH was born in Ramat Gan, Israel, in 1936 and died in Tel Aviv in 2005. She is one of the most well-known contemporary Israeli poets, peace activists and translators, her primary language being Hebrew. Having lost her father at an early age, she spent time in a kibbutz and then at several foster homes. She published her first book of poetry, The Love of an Orange, in 1959. Throughout her lifetime, she published ten volumes of poetry, which were translated into twenty-three languages. She has also translated the works of W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, and Edgar Allen Poe into Hebrew. Many of her poems have been set to song and are well-known radio favorites in Israel.

about the translator

ALEXANDRA PIERSON is a senior studying English with concentrations in creative writing and consumer psychology. She first started writing poetry in a course called “Orpheus After Ovid: Greek Mythology in Contemporary Poetry,” and first started translating poetry in a course called “Translation of Poetry/Poetry of Translation.”

 

Le Balcon

Charles Baudelaire

 

Mère des souvenirs, maîtresse des maîtresses,

Ô toi, tous mes plaisirs! ô toi, tous mes devoirs!

Tu te rappelleras la beauté des caresses,

La douceur du foyer et le charme des soirs,

Mère des souvenirs, maîtresse des maîtresses!

 

Les soirs illuminés par l'ardeur du charbon,

Et les soirs au balcon, voilés de vapeurs roses.

Que ton sein m'était doux! que ton coeur m'était bon!

Nous avons dit souvent d'impérissables choses

Les soirs illuminés par l'ardeur du charbon.

 

Que les soleils sont beaux dans les chaudes soirées!

Que l'espace est profond! que le coeur est puissant!

En me penchant vers toi, reine des adorées,

Je croyais respirer le parfum de ton sang.

Que les soleils sont beaux dans les chaudes soirées!

 

La nuit s'épaississait ainsi qu'une cloison,

Et mes yeux dans le noir devinaient tes prunelles,

Et je buvais ton souffle, ô douceur! ô poison!

Et tes pieds s'endormaient dans mes mains fraternelles.

La nuit s'épaississait ainsi qu'une cloison.

 

Je sais l'art d'évoquer les minutes heureuses,

Et revis mon passé blotti dans tes genoux.

Car à quoi bon chercher tes beautés langoureuses

Ailleurs qu'en ton cher corps et qu'en ton coeur si doux?

Je sais l'art d'évoquer les minutes heureuses!

 

Ces serments, ces parfums, ces baisers infinis,

Renaîtront-ils d'un gouffre interdit à nos sondes,

Comme montent au ciel les soleils rajeunis

Après s'être lavés au fond des mers profondes?

— Ô serments! ô parfums! ô baisers infinis!

Balcony

translated by Shilpa Saravanan

Mother of memories, mistress of mistresses,

all my pleasures, all my obligations--

you remember these touches,

that foyer, those charmed nights.

Mother of memories, mistress of mistresses.

 

With burning coals, we’d light the nights,

nights on the balcony, drenched in roses;

you were so young, your heart so open.

We often told each other imperishable things,

and with burning coals, we’d light the nights.

 

The sun remains in the blackened sky.

The stars are inscrutable, so is the heart;

as I bent to kiss you, my love of all loves,

I think I smelled your blood.
And the sun remains in the blackened sky.

 

After dark, the darkness deepens,

but my eyes, unseeing, found yours.

I drank in your breaths, poisons sweet;

your feet fell asleep in my hands.

After dark, the darkness deepens.

 

There is an art to remembrance.

Lying in your lap, I relive the past;

why did I look for your languid beauty

anywhere but your warm body and heart?

I know the art of remembrance!

 

These promises, perfumes, infinite kisses,

won’t they rise out of foreign waters--

like suns reborn, scaling the horizon

after having bathed in the depths?

Promises, perfumes, kisses infinite.

translator's note​

I found “Le Balcon” when I found the line “we often told each other imperishable things” quoted in an essaynot as part of the Baudelaire poem, but as having been inscribed in an unrelated poetry collection gifted from one artist to another almost a century ago. In any other context, I might’ve found the line a bit too heady, a bit too into itself, but what struck me was that someone had quoted the line to express (directly) to a loved one the sentiments contained in it. I couldn’t get that interaction out of my head for days, and so my own translation began with (and centers on) this particular line.

 

The line “we often told each other imperishable things” is very close to the original French, but I took certain liberties with the rest of the translation. I tried to hew close to (what I feel) is the character of the love the poem describesit’s by no means a singular, once-in-a-lifetime love, but it’s a love that manages to be as earthy as it is sweetmany translations lose sight of its earthinessand despite its transience, it’s one worth remembering. This necessitated the use of certain phrases that have a more animalistic connotation in English (for example, “smelled your blood” and “drank in your breaths”) than they do in the original, and a switch from the passive to the active voice in two stanzas that emphasizes the fact that the lovers are entirely separate beings who choose to come together on this balcony.

about the poet

 

CHARLES BAUDELAIRE was born in 1821 in Paris. Often referred to as a poète maudit, cursed poet, Baudelaire was known for his work in translating Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry from English to French as well as for his originality of style. He is credited with coining the term “modernity” to refer to the fleeting quality of life in an urban city, and he believed that art must capture those sentiments. His most famous work is Les Fleurs du Mal (the Flowers of Evil), a collection of poetry that led to his prosecution for indecency and religious immorality due to its references to the devil as well as its principal themes of sex and death. However, Baudelaire’s perseverance led to the collection being recognized as revolutionary, and today it stands among the most famous collections of French poetry. Baudelaire’s skills as a poet, prose author and translator have garnered him much fame and respect, and though he is not as well known as his French contemporaries, he has certainly earned his place on the stage of global literature.

about the translator

SHILPA SARAVANAN is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying linguistics and computer science.

Rome, Italy. Photo by Shailly Pandey

 

Ou temps qu'Alixandre regna

François Villon

Ou temps qu’Alixandre regna,

Ung homs nommé Diomedès

Devant luy on l’amena,

Engrillonné poulces et des

Comme ung larron, car il fut des

Escumeurs que voions courir;

Si fut mis devant ce cadès,

Pour estre jugié a mourir.

 

L’empereur si l’araisonna :

« Pourquoi es tu larron en mer? »

L’autre response luy donna:

« Pourquoi larron me faiz nommer?

Pour ce qu’on me voit escumer

En une petiote fuste?

Se comme toy me peusse armer,

Comme toy empereur je fusse.

 

« Mais que veux-tu? De ma fortune,

Contre qui ne puis bonnement,

Qui si faulcement me fortune,

Me vient tout ce gouvernement.

Excuse moy aucunement

Et saiche qu’en grant povreté

(Ce mot se dit communement),

Ne gist pas grande loyauté. »

 

Quant l’empereur ot remiré

De Diomedès tout le dit :

« Ta fortune je te mueray

Mauvaise en bonne », si luy dit.

Si fist il. Onc puis ne mesdit

A personne, mais fut vray homme;

Valere pour vray le baudit,

Qui fut nommé le Grant a Rome.

Pirate King

translated by Samantha Pious

During Alexander’s reign,

the man they called Diomedes

was brought before him, all in chains,

from toes to fingers, as a thief,

for he was of the outlaw band

whose raids we’ve seen go sailing by.

Before the captain he was brought

to be condemned to die.

 

The emperor approached him: “Why

are you a pirate on the sea?”

The other gave him this reply:

“Why do you call it piracy?

Because we skim along the coast,

my little sailboat and my crew?

Had I a navy armed like yours,

then I were emperor like you.

 

“But what do you care? Lady Luck,

against whom no good ship can steer,

she’s luffed me over in this muck!

Her government has brought me here.

Excuse my French, since you must know

that men in desperate poverty

— these words are in the Pirates’ Code —

we can’t afford great loyalty.”

 

But when the emperor had heard

Diomedes, why then, instead —

“I’ll change your luck from bad to good,”

the leader said. And so he did.

He never spoke an evil word,

more faithful man was never known,

and (from Valerius) we learn

that he was named the Great in Rome.

translator's note​

In these verses, the fabled confrontation between the pirate captain Diomedes and the legendary emperor Alexander the Great attests to a basic equivalence between government and criminal, tyrant and terrorist, revolutionary and traitor. The last line of the third stanza is of course sardonic, and the syntactic slippage between Alexander and Diomedes in the final stanza is deliberate. The title “Pirate King” may refer to Diomedes, Alexander, or both at once.

about the poet

 

FRANÇOIS VILLON (14311463?), poet, student, and outlaw, composed the following verses in prison as part of his Testament, a poetic riff on the legal convention of a last will. Born into poverty, he was adopted and raised by a chaplain and future professor of canon law at the University of Paris, where he would receive a bachelor’s degree in 1449 and a master’s in 1452.

 

Villon’s first run-in with the law occurred in 1455, when he was arrested for assaulting a priest in a brawl; the following year, he helped to orchestrate the theft of five hundred gold crowns from the College of Navarre. His first major work, Le Lais (The Legacy), a poetic last will that prefigures the longer Testament, dates from around the time of this robbery. Over the next few years, during his first exile from Paris, he may have found a literary patron and legal protector in Duke Charles of Orléans, whose personal album contains three of Villon’s shorter poems.

 

During the summer of 1461, Villon was imprisoned once again, this time at Meung-sur-Loire, where he composed the Testament before being liberated, along with many other prisoners, as part of a display of royal munificence by King Louis XI on his travels through the provinces. Villon’s final arrest occurred in Paris, in 1462. Condemned to hang, he appealed and was granted a commuted sentence of ten years’ banishment from the city. After January 1463, no further trace of him remained.

about the translator

SAMANTHA PIOUS is a graduate student in comparative literature and literary theory at the University of Pennsylvania. Her first book, A Crown of Violets (Headmistress Press, 2015), offers a selection of the French poetry of Renée Vivien in English translation. Some of her other translations and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Berkeley Poetry Review, Mezzo Cammin, and Queen Mob’s Teahouse, among other publications.

 

Parzival, Book III

Wolfram von Eschenbach

Swenne abr er den vogel erschôz,

des schal von sange ê was sô grôz,

sô weinde er und roufte sich;

an sîn hâr kêrt er gerich.

sîp lîp was clâr und fier.

ûf dem plan ame rivier

twuog er sich alle morgen.

erne kunde niht gesorgen,

ez enwaere ob im der vogel sanc.

diu süeze in sîn herze dranc.

daz erstracte im sîniu brüstelîn.

al weinende er life zer künegîn.

Sô sprach si: “wer hât dir getán?

due waere hin ûz ûf den plân.”

ern kunde ir gesagen niht,

als kinden lîhte noch geschiht.

Dem maere gienc si lange nâch.

eins tages si in kapfen sach

ûf die boume nâch der vogele schal.

si wart wol innen, daz zeswal

von der stimme ir kindes brust.

des twanc in art und sîn gelust.

frou Herzeloyde kêrt ir haz

an die vogele, sine wesse umb waz.

si wolt ih schal verkrenken.

ir bûliute und ir enken,

die hiez si vaste gâhen.

vogele wâren baz geriten;

estlîches sterbern wart vermiten.

der beleip dâ lebendic ein teil,

die sît mit sange wurden geil.

der knappe sprach zer künegîn:

“waz wîzet man den vogelîn?”

er gert in frides sâ zestunt.

sîn muotr kust in an den munt.

Diu sprach: “Wes wende ich sîn gebot,

der doch ist der hoeste got?

sulen vogele durch mich freude lân?”

der knappe sprach zer muotr sân:

“ôwê, muotr, waz ist got?”

“sun, ich sage dirz âne spot.

er ist noch liehtr denne der tac,

der antlützes sich bewac

nâch mennischen antlütze.

sun, merke eine witze

und flêhe in umb dîne nôt:

sîn triwe der werlde ie helfe bôt.

Sô heizet einer der helle wirt.

der ist swarz, untriwe in niht verbirt.

von dem kêre dîne gedanke

und ouch von swivels wanke!”

Herzeloyde

translated by Michaela Kotziers

The day you shot your first bird dead,

the sound of its song grew.

It started out a whistle, whispering through

leaves caught by your arrow’s test,

but then it rose into your breast

and ripped a hole between

what you had understood to mean

our world removed from history

and you, or where you should be.

The birdsong hardened to a stone

and found a place among your bones

to nest and bite with each new shot

at feathered wings until a spot

of brilliant red on trampled green

—a side of death you’d never seen—

was just enough to newly tear

that hole between small lungs and air.

You ran to me with tear-stained eyes,

a child unable to say why

the silence of a bird’s sweet song

had opened your heart to a world of wrong.

 

One day I saw you rent your hair

—my child who had never a care—

and watching how the magpie drew

into your chest, I quickly knew

the birds that day would have to die

to keep your thoughts turned from the sky.

The curse of blood, your father’s art,

had somehow found your weakest part.

My darling son, I pulled you near,

and leaves like lips unfolded fear.

I ordered men to find and snatch

from trees all birds that they could catch,

but of those birds remained a few

whose whistles brought that curse anew.

The touch of roses on your skin

had faded to a dew so thin,

as each bird’s death became a fief.

You asked: “What have birds done for strife?”

 

I kissed you on the mouth and said:

“It’s not through me that birds fall dead,

but surely through the highest god.

How could I walk where he has trod?”

That small word pulled your chest abroad:

“Ôwe, Mother, what is god?”

“Sweet Parzival, I truly say,

that god is lighter than the day,

his countenance made to reflect

the good in man you would expect.

For you may turn in times of need

to he whose greatest loyalty

extends to all found in distress,

so long as faith is not suppressed.

There roams another—lord of hell—

whose loyalty in darkness fell.

Away from him turn all your thoughts,

especially when they are caught

in blinding doubt’s inconstancies.”

 

Remember how we lived at ease.

translator's note​

Completed around 1210 and now regarded as one of the great German epics of its time, Parzival was introduced to a German audience that had already read about Arthurian romance and chivalry. But Parzival is a somewhat alternative knight. This translation is roughly a third of a longer, researched piece that I adapted from Book III of Parzival. My research drew from the conversation between Parzival and his mother, Herzeloyde, which introduces von Eschenbach’s interest in Parzival’s humanity and the place of religion in his story, both of which set Parzival apart from the standard courtly ideals and characters of Arthuriana. Throughout the narrative, Parzival returns to his childhood questions about his own relationship both to God and the rest of humanity. Upon her husband Gahmuret’s death in battle, Herzeloyde decides to move with Parzival and their servants to the forest, in order to shield Parzival from knighthood; no one is allowed to speak the word “knight” or mention King Arthur. My translation is written in von Eschenbach’s style of rhyming couplets, but I chose to adapt this section from a third-person narrative to Herzeloyde’s first person perspective as a way of exploring the character transformations of both Herzeloyde and Parzival. I took license with the reordering of translated lines and emphasis on certain narrative aspects as a means of staying true to the new Herzeloyde perspective.

about the poet

 

WOLFRAM VON ESCHENBACH (1160/80–1220) is a mysterious character: all that we know of him comes from his poetry. While there are no extant historical documents that mention Wolfram, he does refer to himself in his work as a knight, a poet with many patrons, and even an illiterate writer. Based on the dialects of his written works and their geographical references, present-day Bavaria has been designated as Wolfram’s birthplace. Wolfram composed the narrative works Parzival, Titurel, and Willehalm, in addition to lyric poetry.

about the translator

MICHAELA KOTZIERS is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in English literature with concentrations in creative writing and medieval studies.

Bulgaria. Photo by Mirela Zaneva

 

진달래꽃

김소월

 

나 보기가 역겨워
가실 때에는
말없이 고이 보내드리오리다.

영변에 약산
진달래 꽃
아름 따다 가실 길에 뿌리오리다.

가시는 걸음걸음
놓인 그 꽃을
사뿐이 즈려 밟고 가시옵소서.

나 보기가 역겨워
가실 때에는
죽어도 아니 눈물 흘리오리다.

azalea

translated by DoubleSpeak Editorial Staff

 

when you’re done with me

when you leave me

gently, I open the door

 

a mountain in Yongbyeon

armful of azaleas,

I lay a flower-layered floor

 

your footsteps fade

tread lightly my love

for the flowers, nothing more

 

when you’re done with me

when you leave me

I’ll let go of before

translator's note​

Translating on one’s own is difficult enough, but translating as a diverse group of seven women is infinitely more difficult. The fact that two of us speak Korean was helpful, of course, but even those of us with no knowledge of the language felt strongly about each choice. There were often moments when those who spoke Korean felt that the others' translation was not close enough to the original, and so it became a tug-of-war between staying true to the original and trying to convey the sense of resignation that we all were wrestling with. There were times when feelings won, such as the choice to translate with minimal punctuation or capitalization - though the original has periods which lends it a sense of finality, we all felt that this love story was unfinished, and so we chose to not use any punctuation aside from the occasional comma. Other times, we stayed true to the original. Our decision to rhyme the last line of every stanza came from the rhyming and melodic sounds in the Korean. Though this made our translation process more difficult, we were all very pleased with the results. Poetry is perhaps the most universal and yet the most intimate form of language. This paradox (or this serendipity) emerged at each step of our process.

about the poet

 

KIM SO WOL is a famous early modern poet from Northern Korea, when Korea was not yet divided. He is best known for his collection The Azaleas, which was published in 1925 when Kim was 23 years old. He was most adored for incorporating Korean folk rhythms into his poetry, as these rhythms touched the hearts of his audience. They also create an additional challenge for translators of his work. Despite his short-lived life, Kim So Wol is considered one of Korea’s most beloved twentieth century poets.

about the translator

DOUBLESPEAK'S EDITORIAL STAFF is a combination of eight strong women. We love translating and writing and eating pizza and fava beans and being with other strong women who translate and write and love. We come from College Station, Texas, Seoul, Korea, China, Canada, California, from Seattle, India, and from Philadelphia. Between us, we speak Hindi, German, Korean, Chinese, French, Spanish, Hebrew, and many different versions of English.

 

Testamento

Maria Luisa Spaziani

Lasciatemi sola con la mia morte.

Deve dirmi parole in re minore

che non conoscono i vostri dizionari.

Parole d’amore ignote anche a Petrarca,

dove l’amore è un oro sopraffino

inadatto a bracciali per polsi umani.

 

Io e la mia morte parliamo da vecchie amiche

perché dalla nascita l’ho avuta vicina.

Siamo state compagne di giochi e di letture

e abbiamo accarezzato gli stessi uomini.

Come un’aquila ebbra dall’alto dei cieli,

solo lei mi svelava misure umane.

 

Ora m’insegnerà altre misure

che stretta nella gabbia dei sei sensi

invano interrogavo sbattendo la testa alle sbarre.

E` triste lasciare mia figlia e il libro da finire,