© doublespeak magazine 2020

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call for submissions

DoubleSpeak accepts English translations of previously published poetry and prose, as well as original essays on translation. We accept submissions from everyone, whether or not they are connected to Penn. Submissions should be sent to staff@doublespeakmagazine.org by Jan. 19, 2020 and should include: 

 

- Word or PDF document including your translation and the original work 

- Poet’s bio (~200 words): origin, significance domestically and abroad, description of their work, etc.

- Translator’s bio (~100 words): contextualize yourself. Brief. 

- Note on Translation (~300 words): expand upon your translation process and decisions. 

- Optional: a photo that you feel relates to the poem (personally taken, or from a friend, not one stripped from online)  

Email us with any questions.

Read our most recent edition below!

editor's note

Dear readers,

 

Every year, the translations we receive expose me, teach me, and remind me to be more observant, more gentle, more introspective, and more compassionate, and to further engage with my translations and with people. I become enchanted by the stories I read, wondering who the translator is, who the poet is, captured and absorbed by the words in front of me. I relish interactions I have with others, staying curious and aware of the perspectives of those around me. They remind me to stay relatable, to stay humble, and to stay vulnerable.

 

Nostalgia. Pain. Loneliness. Frustration. Love. Admiration. These are just a few of the emotions that are contained in this year’s magazine in the most raw forms possible. They are naked, but as feelings, they are also approachable. I find translation to be a process in which people can be personal, which I feel is so valuable to us as humans and what truly allows all of us to connect. As translators, we guide readers to discover themselves and to realize their vulnerable feelings in the process. Perhaps those readers are ourselves.

 

The experience I have with translation is so well encompassed by the words of the DoubleSpeak staff translation of Amina Saïd’s “j’eus dix ans le ciel en tête,” or “i was ten years old head in the sky”:  

from the second memory of words

the most real emotion is born

 

Translation is universal and deep. We live among languages, we live through languages and we express ourselves through languages. The more languages I discover and the more translations I read, the more I realize we need translation. It provides a sense of belonging, a sense of connection, and sometimes a sense of happiness, hatred, or hope. We are then able to stay human with our raw emotions, and languages help to discover and define our identities through them, guiding us through the unknown.

 

Even if it’s just for a moment that I can connect with an emotion or with someone, that time spent is invaluable. As my grandfather recently said in a conversation, “가까이 하기엔 너무 먼 당신,” or, “I want to keep you close, but you’re too far away.” I feel this way about my relationship with translation, with DoubleSpeak, and all the people I meet. There’s a sense of ephemerality in every aspect of this magazine, but translation still allows me to feel grounded, to feel hopeful. I respect and appreciate others, and build compassion for them, even through a few exchanges of words.

 

I never would have thought translating Japanese manga and anime would guide me into finding so many people who are passionate about sharing stories through their translations.  I am forever grateful for this magazine, for my staff, for our advisors, for translation, for languages, and for you.

Sincerely,

Nadia Park

Editor-in-Chief

our staff

Editor-in-Chief

Nadia Park

Senior Editor

Yehudith Dashevsky

Staff Editors

Mandy Wang

Yuxin Wen

Rhosean Asmah
Luisa Healy
Heta Patel
Robert Chen
Kate Jiang
Ashley Sniffen

Copy Editors

Rhosean Asmah
Quinn Gruber


Graphic Designers
Quinn Gruber
Robert Chen

A special thanks to Kelly Writer's House for all their support.

 

table of contents

“I”
Rachel Bluwstein | Shosana Akabas


Ghazal
Hossein Monzavi | Ali Noori


The Man Who Walks Too Fast
Li Yuansheng | Yi Feng


The Abandoned
Gabriela Mistral | Perren Carrillo


Blind Scrap-Dealer
Noon Meem Rashid | Armghan Ahmad

 

Musings

Yehudith Dashevsky


i was ten years old head full of sky
Amina Saïd | DoubleSpeak Staff

 

A Ballad About Departing for Heaven
Vladimir Vysotskii | Dan Guralnik


In the South; Simple Speech
Khalil Hawi | Rawad Wehbe

Crucifixion
Anna Akhmatova | Yehudith Dashevsky


Autumn Eyes
Hilde Domin | Dillon Bergin


Easily Written Poem
Yun Dongju | Nadia Park


Song for Helen
Pierre de Ronsard | Saagar Anani


Paper Crane
Li Yuansheng | Yi Feng


Here I Love You
Pablo Neruda | Stephanie Diaz


A Flower’s Pride

Chiranan Pitpreecha | Perriya Pongsarigun and John Viano

 

אני

Rachel Bluwstein

כָּזֹאת אָנֹכִי: שְׁקֵטָה

,כְּמֵימֵי אֲגַם

אוֹהֶבֶת שַׁלְוַת חֻלִּין, עֵינֵי תִינוֹקוֹת

.וְשִׁירָיו שֶׁל פְרַנְסִיס זַ'ם

 

.בְּשֶׁכְּבָר הַיָּמִים עָטְתָה נַפְשִׁי אַרְגָּמָן

וְעַל רָאשֵׁי הֶהָרִים

לְאֶחָד הָיִיתִי עִם הָרוּחוֹת הַגְּדוֹלוֹת

.עִם צְרִיחַת נְשָׁרִים

 

.בְּשֶׁכְּבָר הַיָּמִים... זֶה הָיָה בְּשֶׁכְּבָר הַיָּמִים

הָעִתִּים מִשְׁתַּנּוֹת

— וְעַכְשָׁו  

.הִנֵה אָנֹכִי כָּזֹאת

 

“I”

Translated by Shoshana Akabas

 

This is me: still

like waters of a lake,

in love with the tranquility of normalcy, baby eyes,

and the poems of Francis Jammes.

 

In past days, I wrapped my soul in crimson.

And on the hilltops

I was one with the great winds,

with the squall of eagles.

 

In past days...this happened in past days.

The moments changed

And now—

I am this.

translator's note​

Hebrew poses several unique translation challenges. Many Hebrew words are rich with biblical context that can be difficult to convey in other languages. For example, argaman is a reddish-purple dye used in biblical times. Because of its use in the temple design, it has a regal connotation that is lost in the translation (“crimson”). The fact that articles, prepositions, conjunctions, and pronouns are often attached to other words in Hebrew allows for concision that is not possible in English (where “and” and “in” are individual words). The final line (three words) of the poem literally translates to “here, I am like this”—but that felt too wordy, so I chose to maintain the simplicity of the original last line instead. Finally, the gendered nature of Hebrew words (with a few set suffixes) makes rhyming much easier in Hebrew than English, so rhymes or slant-rhymes are mostly omitted from this translation, since I endeavored to preserve Rachel’s images above all else.

about the poet

RACHEL BLUWSTEIN—better known in Hebrew as “Rachel the Poetess”—is one of Israel’s most beloved poets. She was born in Russia and emigrated to modern-day Israel at age nineteen, where she published three books of poetry in her lifetime. After her death, more anthologies were compiled, and she achieved such recognition that her portrait is featured on Israeli currency and her books are still best-sellers today.

 

about the translator

SHOSHANA AKABAS teaches writing at Columbia University. She earned a bachelors from Penn in English and organic chemistry and holds an MFA from Columbia in fiction and literary translation. Her writing has been featured or is forthcoming in The Washington Post, Kenyon Review, American Short Fiction, The Believer, and Electric Literature.

 

走得太快的人

Li Yuansheng

走得太快的人

有时会走到自己前面去

他的脸庞会模糊

速度给它掺进了

幻觉和未来的颜色

同样,走得太慢的人

有时会掉到自己身后

他不过是自己的阴影

有裂缝的过去

甚至,是自己一直

试图偷偷扔掉的垃圾

坐在树下的人

也不一定刚好是他自己

有时他坐在自己的左边

有时坐在自己的右边

幸好总的来说

他都坐在自己的附近

1999.10.27

The Man Who Walks Too Fast

translated by Yi Feng

The man who walks too fast

sometimes passes himself

His face becomes obscure

Speed is interwoven with

illusions and the color of future

Similarly, the man who walks too slowly

sometimes lags behind himself

He is just his own shadow

Even the past with crevices

becomes the junk

which he always wants to secretly throw away

The man sitting under the shade of a tree

is not always himself

Sometimes he sits to the left of himself

Sometimes he sits to the right of himself

Fortunately

he always sits not too far from himself

October 27, 1999

translator's note​

This poem shows the fast pace of personal and national development in China at the end of the 20th century. It also reflects the Confucian idea of “Zhong Yong” (中庸), the doctrine of the mean, and shows the cultural, political, and social significance of Confucianism. When translating this poem, I changed the part of speech of some words in the original poem. For example, in the first line, the original Chinese poem used an adjective “fast-walking” (走得太快的) to describe “the man”, but in my translation, I changed it into a verbal phrase “walk too fast” and put it in an attributive clause to describe the fast walking action of this man. Also, the direct translations of the last two lines are “Fortunately in general/he always sits near himself.” I omitted “in general” to make the English sentence flow better, and used “not too far from” rather than “near” to indicate that moderation is crucial in “Zhong Yong” (中庸).

about the poet

LI YUANSHENG was born in Wusheng County, Sichuan Province, where poetry is deeply rooted in the local culture and life. Li graduated from Chongqing University in 1983. After graduation, he worked as the general editor for the Chongqing Daily. In 2015, Li worked for the Chongqing Writers Association and became a professional poet and writer in Chongqing Academy of Literature. Li began writing poems when he was still in university. He is now the vice chairman of the Chongqing Writers Association and a member of the poetry committee of the China Writers Association. He published 4 poetry collections, all of them in Chinese. He has been awarded the People Literature Prize. In 2014, Li was awarded China’s most prestigious Lu Xun Literature Prize for his poetry collection Endless Things.

 

about the translator

YI FENG is a scholar, translator and associate professor at Northeastern University, China. She was a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. Since then, she has published poems. Her English poems were published in The Penn Review, and her Chinese poems were published in Lotus (芙蓉). Her translation of 12 poems by Charles Bernstein was published by Poetry Monthly (诗歌月刊). She published many academic papers on modern American novels and contemporary American poetry. She was awarded the Hunt Scholarship in 2016. She also won the Bronze Prize with her poem “Future Is Several Songs Written by Poetry” in an International Chinese Poetry Competition in 2017.

 

[غزال]

Hossein Monzavi

نخفتهایم که شب بگذرد، سحر بزند
که آفتاب چو ققنوس، بال و پر بزند
نخفتهایم که تا صبح شاعرانهی ما
ز ره رسیده و همراه عشق، در بزند
نسیم، بوی تو را میبرد به همره خود
که با غرور، به گل های باغ رس بزند
شب از تب تو و من سوخت، وصلمان آبی
مگر بر آتش تنهای شعلهور بزند
متام روز که دور از توام چه خواهم کرد؟
هوای بسرت و بالینم ار، به رس بزند؟
چو در کنار منی کفر نعمت است ای دوست!
دو دیدهام مژه بر هم، دمی اگر بزند
بپوش پنجره را، ای برهنه! میترسم
که چشم شور ستاره، تو را، نظر بزند
غزل برای لبت عاشقانهتر گفتم
که بوسه بر دهنم عاشقانهتر بزند

Ghazal

translated by Ali Noori

We haven’t slept to see the night pass and the sky go bright

to see the sun, like a phoenix, rise and take flight.

 

We haven’t slept to see, at daybreak, our poetics

come hand in hand, with love itself, to the door and strike.

 

The morning breeze takes your fragrance as travelmate,

so that he can visit the roses in the garden beaming with pride.

 

Night burned with our fever, our union like water

on the burning bodies of those set alight.

 

What am I to do all day so far from you?

What if I start thinking of our bed as it was that night?

 

When you’re next to me, it’s the height of ungratefulness

if my eyelashes come together, covering my sight.

 

Cover the window, you’re nude! and I’m afraid

that the evil eye of a star may strike you in spite.

 

I wrote ghazals about your lips ever more passionately,

so that they may kiss my lips with even more passion tonight.

translator's note​

Whether motivated by certain scholarly sensibilities or a personal attachment to the centuries-old history of ghazal, I decided to leave the word untranslated. The ghazal, often translated as lyric poetry, is a poetic tradition that spans across languages and geographical boundaries. The Persian ghazal is defined by two sets of characteristics. First, the form, the “aa-ba-ca” rhyme scheme, is the most recognizable formal feature of the ghazal; there are also rules governing meter. Second, regarding the content, the ghazal tradition comes with a cluster of images, devices, and conventions. Ghazals do not have titles.

As such, the translator’s challenge is also two-fold; formal qualities of the Persian ghazal are impossible to fully import into English. I have attempted to approximate the sound of the ghazal by keeping the rhyme scheme, albeit imperfectly. The conventional images are even more difficult to “translate.” The morning breeze, the rose garden, the ghazal itself as it is referenced in the last line, the night of separation and the morning of union that form the conceptual universe of the poem here are all common tropes within the tradition of the ghazal. A translation of a ghazal into another language—and by extension a new poetic and cultural space—divorces these images from the rich tapestry of meaning that they are a part of and that gives each of them more significance than a poem standing by itself can carry. I chose this ghazal to translate in part because I thought that even after the violent severance that is inevitable in the act of translation, the images retained some of their vibrancy and vitality.

about the poet

HOSSEIN MONZAVI was an Iranian poet, essayist, and translator. Known especially for his exceptional ghazals, Monzavi’s poetry has been regarded as a masterful amalgamation of conventional ghazal imagery and poetic innovation in the style of twentieth century Persian free verse. His verse is recognizable by its effortless flow and its spiritedness. Monzavi wrote in Azeri Turkish, in addition to Persian. The ghazal here was selected from a collection of his poems titled But You Human-in-Love, No One Understood You.

about the translator

ALI NOORI is a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania.

 

La Abandonada

Gabriela Mistral

Ahora voy a aprenderme

el país de la acedía,

y a desaprender tu amor

que era la sola lengua mía,

como río que olvidase

lecho, corriente y orillas.

 

¿Por qué trajiste tesoros

si el olvido no acarrearías?

Todo me sobra y yo me sobro

como traje de fiesta para fiesta no habida;

¡tanto, Dios mío, que me sobra

mi vida desde el primer día!

 

Denme ahora las palabras

que no me dio la nodriza.

Las balbucearé demente

de la sílaba a la sílaba:

palabra "expolio", palabra "nada",

y palabra "postrimería",

¡aunque se tuerzan en mi boca

como las víboras mordidas!

 

Me he sentado a mitad de la Tierra,

amor mío, a mitad de la vida,

a abrir mis venas y mi pecho,

a mondarme en granada viva,

y a romper la caoba roja

de mis huesos que te querían.

 

Estoy quemando lo que tuvimos:

los anchos muros, las altas vigas,

descuajando una por una

las doce puertas que abrías

y cegando a golpes de hacha

el aljibe de la alegría.

 

Voy a esparcir, voleada,

la cosecha ayer cogida,

a vaciar odres de vino

y a soltar aves cautivas;

a romper como mi cuerpo

los miembros de la "masía"

y a medir con brazos altos

la parva de las cenizas.

¡Cómo duele, cómo cuesta,

cómo eran las cosas divinas,

y no quieren morir, y se quejan muriendo,

y abren sus entrañas vívidas!

Los leños entienden y hablan,

el vino empinándose mira

y la banda de pájaros sube

torpe y rota como neblina.

 

Venga el viento, arda mi casa

mejor que bosque de resinas;

caigan rojos y sesgados

el molino y la torre madrina.

¡Mi noche, apurada del fuego,

mi pobre noche no llegue al día!

The Abandoned

translated by Perren Carrillo

Now I am going to learn

the sour country,

and unlearn your love,

my only language,

like a river that neglects

its current, its edge, its bed.

 

Why did you gift me treasures

without the means to forget?

Everything passes me and I pass me

like a party dress for a party no one came to;

Too much, my God, too much.

My life has passed me since the first day.

 

Now you must give me the words

that my mother never could.

I will babble and blubber them

from syllable to syllable:

the word “plunder,” the word “nothing,”

the word “hell,”

although they writhe in my mouth

like bitten snakes.

 

I have sat in the middle of the Earth,

my love, in the middle of my life,

to open up my veins and my chest,

to peel myself like a pomegranate,

and to break the red mahogany

of my bones that once ached for you.

 

I am burning all that we had:

the thick walls, the high rafters,

uprooting one by one

the twelve doors you liked to open,

taking an axe

to the well of happiness.

 

I am going to throw out

the harvest we reaped yesterday,

empty out the bottles of wine,

and free the caged birds;

I will dismember this homestead

as if it were my body,

the mountain of ashes

measured with fingers to the sky.

 

How dull the ache, how steep the cost,

how divine these things once were.

They don’t want to die: sniveling,

baring their vivid entrails!

The timbers understand and speak,

the wine pours itself to watch,

and the flock of birds rises

disjointed and slow like the fog.

 

May the wind come. May this house burn

brighter than a forest of matches;

May the mill and the watchtower

buckle, red and slanted.

My night, rushed by the fire,

my poor night, run away from the day!

 

translator's note​

I began by doing a literal translation of the poem based on my own understanding of Spanish, the translations of “The Abandoned Woman” by Randall Conch and “Deserted” by

Ursula Le Guin, and a Spanish to English dictionary. However, I wanted my translation to be just as intense, animated, impassioned, and senseless as the original, which a literal translation could never attain. In order to create a sense of reckless abandon in feeling and emotion, I took multiple liberties in order to evoke certain images or concepts. For example, in lines 5 and 6 of my translation, ‘neglects’ replaces ‘forgets.’ Here, the speaker, like the river, has made a conscious choice to ignore herself to the point of harm because every part of her has become her lover. Furthermore, I chose ‘neglect’ because each part of her and every word she speaks embodies her lover in such a way that the speaker cannot truly ] forget no matter how hard she tries. In fact, there is a paradoxical futility in even trying to forget; any active effort to repress something further recalls it.

 

There were times also when words and concepts in Spanish did not translate literally into English such as ‘postrimería’ in line 18 of the original. This word is only found in Spanish and is used to describe the four afterlife occurrences according to Catholicism: death, judgment, hell, and glory. Le Guin translated the word as ‘afterwards’ and Conch translated it as ‘waiting-for-death.’ Personally, Le Guin better renders the afterlife in her translation whereas, Conch veers away from that in rendering this ad hoc neologism for what the living feel towards the afterlife. I chose ‘hell’ to relate to the connotations of death and the already condemning tone of the poem. This abandonment represents the death of their love, a death that condemned the speaker to hell––to the flames and fire and pain and viscera. I also feel that this was an appropriate choice because it relates back to the first two lines of the third stanza: “Now you must give me the words/that my mother never could.” After all, a mother would never give a child the word ‘hell.’

about the poet

GABRIELA MISTRAL was a female Chilean poet, diplomat, educator, and humanist. In 1945, she became the first Latin American author and fifth woman to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature. She had many passionate affairs with both men and women with perhaps the recently published correspondence between her and Doris Dana being the premier example of both her great capacity for love (if not, passion) and her defiance of gender roles and stereotypes that the Chilean government had imposed on her. Central to her poems are nature, betrayal, love, and remorse, as seen in the translated poem, “La Abandonada,” which comes from a collection called Locas mujeres (Crazy Women or Madwomen depending on the English translation). This poem in particular deals with abandonment after love. Although the original abandonment of the speaker by her lover is the catalyst for the poem, it becomes apparent that at the forefront of the poem is the speaker’s madness, her abandonment of every sense––a madness more complex and more nuanced than it appears to be. She descends into a visceral insanity that engulfs the poem in the all encompassing redness of flames, of rage, of passion, but in a way that is completely her: complicatedly human.

 

about the translator

PERREN CARRILLO is a senior at Penn who studies Spanish and French and Comparative Literature in the College, and is constantly translating between languages, authors, and times. 

 

اندھا کباڑی

ن م راشد

شہر کے گوشوں میں ہیں بکھرے ہوئے

پا شکستہ سر بریدہ خواب

!جن سے شہر والے بے خبر

گھومتا ہوں شہر کے گوشوں میں روز و شب

کہ ان کو جمع کر لوں

دل کی بھٹی میں تپاؤں

جس سے چھٹ جائے پرانا میل

ان کے دست و پا پھر سے ابھر آئیں

چمک اٹھیں لب و رخسار و گردن

جیسے نو آراستہ دولہوں کے دل کی حسرتیں

پھر سے ان خوابوں کو سمت رہ ملے!

''خواب لے لو خواب۔۔۔۔''

صبح ہوتے چوک میں جا کر لگاتا ہوں صدا

''خواب اصلی ہیں کہ نقلی؟

یوں پرکھتے ہیں کہ جیسے ان سے بڑھ کر

!خواب داں کوئی نہ ہو

خواب گر میں بھی نہیں

صورت گر ثانی ہوں بس

!ہاں مگر میری معیشت کا سہارا خواب ہیں

شام ہو جاتی ہے

میں پھر سے لگاتا ہوں صدا

مفت لے لو مفت، یہ سونے کے خواب،،

''مفت'' سن کر اور ڈر جاتے ہیں لوگ

اور چپکے سے سرک جاتے ہیں لوگ

''دیکھنا یہ ''مفت'' کہتا ہے

کوئی دھوکا نہ ہو؟

ایسا کوئی شعبدہ پنہاں نہ ہو؟

گھر پہنچ کر ٹوٹ جائیں

یا پگھل جائیں یہ خواب؟

بھک سے اڑ جائیں کہیں

یا ہم پہ کوئی سحر کر ڈالیں یہ خواب

جی نہیں کس کام کے؟

ایسے کباڑی کے یہ خواب

''!ایسے نا بینا کباڑی کے یہ خواب

رات ہو جاتی ہے

خوابوں کے پلندے سر پہ رکھ کر

منہ بسورے لوٹتا ہوں

رات بھر پھر بڑبڑاتا ہوں

''یہ لے لو خواب۔۔۔۔''

''اور لے لو مجھ سے ان کے دام بھی

خواب لے لو، خواب

میرے خواب

خواب میرے خواب

خواب

''ان کے دام بھی

Blind Scrap-Dealer

translated by Armghan Ahmad

 

In the corners of the city are

Scattered, broken, aimless dreams

Of which the city-dwellers are unaware.

I wander the corners of the city, morning and night,

So that I might compile them,

Reignite them in the forge of my heart,

Clear off old, accumulated dirt,

So that their hands and feet may emerge again,

Their lips and cheeks and necks arise with a sparkle,

Like the unfulfilled desires in the heart of a newly adorned groom

That these dreams may again find direction.

 

“Dreams, get your dreams---,”

As morning comes, I go to the square and give my call.

“Are the dreams real or counterfeit?”

They investigate as if

There were no greater authority on dreams than them!

 

A maker of dreams, I am neither

A maker of the second face, nothing more

Although, yes, the backbone of my livelihood is dreams

 

Evening comes,

Again, I give my call

“Free, completely free, these dreams of gold”

Upon hearing “free”, people become even more fearful

And wordlessly move away

“Watch out; ‘free’ he says,

Might it be a hoax?

A hidden trick?

That they might break upon reaching home,

Or that these dreams might melt,

Fly away in a puff of air,

Or perform some sorcery upon us,

Oh no! What use are they?

These dreams of a mere scrap-dealer,

These dreams of a sightless scrap-dealer!”

 

Night falls,

With stacks of dreams resting upon my head,

I return with a dejected expression,

All night I again murmur,

“Take these dreams…

Take more…and take from me their cost as well…

Dreams, take these dreams…

My dreams…

Dreams oh my dreams…

Dreams…

Even their cost”

translator's note​

The translator’s dilemma is truly a world apart. On one hand, you feel the purest form of joy, sharing something so powerful and evocative to a whole new class of readers; on the other, you feel immeasurable loss for all the nuance and connotation that you somehow could not put on paper. There are questions every translator wrestles with: How true should one remain to source material versus the understood meaning of the work? Should line breaks happen as they are, or reflect the thoughts in the translated tongue? Is punctuation to be adjusted depending on the end language?

 

In translating Noon Meem Rashid’s اندھا کباڑی (Blind Scrap-Dealer), I quickly came to realize that Rashid’s sonic mastery was something I would never be able to capture in my end product—I thus opted to keep the line breaks exactly where they were, to at least preserve the original form. Surveying the analogies and abstractions Rashid uses (likening his heart to a forge, to the sparkling dreams of a groom), I attempted to capture, more artfully, the larger metaphors he constructs. Choosing the tenses of the verbs in the first stanza was an active choice to highlight the narrative Rashid composes of the speaker himself reinvigorating the dreams.

Additionally, the notion of "the second face" was difficult to explain. Simply put, “the second face” implies an external representation or symbol. Essentially, the speaker is asserting that he simply burnishes and presents these dreams, giving them an external appearance, but is not responsible for the content, the essence of the dream itself. I thought it more appropriate to footnote this explanation than to change the expression that Rashidr uses.

Without a doubt, the most difficult part of translation was the title and the subject of the poem. کباڑ, in Urdu, roughly translates to “scraps” or “rubbish,” and one who collects said scraps and sells them is a کباڑی. In Pakistan, such individuals wheel around their goods, hawking their wares to people. Thus follows the plot of the poem: this scrap-dealer, whose call for dreams exists in the same form of a milkman, fruit-seller, or any other street merchant who might be passing through. It was not even that the equivalent word did not exist, but that the very concept did not exist in the English language or Western culture. Rather than alter the fabric of the work, I chose to include this explanation instead.

about the poet

NOON MEEM RASHID was a Pakistani poet and writer, noted for his progressiveness and rich, adventurous use of language. He served in the Royal Indian Army, and after Independence, worked with Radio Pakistan before going on to work for the UN for the remainder of his career. Writing at a time when much of Pakistan’s literary community was harkening back to the Arab roots of Urdu, Rashid chose to highlight the Persian influence on Pakistan and Urdu. His language is layered with modern Persian verbiage and displays a mastery of sound that defies simple explanation. This very poem has a rhythmic rise and fall, a natural flow of language that rolls like honey off the tongue. Coupled with the abstractness with which Rashid examined the topics of free will, oppression, love, and beauty, his work emerged as the first marker of ‘modernist’ Urdu poetry. Rashid also became the first prominent user of free verse in Urdu poetry, rebelling against the traditional ‘ghazal’ format in Urdu poetry. He passed away in 1975, at the age of sixty-five, and asked to be cremated after his death (as opposed to the traditional Muslim burial), a hard-line individualist till the end.

 

about the translator

ARMGHAN AHMAD is a senior in Wharton studying finance and marketing. An avid lover of all things written, he can trace his passion for poetry to his family: to his grandmother, who would put him in her lap and regale him with stories and poems from her hometown of Agra, and to his parents, who would often quote poetry to each other at the dinner table and give him endless books to read. In his free time, Armghan enjoys taking photos, running along the Schuylkill trail, and waxing on about the cinematic masterpiece that is Manchester by the Sea.

 

musings

To Translate is To Change

 

They say every generation needs a new translation. I try to think of the last time I said something in the exact way I'd said it before. Is it lying, to change the wording? One way to say "to lie" is leshanot. It means "to change" in a language I feel at home in. It is from a place that claims me.

 

A Language Home

 

I lived there for two years, taking in words like sagriri, cold and rainy; metakh, tension; ga'agu'im, a longing that finds happiness in itself, like memory, or nostalgia for something that hasn't happened yet. Signing your name with it means: I miss you.

 

Shores are, at times, nostalgia for the river.

I once saw a shore

a river had abandoned

and left with broken heart of sand and stone

and one, one can also at times be

left alone and without strength

just like a shore.

 

The seashells too,

like shores, like wind --

seashells, too, are at times nostalgia

for the house we always loved

and which once was; only the sea

sings its songs now there alone.

 

So too from in between the shell-like fragments

of one’s heart youth hums its song.

 

                                            Natan Yonatan (from Hebrew)

 

Nostalgia is a word with a complicated present. I recently learned about the difference between “restorative nostalgia” and “reflective nostalgia,” the former a romanticization of the past, the latter a critical version of it (Svetlana Boym, “The Future of Nostalgia”). The word carries connotations that I do not intend, but I hesitate to disclaim it. Often I have a longing for the safety and warmth of tribal culture, for family that knows itself and has particular customs. I have a need for a circle of particular. I am learning to move past it into other languages, into other circles.

 

Relocation

 

Translators assume meaning in one location can transfer to a different one. Another audience, one that does not know the context, will nevertheless pick up on that thing, which moves the poem and gives it life. Translation is possible because there are situations and emotions that many people experience, and imagination fills in the gaps.

 

Sometimes I wonder if poems in the local language, reflecting contemporary concerns and having familiar contexts, are more effective. Even if they are, I find it worth the stretch of imagination required to understand a poem from a different time or place. The reward for the exertion is someone else’s perspective.

 

Absorption

 

What I miss about speaking in Hebrew is its flexibility. Like Arabic, and like some other languages, it has a way to assimilate nearly any foreign word. Lidaskes, to discuss; ligagel, to google. In other ways, it is not as accommodating. Gendered language is hard to navigate; harder when the concept of gender fluidity still feels foreign to its culture.

Dmitry Kuzmin, a visiting poet, explained that even now, in post-Soviet Russia, public displays of particularity, of any kind, whether gendered or ethnic or religious, are discouraged; the culture is “do whatever you want, in your own house.” This is not that different from the Russia in which my parents lived. Then, the attempt to celebrate religious holidays or to openly practice Jewish customs was met with suspicion. By the time they were young adults, the killings and arrests had stopped, but there were still incidents. Police dispersed celebrators on account of unruliness; my father was asked to take a leave of absence from his college in St. Petersburg for spreading Zionism (actually, tutoring Hebrew language). I grew up in America, living a public life my parents hoped for.  

Is it ungrateful to leave parts of it behind? I find myself compartmentalizing. Instead of trying to translate those parts of myself that mean something in one context, into new surroundings, I leave those parts behind, like old clothes, in my old room. When I come home, I put them on.

 

Translating Faith(fully)

 

I keep growing out of old beliefs, like out of old, beautiful, flaky snake skin. Sometimes I am so sure of a belief I hold onto it with clenched fists. I would translate it into all the languages: biological, psychological. Soon the skin feels tight.

 

We’re all loose women here, and sluts,

How sad it is to be among us.

Flowers and birds on the walls

Languish, pining for the clouds.

 

You’re smoking a black pipe;

Smoke gathers at whim.

I put on a pencil skirt

To look even more slim.

 

The windows are all boarded up:

What’s out there, thunder or ice?

Like the glance of a cautious cat

Is the movement of your eyes.

 

My heart is filled with dread

It’s not death I wait for, is it?

And the one that is now dancing,

Will clearly pay hell a visit.

 

Anna Akhmatova (from Russian)

 

Akhmatova’s depiction of women in a cafe, likely the Stray Dog, where poets gathered, can be read as either satirical or serious; maybe a combination of the two. In class, reading another poem, we discussed the problematic nature of white dress imagery. Purity, which the color white symbolizes, is not on the list of values held by this community of students. I realize the system of relationships I learned before does not apply in this place. Here, interaction does not sully, but enhances. What a relaxed way of relating to others. There are different words in this atmosphere: “exploration” and “self-care.” There is more for me to learn.

In the language of my culture, there are rules about relationships. They didn’t translate well into college life, but I held onto them, because they were a grammar. But speaking one’s own language limits interactions. Slowly, I am picking up on the grammar of contemporary relationships. There are rules here, too. Will I remain bilingual?

It is unlikely. It is easier to understand multiple languages, harder to continue to speak them.

 

Dress that Doesn’t Translate

 

A classmate and I sit down to lunch in the library cafe, cautiously. We haven’t spoken much before, but the topic, iconoclasm in the 16th century, was unusual for an English literature class, let alone one about material texts and printing. It had piqued both of our interests. “So,” I begin. “I actually don’t have much background in Christianity. I’m not sure I understand what the icons are used for, exactly.”

“Really? Well I grew up going to church and everything. Stopped when I got here and realized…” my classmate trails off, then begins again. “So yeah, you don’t pray to the icons. They’re kind of a vessel. They’re physical, to help you focus. They’re supposed to direct your concentration to God, you know.” We discuss icons briefly, then turn again to our religious backgrounds and what is left of them here, in life at college. Whereas his church-going had all but dropped off, I’d continued to observe. Finally, it dawns on my classmate that a vestige of observant life was visible on me. “Oh…so is that your uniform? The sleeves and the skirt?” he nods toward my clothes.

I grin at his word choice to describe my mock-neck sweater and jean skirt. “Yup.”

“Two years in classes with you and I hadn’t noticed. Didn’t make that connection. Wow,” he persists.

It is curious that dress doesn’t always translate. In a particular circle of people, it will mean the difference between belonging and the fringes. In one group I belong to, wearing pants suggests a rebellious streak. In another, it means almost nothing.

For my classmate, that I wore a skirt was just personal choice, maybe a sign of old-fashioned taste, maybe of femininity, but probably, that I felt like it.

I am grateful that my classmates are not bothered by what I consider to be my odd wardrobe choices. In Russia, my dad’s professor had told him to remove the cap he had begun to wear as a religious symbol. Here I can wear something different without being called out for it.

Yet, for some reason that memory stuck. My classmate did not realize my clothes indicated origins in a specific observant community. I didn’t particularly need him to know. But it meant the dress wasn’t meaningful on a large scale. It only held meaning in my own small circle. A local meaning.

Maybe translation is when something -- a thought, a combination of words, a behavior -- from one location becomes meaningful in another small space. It won’t necessarily mean the same thing. For those within a community, a particular way of dress means belonging. For those without, it means difference. When you translate, do you pick the original meaning of belonging, or the original thing, the dress, and let it take on a new meaning?

 

Dress Dictionary

 

Dress has not stopped conveying meaning. Some dress continues to signify participation in a religious group. The dress differences I experience more often speak to gender. The signs of language remain; what they signify shifts context to context (through time; across space).

Whether material or verbal, language choices are most poignant when the people around know the vocabulary. A mutual awareness of the history of words (or dress, or any act of convention) forms a shared mind space, in which breaking from convention means something. It suggests a rift. An intentional otherness.

I try to learn the vocabulary of others, so that when they speak otherwise, it matters largely.

 

Playing with Inheritance

 

Language is inherited, more than it is chosen. Words shift meanings but we as individuals don’t decide on their new meanings. On the title page of a book of poetry by Eugene Ostashevsky, there is a quote by the illustrator, Eugene Timmerman: “Language is the first compromise we make.” Choosing to use a word, even though it comes with a history of meanings, is the compromise. In collaborative translation we pay attention to those other meanings, the inadvertent ones. We bring to each other’s awareness all the meanings that we did not intend.

 

j’eus dix ans le ciel en tête

Amina Saïd

j’eus dix ans le ciel en tête

j’empruntai ses ailes au soleil

pour voler vers ce lieu entre deux rives

 

j’élevai des tours de sable

qu’habitait l’ombre qui me servait de corps

 

corps mûri par un soleil d’extrême été

j’étais dans la pensée du vent

les tons de la lumière

composaient mon paysage

 

j’étais dans la couleur du jour

je grimaçais avec les pierres

où s’abritaient les scorpions

dans l’île les femmes portaient un masque

peut-être par pudeur

 

le ciel en tête je me faisais invisible

pour mieux voir frappais aux vitres

où se rassemblait le jour

en un hymne quotidien

je cherchais un sens à la forme –

au-delà le monde devait exister

 

j’eus vingt ans impatiente

d’aborder des continents neufs

je quittai la maison de mon père

livrai à la lumière ma liberté d’oiseau

entrai dans l’espace de l’obscur

 

je cherchai à ouvrir des portes invisibles

affirmai lire la matière même du silence

comme une langue natale

fis du passé un commencement

et du présent une double absence

 

corps vivant plus que mort

je refusais que la nuit me sépare

du jour et le jour de la nuit

 

veilleur du rêve que le rêve invente

que cherchais-je lorsque j’ouvrais les yeux

sur les couleurs du monde

que jamais ne perd de vue le soleil

 

de la mémoire seconde des mots

naît l’émotion la plus réelle

j’habite cette musique

que je ne puis être seule à entendre

 

ombre qui suit ou précède son ombre

aux frontières entre rêve et réel

je demeure en marge de moi-même

dans l’espace et dans le temps

 

comment savoir si en ce lieu

de nulle part où se libère la voix

je suis venue de moi-même

ou s’il s’est imposé

I was Ten Years Old Head in the Sky

translated by Doublespeak's Editorial Staff

i was ten years old head in the sky

i borrowed the wings of the sun

to fly towards that place between two rivers

 

i raised towers of sand

in which lived the shadow that acted as my body

 

body ripened by the fervid summer sun

the wind thought of me  

tones of light

composed my landscape

 

i hid in the shade of day

i frowned with the stones

where scorpions sheltered

on the island, women wore masks

perhaps out of modesty

 

sky in the head, i would make myself invisible

for clear sight knocked on the windowpane

where it gathered the day

into a quotidian hymn

i was searching for meaning in its shape—

beyond, the world left existence

 

i was twenty years old impatient

to reach new continents

i left the house of my father

delivered my winged freedom to the light

entered the space of the obscure

 

i looked to open the invisible doors

knowing to even read silence

like a mother tongue

making the past the beginning

and the double absence the present

 

body more alive than dead

i refused to let night separate me

from the day or the day from the night

 

watchman of the dream that the dream invents

what was i searching for when i opened my eyes

to the colors of the world

that the sun never loses sight of

 

from the second memory of words

the most real emotion is born

i inhabit this music

which i can’t be the only one to hear

 

shadow which succeeds or precedes its shadow

upon the boundaries between dream and real

i dwell on the margin of myself

in space and in time

 

how can i know if in this nowhere,

where the voice frees itself,

if i came from myself

or was imposed.

translator's note​

This year, we include a chain translation done by DoubleSpeak Staff to demonstrate how many people can contribute to one translation. Each staff member translated about 5 lines, then we translated the last stanza together. We found it fascinating to watch the translation develop as each individual put in their own piece—aligning our own perception of the poem to the spirit of the poem itself and to others’ perceptions was challenging, but it allowed us to explore the boundaries of the self and others. We asked ourselves: how can we translate the poem’s focus on physicality? How can we capture the spirit of the language without any familiarity of its spirit? How would that spirit change our own expression?

The first line of the poem was difficult to translate. What exactly does it mean for one’s head to be “full of sky”? Is it whimsy at the nature of the world? A means of distraction? A reference to imagination and fleeting youth? Portrayals of nature’s beauty follow this “head in the sky,” with references to “wings of the sun,” “two rivers,” and “towers of sand,” alluding to nature’s magnificent power instead of the hands of humankind.

We also struggled with “I hid in the shade of day,” as the literal translation was “I was the color of day.” The sky is blue or white during the daytime but day seems like a colorless thing. So, we translated it as “I hid in the shade of day” because being the color of something colorless is the same as being invisible. Later in the stanza, the narrator mentions masks, so our translation makes the stanza more cohesive, even though the poem as a whole feels a bit fragmented.

 

Throughout the poem, the narrator grapples with her relation to the world around her. This is why we translated “j’étais dans la pensée du vent”—literally “I was in the thought of the wind”—as “the wind thought of me.” This decision places the narrator in a position of power: instead of being consumed by the wind, the wind makes the vulnerable decision to think of her.

Ultimately, through this process, we found ourselves each becoming a scrap of the translation and the poem becoming us.

about the poet

AMINA SAÏD, born in Tunis in 1953, was raised by a Tunisian father and a French mother and grew up speaking both Arabic and French. A voracious reader of novels, Saïd began seriously writing after her middle school French teacher persuaded her to write poetry. She wrote poems throughout the remainder of her schooling and obtained her baccalaureate degree in Paris after moving to France with her family at the age of sixteen. Saïd continued to delve into the world of language during university, deciding to study English literature instead of forcing herself to choose between the literature of her native languages. However, she still draws inspiration from both French and Arabic works and started publishing her own poetry in her twenties. She has translated novels by Francisco Sionil José, and her published works include collections of Tunisian folk tales and eight volumes of poetry which have been translated into Arabic, German, Italian, Spanish, and English. Honored in France with the Jean Malrieu Prize in 1989 and the Charles Vildrac Prize in 1994, Saïd has lived in Paris since 1978. She continues to write poetry and currently works as a journalist, often visiting her homeland of Tunis.

about the translator

DOUBLESPEAK'S EDITORIAL STAFF is a combination of strong individuals. We love translating and writing and eating cheese and desserts and fava beans and being with other strong language enthusiasts who translate and write and love. We come from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Lubbock, Texas, Dublin, California, Tampa, Florida, and Hangzhou, China, Bergenfield, New Jersey, West Chester, New York and Philadelphia. Between us, we speak Gujarati, Spanish, Mandarin, Korean, French, Japanese, Russian, Hebrew, Italian, and German. And we are forevermore mesmerized by the wonders of language, exploration, and discovery.

 

БАЛЛАДА ОБ УХОДЕ В РАЙ

Vladimir Vysotskii

Вот твой билет, вот твой вагон.

Все в лучшем виде одному тебе дано:

В цветном раю увидеть сон -

Трехвековое непрерывное кино.

Все позади, уже сняты

Все отпечатки, контрабанды не берем.

Как херувим стерилен ты,

А класс второй - не высший класс, зато с бельем.

 

Вот и сбывается все, что пророчится.

Уходит поезд в небеса - счастливый путь!

Ах, как нам хочется, как всем нам хочется

Не умереть, а именно уснуть.

 

Земной перрон. Не унывай

И не кричи. Для наших воплей он оглох.

Один из нас уехал в рай,

Он встретит бога - ведь есть, наверно, бог.

Ты передай ему привет,

А позабудешь - ничего, переживем.

Осталось нам немного лет,

Мы пошустрим и, как положено, умрем.

 

Вот и сбывается все, что пророчится.

Уходит поезд в небеса - счастливый путь!

Ах, как нам хочется, как всем нам хочется

Не умереть, а именно уснуть.

Уйдут, как мы - в ничто без сна -

И сыновья, и внуки внуков в трех веках.

Не дай господь, чтобы война,

А то мы правнуков оставим в дураках.

Разбудит нас какой-то тип

И пустит в мир, где в прошлом войны, боль и рак.

Где побежден гонконгский грипп.

На всем готовеньком ты счастлив ли? Дурак...

 

Вот и сбывается все, что пророчится.

Уходит поезд в небеса - счастливый путь!

Ах, как нам хочется, как всем нам хочется

Не умереть, а именно уснуть.

 

Итак, прощай. Звенит звонок.

Счастливый путь! Храни тебя от всяких бед!

А если там и вправду бог -

Ты все же вспомни, передай ему привет.

A Ballad about Departing for Heaven

translated by Dan Guralnik

Here's your ticket. There's your car.

The best we’ve got, it's all for you alone.

To visit heaven, dream in color

An endless iMax film for when you're gone...

 

Now all’s arranged, your papers cleared,

No luggage? Good! We take none anyway.

You’re finger-printed, washed and rinsed.

The seat’s just coach, but it reclines so well!

All that’s foretold comes to transpire:

The Train for Heaven leaves: farewell, godspeed!

Oh, how we crave, how strongly we desire

Never to die, but gently fall asleep.

 

You, back on earth, do not despair!

And save your cries -- we do not have his ear.

He's bound for heaven, paid his fare,

He'll meet his maker, if that maker's here.

 

He'll pass to god our best regards;

Should he forget, it's not of much concern:

We don't have long to stay alive;

We'll have some fun until the train returns.

All that’s foretold…

 

Not everyone is heaven-bound.

Those left behind could still protest their fate:

Go start a brawl, or join my song,

Perhaps make love, or merely contemplate.

 

Like you, we’ll step into the void,

As our children, great grandchildren stay behind

Oh god, I wish there won't be wars

Or we will shamelessly have screwed them over now!

All that’s foretold…

 

You do not care! You will not budge –

Just lying there forever blissful and detached.

You’ve overpaid, if I’m to judge:

Even my library won’t fetch that much!

 

You'll be awoken by some dude,

who'll greet you to a world devoid of struggle, stench and dread. 

No wars, no plague, no solitude,

How happy can you be when all is ready-made?

Ah well, meanwhile, the whistle screams.

Godspeed! Let no harm come your way.

And, just perhaps, if god exists,

Do not forget to tell him we said, "Hey!"

translator's note​

My translations grow out of a deep dissatisfaction with available translations of Vysotsky’s work into English. The better ones are so academic they remind me of a quote from Milos Forman’s Amadeus: “Come on now, be honest! Which one of you wouldn't rather listen to his hairdresser than Hercules? Or Horatius, or Orpheus... people so lofty they sound as if they shit marble!” On one hand, knowing Russian as a mother’s tongue and having been raised on stories about the USSR—good and bad—and knowing scores of Vysotsky’s songs by heart, makes it hard to believe that Vysotsky would ever approve of such haut-couture translations. On the other hand, Vysotsky’s gift for juggling the Russian language and harnessing its cultural references that span centuries of human experience make most fan-made translations too banal and discolored despite the earnest attempt to convey his emotional range.

My goal was to translate the poem while preserving its emotional range, rhythm and measure, so it could be sung in English as a song, to the same melody as the original, and understood by my American friends and family. My solution was to make use of colloquial language, as you may have well noticed. Here are some notes/examples:

  1. The chorus is still too academic. I’d love to see something simpler replace the “transpire”-“desire” pair, even more so when I think of the corresponding pair in the original (sbyvaets’a/prorochits’a – hochets’a), which is a simpler rhyme, based on the repetition of a ubiquitous suffix.

  2. A few details in the song, such as those relating to the experience of boarding a long-range train in Russia (one aboard which you’re about to spend days to weeks, where you will require towels and linen, and you’d like those to be clean …), have been replaced with analogous, more contemporary, symbols of comfort, that are also more available and/or relevant on this side of the Atlantic. Just one line (4th line of 2nd verse) is given for conveying the train experience, with Vysotsky counting on the listener to conjure up their own memories thereof; in the US, I think, it is easier to ask you to recall how much leg room you had on your latest flight…

  3. Similarly, the phrase “kakoj-to tip” which could have been treated in standard English as a general reference to “some stranger” (and usually are, as a brief online search for translations of this song will demonstrate), is better conveyed by “some dude”, because the latter does carry with it the necessary modicum of repulsion/disrespect

I am certain that better, much better, translations are possible. Perhaps my conclusion from working on this one should be that translation is not merely about rewriting sentences in another language: it is about the communication of whole experiences. In the case of Vladimir Vysotsky, who dedicated his writing to the experience of life by less fortunate people, and who finds his roots in the study of song in Russian criminal culture (blatnye pesni), translating his work into English may be better served by the loose and laden language of the American Midwest, than by the standard, literary English language. My sincere thanks to the editorial team of Doublespeak for a very helpful discussion!

about the poet

VLADIMIR VYSOTSKII was an accomplished actor and one of the famous singer-songwriters of post-WWII Soviet culture, survived the blockade of Leningrad as a child, and was greatly influenced by the societal and cultural effects of the Second World War. Having witnessed the crash of patriotic Stalinism as a teenager, the “warming” (ottepel’) of Khruschev times and finally, the “stagnation” (zastoj) during Brezhnev, Vysotskii, in his poetry and song,casts a wide net of empathy over the “simple folk” (prostoj narod), mocked by the Soviet intellectual elites, the homeless war orphans forced into crime, the millions of wounded and bereaved WWII soldiers and the oppressed non-conformists (inakomysl’aschij) whom were tortured and disposed of by a regime whose ends justified all means. Love, death, and the love and beauty of life are themes woven intricately into every poem written by Vysotskii, with his song renditions of these poems so emotionally overwhelming – even in his comical writing – that his resulting popularity made it impossible for the Soviet regime to suppress his concerts (which started out as unofficial “evenings with friends”) or even his calling out the most vile practices of Brezhnev’s regime, such as imprisonment of political foes in psychiatric wards (see, e.g., the song Oshibka Vyshla). What made him still acceptable in the Soviet regime may have been a deeper, non-trivial side of his longing for true freedom for his people, its young culture and ideals. The Soviet regime had made it impossible for him to look up to the West, in whose political culture he could see other, no less powerful, patterns of oppression (see songs Temnota, Misteriya Hippi, and the most overt Pesnya o mistere McKinley).

about the translator

My name is DAN GURALNIK. I am a mathematician, working on geometric/topological methods for knowledge representation at Kod*Lab (Penn ESE) and am with Robert Ghrist’s group at the department of Mathematics. I was born in Israel in 1975, raised by my Russian-Jewish parents, who introduced me to Vysotskii when I was about 9 (or was it 10?) years old. He was a hero to them.

I moved to the US at the age of 30, my first 6 years spent in the “Bible Belt” (specifically Vanderbilt and the University of Oklahoma), where I learned many new things about English. This weekend is yet another anniversary of my dad’s passing (11/17/1939-10/20/2001), of lung cancer. Like every cool dude in his days (Vladimir Vysotskii included), Dad used to smoke a lot. The song I’ve attempted to translate  here is the song I played for the small gathering at his funeral – a song celebrating life in what seems a singularly Russian way, painting heaven as the best of all worlds, save one: ours.

 

في الجنوب

Khalil Hawi

جُولي سَبايا الأَرضِ

في أرضي

وَصُولي واطحني شعبي

جُولي وَصُولي

واطحني صُلبي

لن يَكتوي قَلبي

لن يَكتوي قَلبي ولن يَدمَى

تنحلُّ حمَّى العارِ

في غَيبوبةِ الحمَّى

لن يَكتَوي قَلبي ولن يَدمَى

قَلبي الأَصمُّ الأَبكَمُ الأَعمَى.

اللفظة البسيطة

Khalil Hawi

اللفظة البسيطة

اللفظة البسيطة

تَصلَّبَتْ والتهبَتْ

والتهمَتْ عينَّي حين التهمت

صَحوَ المدى ، والظلَّ والهجيرْ

لم تبقِ لي من موطني الكبير:

ثُلوجَهُ ، مروجَهُ ، خليجَهُ ، محيطَهُ

ما خلَّفَتْ ذبابةٌ

حَطَّتْ على خريطَة

***

اللفظة البسيطة

اللفظة البسيطة

In the South

translated by Rawad Wehbe

 

Inmates of the earth, roam

freely on my land.

Raid my people

grind them.

Roam, raid

grind my spine.

My heart won’t surrender.

My heart won’t bleed or surrender.

The fever of shame unravels

in fever’s infinite slumber.

My heart won’t bleed or surrender,

my blind deaf mute heart.

Simple Speech

translated by Rawad Wehbe

 

Simple speech

hardened, burned

and devoured my eyes. When it swallowed

the expansive clear sky

the shade

and the high noon sun

it left me nothing of my true home:

not its snows, meadows, gulfs, oceans

not even traces a fly leaves behind on a map.

* * *

Simple speech

Simple speech

translator's note​

Khalil Hawi uses simple language, repetition, and alliteration throughout his poems. The collection from which these poems come, is structured in a way that the poems become shorter and shorter until it culminates in a poem with a title but no text. My goal was to maintain the simplicity and fluidity of the syntax while creating alliteration when it felt organic. I refrained from using too many coordinating conjunctions to intimate the fluidity of the Arabic structure, because too many ‘ands’ would sound clunky. An issue I struggle with when translating Arabic poetry into English is to avoid sounding archaic. While these poems are dreary, they are also supposed to be fresh and light, despite their heavy content. Arabic has a lot of possessive constructions which tend to sound stilted in English. So, I tried to avoid them and alternated with “ ‘s “ contractions. Finally, the first poem uses a series of imperatives (roam, attack, grind, etc.). I’m not sure how to make that clearer in the English.

about the poet

KHALIL HAWI was a prominent Lebanese poet known for his contribution to modernist Arabic poetry. Though literary critics agree that Hawi succeeded in creating a poetic style that was unique, they also criticized him for the grotesque and macabre imagery which permeates his poetry. Influenced by philosophy, religion, and politics, Hawi composed poetry that grappled with difficult questions of authenticity and modernity. But Hawi was a sensitive person. The impact of national defeat throughout Arab countries from the fifties to the eighties filled his poetry with a lingering malaise from which he was unable to break free. Hawi tragically took his own life in the summer of 1982 upon hearing news of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon during the 1975 civil war which lasted twenty-five years. It is difficult not to read Hawi’s poetry in light of his suicide. However, buried deep within the harrowing and nightmarish images he wove together is a story of a disturbed individual who created a language capable of exploring the harshest complexities of human emotional landscapes. Hawi is revered within Arabic literary circles as someone who used poetry to look deep into the abyss where others dared not.

about the translator

RAWAD WEHBE is a PhD student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania. He studies both pre-modern and modern Arabic literature, which a focus on poetry. His decision to study Arabic as an undergraduate at UCLA to learn about his own culture and heritage as an Arab-American transformed into a dedication to explore new approaches to imagine, frame, read, and eventually teach, Arabic literature. He currently lives in Philadelphia, PA but usually spends his summers in Lebanon where he teaches Arabic at the American University of Beirut.

 

Распятие

Anna Akhmatova

            Не рыдай Мене, Мати,

            во гробе зрящия.

        ___

 

Хор ангелов великий час восславил,

И небеса расплавились в огне.

Отцу сказал: "Почто Меня оставил!"

А матери: "О, не рыдай Мене..."

 

                    1938

        ___

 

Магдалина билась и рыдала,

Ученик любимый каменел,

А туда, где молча Мать стояла,

Так никто взглянуть и не посмел.

 

                    1940, Фонтанный Дом

Crucifixion

translated by Yehudith Dashevsky

                    Do not weep for me, Mother,

                    Looking at me in the coffin.

        ___

 

A choir of angels praised the great hour;

The heavens dissolved into flames like the sea.

“Why did you forsake me!” he said to his Father,

But to his mother, “Oh, do not weep for me…”

 

                    1938

        ___

 

Mary Magdalene convulsed and wept.

The beloved disciple turned blank as a book.

But where the Mother quietly stood,

Neither of them dared to look.

 

                    1940, Fountain House

translator's note​

This set of two poems are part of a longer cycle called Requiem, which Anna Akhmatova wrote during the Great Purge in Soviet Russia, 1936-1939. The cycle moves between Akhmatova’s personal suffering during that time—having a son imprisoned—and the suffering of the Russian people in general. Unique qualities of Akhmatova’s poetry include intimacy, intensity of emotion, and a terseness; these are present in this cycle as well. Crucifixion comes near the end of cycle and veers away from the situation in Russia into a biblical scene. The basic parallel is clear: that of a mother’s loss of her son. Interpretations of this parallel are hazier, however. Is the stoicism of the M/mother thrust upon her, or chosen?


One of the more daring choices I made in this translation is not to render the beloved disciple’s expression literally. In the original, the disciple “kamenel,” a passive, reflexive verb that means “became petrified;” that is, he turned cold and blank as stone. The passive tense of the word is important, because the responses of the disciple and Mary are meant to be understood as involuntary reactions. However, in English it is impossible to render the word in a passive tense without using the word “was” or “becomes.” “Was petrified” misses the physical aspect; it can refer simply to fear. It also loses the gradual, in-the-moment component of “becoming;” however, “became petrified” sounds clunky. It seemed important that Mary Magdalene and the disciple have some reaction that is involuntary, in-the-moment, and physical. This would contrast with the voluntary physical act of looking that the narrator points out they did not do in the presence of a newly grieving mother. Therefore, I chose to change the image: I used “turned blank as a book,” hoping that that would convey some feeling of petrification, while keeping the reaction involuntary, gradual, and physical, to set up the contrast.

about the poet

ANNA AKHMATOVA was an acclaimed Russian poet of the “Silver Age” of Russian poetry, the first half of the twentieth century. After moving to St. Petersburg, Akhmatova became part of the Acmeists, a literary group of six people who attempted to write poetry in traditional forms that focused on the objects and incidents of everyday life and was in traditional form, in contrast with the highly experimental poetry in fashion at the time. In the post-revolutionary years, Akhmatova’s former husband Nikolai Gumilev was shot, her son Lev was imprisoned and exiled to Siberia, and her close friend Osip Mandelstam was arrested, exiled, and killed in a labor camp. Requiem, along with many other poems, was a response to those times. Beginning in 1925, Akhmatova’s poetry was banned by the Soviet government; even when the official ban was lifted, an implicit ban remained. Still, her poetry circulated orally and on scraps of paper that were burned upon  reading. Akhmatova is seen as a mother of the modern Russian voice. She is also known as one of the only well-known poets to outlive the Stalinist era, stay in Russia, and chronicle those times.

about the translator

YEHUDITH DASHEVSKY is an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, studying English literature with a concentration in Poetry and Poetics. Her current projects include a thesis about ten translations of Anna Akhmatova’s Requiem, an article documenting educational triumphs in a woodworking shop in Philadelphia, and a chapter of a children’s book.

 

Herbstaugen

Hilde Domin

Presse dich eng
an den Boden.

Die Erde
riecht noch nach Sommer,
und der Korper
riecht noch nach Liebe.

Aber das Gras
ist schon gelb über dir.
Der Wind ist kalt
und voll Distelsamen.

Und der Traum, der dir nachstellt,
schattenfussig,
dein Traum
hat Herbstaugen.

Autumn Eyes

translated by Dillon Bergin

Press yourself close
to the ground.

The earth
still smells like summer
and your body
still smells like love.

But the grass 
around you is already yellow.
The wind is cold
and full of thistledown.

And the dream that chases you
on the shadows of your feet—
your dream
has autumn eyes.

translator's note​

 

I didn’t have to compromise too much while translating this poem. Its simple words are, for the most part, easily felt in their English counterparts. This is why I kept a very direct translation in all but a few cases.

However, there are a few lines and words I struggled with. Lines like „Aber das Gras / ist schon gelb über dir.” were tricky. It’s a seemingly direct statement, but even in German this sentiment comes off as odd or uncommon. I translated it into English with a phrase less bizarre to English ears, but I think I could still find a better way of making the line sound as striking and unfamiliar  in English as it does in German. „Distelsamen” was also difficult for me to translate. Distelsamen literally translates to “thistledown” in English, but most English speakers don’t know what thistledown is, while most German speakers know or assume what Distelsamen is (though I might have to check with a larger sample size on this). I initially translated Distelsamen as “pollen,” although thistledown isn’t pollen. Thistledown are the little white fuzzy things that drift in the air during fall. Most people know exactly what this is, but don’t have a word for it, or would guess that they’re from dandelions, which also isn’t true. Additionally, the  word schattenfussig is of typical German construction—part of the beauty of the language—but awkward in English. It literally means “shadowfooted,” which isn’t a word in English and doesn’t reflect common adjective constructions in the language either.

 

On the other hand, there were also many victories in my translation . I was impressed with how beautiful “Autumn Eyes” sounds in English, which  really does “Herbstaugen” justice. I was also very happy with how the plain and immediate language of the poem in German fit well structurally in the shape and length of the English translation. A problem with translating German is that, due to word construction freedoms, a single German word can correspond to a whole sentence or phrase in English. Usually, such lengthiness can potentially botch the flow of a poem, but the English translation turned out nicely. Overall, I tried to translate this poem with the natural, concrete language and emotions that I feel when reading it in German.

about the poet

HILDE DOMIN was born in 1909 as Hilde Löwenstein in Cologne to a Jewish family. She began her university studies in law and economics, then studied philosophy and political science. In Germany, she studied in Heidelberg, Cologne, and Berlin. However, Domin’s Jewish background and socialist involvement were good reason to leave Germany in 1932. She moved to Italy, where she received her Ph.D in political science in Florence. There, she met her future husband, Erwin Palm. The two survived “literally on language”—Domin taught language courses and translated the scholarly writings of her husband. In 1939, the couple fled to Santo Domingo. The city’s name inspired the last name of Domin’s pen name, “Domin.”In Santo Domingo, Domin’s husband became an art history professor and she began writing in German as an “alternative to suicide.” The terrifying paradox of her life was that she had escaped to an island paradise while many of her friends and family were forced into hell on Earth. After the war, Domin moved back to Heidelberg where she became a professor and lived until her death. Notably, she was a very close friend of her fellow poet Nelly Sachs. The two exchanged letters while both in exile—Domin in Santo Domingo and Sachs in Sweden.

about the translator

DILLON BERGIN is junior majoring in comparative literature. He loves mornings, is very good at sharing food, and unfortunately, can only concentrate on one thing at a time. He also loves languages and began his studies in Germanistik at the University of Freiburg before transferring to Penn. His heart is still in that sunny, charming university city next to Black Forest.

 

쉽게 씌어진 시

윤동주

창(窓) 밖에 밤비가 속살거려

육첩방(六疊房)은 남의 나라.

 

시인(詩人)이란 슬픈 천명(天命)인 줄 알면서도

한 줄 시(詩)를 적어 볼까.

 

땀내와 사랑내 포근히 품긴

보내 주신 학비 봉투(學費封套)를 받어

 

대학(大學) 노트를 끼고

늙은 교수(敎授)의 강의(講義) 들으러 간다.

 

생각해 보면 어린 때 동무를

하나, 둘, 죄다 잃어버리고

 

나는 무얼 바라

나는 다만, 홀로 침전(沈澱)하는 것일까?

 

인생(人生)은 살기 어렵다는데

시(詩)가 이렇게 쉽게 쓰여지는 것은

부끄러운 일이다.

 

육첩방(六疊房)은 남의 나라

창(窓) 밖에 밤비가 속살거리는데,

 

등불을 밝혀 어둠을 조금 내몰고,

시대(時代)처럼 올 아침을 기다리는 최후(最後)의 나.

 

나는 나에게 작은 손을 내밀어

눈물과 위안(慰安)으로 잡는 최초(最初)의 악수(握手).

Easily Written Poem

translated by Nadia Park

The evening rain whispers outside the window,

a room of six tatami mats is another’s country.

 

Knowing the sad fate of a poet,

shall I write a line?

 

I receive my tuition envelope sent to me

embraced with sweat and love

 

Tightly holding my college notebook

I walk to the lecture of my old professor.

 

Come to think of it, my friends from youth,

one, two, lost them all

 

For what

do I sink alone?

 

It’s shameful

that poems are so easily written

when life is so hard.

 

A room of six tatami mats is another’s country,

the evening rain whispers outside the window

 

Lighting the lamp, I expel the little darkness,

the last of me waiting for the morning

arriving like a new era.

 

I extend these small hands to myself

with tears and consolation,

for my first handshake.

translator's note​

The despair, loneliness, and simplicity of this poem were the most difficult aspects to translate. Without the same experiences, I will never be able to fully express the thoughts of Yun Donju while writing this poem, as he was truly in pain at the time he was living in Japan, the another’s country. However, I did make some choices in an attempt to recreate his experience. For example, the line, “a room of six tatami mats in another’s country,” is a reference to Yun’s college years in university while in Japan, which colonized Korea during this time. The tatami mat is a classic material and style of flooring that Japan had and is very unique to that country and culture. Therefore, I wanted to keep this word first, because there is no other word in English to describe it in a singular word and it does exist in English, and second, to include the history of the Japanese colonization of Korea. Additionally, the lines “For what, /do I sink alone?” are shortened from the original, which literally state, “I expect what / Just I, alone sinking?” These lines really drove home the pure feeling of being alone, and though I changed the literal translation, I wanted to maintain the simplicity and absolute emptiness throughout the poem. Again, the moments of nostalgia and of loneliness are so seamlessly connected and embedded in the original, which made producing the same feelings incredibly difficult.

about the poet

YUN DONGJU (윤동주) is a Korean poet who was born in 1917 In Myeongdong Village of Jilin in China and died in 1945 at the age of 27 in Fukuoka, Japan. From 1910 to 1945, Korea was colonized by Japan and underwent “cultural cleansing,” which was enacted through a series of unfair and often violent methods. Korea people were prohibited to speak Korean, write in Korean, own Korean books, teach and learn in Korean, and hold their Korean names. It soon became dangerous for Yun to write in Korean, as it was interpreted by the Japanese to be a rebellion. Yun’s older cousin, Song Mongyu, was a huge influence in his life as well. As a talented prose writer and an activist in the Korean independence movement, Song himself worked with Yun and a few other college friends to create literary magazines back in Yeonhi University, which is now Yeonsae University. Song likely instilled in Yun the desire to refuse complete submission from the Japanese rule by continuing to write the Korean poetry he loved so much. Upon completing his education there, he moved to Rikkyo University in Tokyo and then transferred six months later to Doshisha University in Kyoto, where he was soon taken captive by the Japanese police to Fukushima prison, where he died, most likely as a victim of medical experiments. Yun never was able to publish his collection of poems, Star, Sky, Wind, and Poetry, because he was arrested as a revolutionary activist, but because he had given them to a close friend in Korea, Chong Pyong-uk, to hide until it was able to be published, Yun’s poems exist today for many to read.

about the translator

NADIA PARK is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, studying communication and minoring in consumer psychology and French. She came into the world of translation first through being born into a Korean immigrant family and then later translated Japanese manga and anime. In her free time, she loves to make coffee, bake, and travel the world.

 

Chanson pour Hélène

Pierre de Ronsard

 

Quand je devise assis aupres de vous,

            Tout le cœur me tressaut :

Je tremble tout de nerfs et de genous,

Et le pouls me defaut.

Je n’ay ny sang ny esprit ny haleine,

Qui ne se trouble en voyant mon Heleine,

            Ma chere et douce peine.

 

Je devien fol, je perds toute raison :

Cognoistre je ne puis

Si je suis libre, ou captif en prison

            Plus en moy je ne suis.

En vous voyant, mon œil perd cognoissance :

Le vostre altere et change mon essence,

            Tant il a de puissance

 

Vostre beauté me fait en mesme temps

            Souffrir cent passions :

Et toutesfois tous mes sens sont contents,

            Divers d’affections.

L’œil vous regarde, et d’autre part l’oreille

Oyt vostre voix, qui n’a point de pareille,

            Du monde la merveille.

 

Voyla comment vous m’avez enchanté,

Heureux de mon malheur :

De mon travail je me sens contenté,

            Tant j’aime ma douleur :

Et veux tousjours que le torment me tienne,

Et que de vous tousjours il me souvienne,

            Vous donnant l’ame mienne.

 

Donce ne cherechez de parler au Devin,

Qui sçavez tout charmer :

Vous seule auriez un esprit tout divin,

Si vous pouviez aimer.
Que pleust à Dieu, ma moitié bien-aimée

Qu’Amour vous eust d’une fleche enflammee

Autant que moy charmee.

 

En se jouant il m’a de part en part

            Le cœur outrepercé :

A vous s’amie il n’a monstré le dart

            Duquel il m’a blessé.

De telle mort heureux je me confesse,

Et ne veux point que le soucy me laisse

            Pour vous, belle Maistresse.

 

Dessus ma tombe escrivez mon soucy

            En lettres grossement :

Le Vendomois, lequel respose icy,

            Mourut en bien aimant.

Comme Pâris, là bas faut que je voise,

Non pour l’amour d’une Helene Gregeoise,

            Mais d’une Saintongeoise.

Song for Helen

Translated by Saagar Asnani

 

When I imagine myself seated beside you,

            My heart leaps from its place:

I tremble from my every limb,

            And my pulse fails me.

I have neither blood, nor soul, nor breath,

That remains untroubled when I see my Helen,

My dear and sweet pain.

 

I become mad, I lose all reason:

            I cannot know

If I am free, or captive in prison:

            I am no longer myself.

When I look at you, mine eye can only see you:

Whilst yours can alter and change my soul,

            So powerful is your gaze.

 

Your beauty makes me at once

            Suffer a hundred passions

All the while all my senses are content to

Indulge in your ardor.

Mine eye but sees you, whereas mine ear

Can hear your voice, which has no peer

            Amongst the wonders of this world.

 

It is thus that you have enchanted me,

            Joyful in my sorrow:

I am contented with my travails,

            Such is my love for my own sadness:

I wish always for torment to grasp me,

And for me to forever remember you,

            Giving unto you my own soul.

 

Therefore, look no longer to the words of the Seer,

            You who knows how best to charm:

You alone would have a truly divine spirit,

            If you could have loved.

If God so pleased, my cherished better half,

I wish Love had inflamed your heart

            With the arrow that charmed mine.

 

 

 

In his game, Love has most completely

            Pierced my heart:

To you, his friend, he has not even shown the dart

            With which he has injured me.

I confess myself to be such a victim,

Yet I do not wish to diminish my love

            For you, graceful Mistress.

 

Upon my tomb write of my torment

            In letters bold and large:

The Vendômois, who rests here,

            Died a true lover.       

Just like Paris, I must go to the great beyond,

But not for the love of a Grecian Helen,

Rather for that of a Saintongeoise.

translator's note​

Helen of Sparta, daughter of Zeus and a woman whose beauty was of mythic proportions, is often portrayed as the reason behind the fall of Troy, her irresistible allure being cited as the main cause for conflict between the Greeks and Trojans over possession of her person. In this chanson or song, Ronsard has written an ode to the beauty of Helen, describing her unparalleled beauty. However, in doing so, he has made use of a very interesting vocabulary, constantly linking the narrator’s adoration of her striking good looks to his own terrors, fears, unhappiness, and injuries. According to Ronsard, does Helen truly represent the pinnacle of human beauty, and if so, is this beauty something to which we are to strive for? Her ravishing appearance has caused the downfall of many men, and it seems to be causing the narrator physical and mental pain to continue to admire the wonders of her visage. Along these same lines, the last stanza is telling, as he then links this mythic metaphor to a more tangible example, his love for a woman hailing from Saintonge who seems to have rejected his advances, and thereby gives the whole “ode” a decidedly more dolorous tinge.

 

Appearing in the volume Les Amours, a collection of sonnets, chansons, madrigals, and other poems dedicated to the topic of love and often based on mythical ideas, this poem is a truly well-written and beautiful example of Ronsard’s subtle mastery of the language of poetry and love. In this translation, I have opted to stay as close to the original meaning as possible, without attempting to carry through the syllabic meter and rhyme scheme from Middle French into English, focusing instead on the content of the poem in lieu of the form. My belief is that the chanson, while an established poetic form in its own right, allows for a bit more freedom in terms of prosody than does some of the stricter forms, such as the sonnet. Nonetheless, Ronsard’s original was highly conscient of the form and style in which it was written, with a very strict alternance of decasyllabic and hexasyllabic lines and a clear ABABCCC rhyme scheme in each stanza. While I have attempted to retain some of the original poetic form of Ronsard’s verses in my translation, this was not a priority in particular endeavor.

 

I would like to thank Prof. Scott Francis of the French and Francophone Studies department for his help in editing my translation.

about the poet

PIERRE DE RONSARD was born in 1524 in a small village known as Couture-Sur-Loir, on the banks of the Loir River (not to be confused with the Loire, also in France). Completing his education in Paris, he made a name for himself as a master poet. He often found work as a translator of classical works in vernacular French, and the influence of the ancient myths is apparent in the subject matter of his poetry. Forming lifelong friendships with other popular poets of the era, he and six others joined together to form la Pléiade, a group of seven poets who were bound by stylistic, topical, and philosophical ideas of writing. Ronsard was the founding member of the group and has since been known as one of the greatest lyrists of French history. Today, la Pléiade forms an essential part of the French literary canon and is studied by French literature students of all levels, but strangely enough is almost unknown in the realm of English literature. Given the extreme genius of his writings and his delicate touch with the French language, it seems only fitting that his works reach a wider audience

about the translator

 SAAGAR ASNANI is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences at Penn studying Biology, French, and Music as a triple major. An avid Francophile at heart, he has always been fascinated by the beauty of the language as well France’s cultural contributions to modern society and its rich history. Given his love of Medieval and Renaissance French literature, he hopes to continue to translate various works from Old and Middle French into English and make these masterpieces accessible to a wider audience. In addition to translation, he is an avid performer, and can be often be seen on campus carrying his viola to rehearsals and concerts. After Penn, he intends to attend medical school.

 

纸鸽

 Li Yuansheng

没法折出那种简单好看的纸鸽

我总是把自己的犹豫                              

和周围的夜色一起折进去         
 

把它放在孩子床边        

就像留下一封兴之所至的短信 
里面有被琴声慢慢举到空中的牧场   

                 

折痕很深的日子         
以及坐在春天面前的一个美好的疯子

                                        

我没法折出那种简单好看的纸鸽    
即使在堆满纸条的桌前                         
这安静的车间里                               
劳动仍然拖着极其微妙的阴影           

微笑的孩子                                       
是否能接受这其中的秘密           
可爱的小小玻璃房子                                
当秋天挟带的石块滚过屋顶                  
每一块玻璃是否能完好无损                 

Paper Crane

Translated by Yi Feng

 

I can’t fold that kind of simple and pretty paper crane

Always, I fold it with my own hesitation

and with the shades of night

 

I put it besides a child’s bed

as if to leave a spontaneous short letter
Inside it, there is a meadow slowly lifted into

the sky with the melody of music

 

On days of the deepest folds
and of a nice silly man sitting before the arrival of spring                  

                                     

I cannot fold that kind of simple and pretty paper crane
Even in front of a table piled with pieces of paper
In this quiet factory workshop
labor still drags its subtle shadow

Will the smiling children
accept the secret in it
When rocks brought by the autumn roll over the roof   
of this little lovely glassy house
will every piece of glass remain intact

translator's note​

I love this short poem by Li Yuansheng because it reminds me of my own experience of folding paper cranes for loved ones. This poem also reminds me of Robert Duncan’s poem “Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow” and the novel The Catcher in the Rye. The literary translation of the title “纸鸽” is “paper dove,” but I used “paper crane,” since “paper crane” is commonly recognized as a cultural element in China and worldwide and is most likely what the poem refers to. In China, people used to fold as many paper cranes as possible to pass on as gifts of best wishes or tokens of love to dear friends or significant others. This custom has largely died out, due to the fast speed of life. I translated this poem using direct translation and everyday language to reflect its poetic style. Also, in the last three lines, I shifted the original order of these three lines and added a proposition “of” in order to connect these lines in meaning as well as to narrow down the gap between the two languages. The last three lines in the original poem are: “The little lovely glassy house (可爱的小小玻璃房子) / When rocks brought by the autumn roll over the roof (当秋天挟带的石块滚过屋顶) / will every piece of glass remain intact (每一块玻璃是否能完好无损)”. Li is a well-known poet in China, but his poetry collections have not yet been translated into English. I hope that my translation will make more people interested in reading Li's poems.

about the poet

LI YUANSHENG was born in Wusheng County, Sichuan Province, where poetry is deeply rooted in the local culture and life. Li graduated from Chongqing University in 1983. After graduation, he worked as the general editor for the Chongqing Daily. In 2015, Li worked for the Chongqing Writers Association and became a professional poet and writer in Chongqing Academy of Literature. Li began writing poems when he was still in university. He is now the vice chairman of the Chongqing Writers Association and a member of the poetry committee of the China Writers Association. He published 4 poetry collections, all of them in Chinese. He has been awarded the People Literature Prize. In 2014, Li was awarded China’s most prestigious Lu Xun Literature Prize for his poetry collection Endless Things.

 

about the translator

YI FENG is a scholar, translator and associate professor at Northeastern University, China. She was a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. Since then, she has published poems. Her English poems were published in The Penn Review, and her Chinese poems were published in Lotus (芙蓉). Her translation of 12 poems by Charles Bernstein was published by Poetry Monthly (诗歌月刊). She published many academic papers on modern American novels and contemporary American poetry. She was awarded the Hunt Scholarship in 2016. She also won the Bronze Prize with her poem “Future Is Several Songs Written by Poetry” in an International Chinese Poetry Competition in 2017. 

 

Aquí Te Amo

Pablo Neruda

Aquí te amo.

En los oscuros pinos se desenreda el viento.

Fosforece la luna sobre las aguas errantes.

Andan días iguales persiguiéndose.

 

Se desciñe la niebla en danzantes figuras.

Una gaviota de plata se descuelga del ocaso.

A veces una vela. Altas, altas estrellas.

 

O la cruz negra de un barco.

Solo.

A veces amanezco, y hasta mi alma está húmeda.

Suena, resuena el mar lejano.

Este es un puerto.

Aquí te amo.

 

Aquí te amo y en vano te oculta el horizonte.

Te estoy amando aún entre estas frías cosas.

A veces van mis besos en esos barcos graves,

que corren por el mar hacia donde no llegan.

Ya me veo olvidado como estas viejas anclas.

Son más tristes los muelles cuando atraca la tarde.

Se fatiga mi vida inútilmente hambrienta.

Amo lo que no tengo. Estás tú tan distante.

Mi hastío forcejea con los lentos crepúsculos.

Pero la noche llega y comienza a cantarme.

La luna hace girar su rodaje de sueño.

 

Me miran con tus ojos las estrellas más grandes.

Y como yo te amo, los pinos en el viento,

quieren cantar tu nombre con sus hojas de alambre.

Here I Love You

Translated by Stephanie Diaz

 

Here I love you.

In the dark pines the wind untangles itself.

The moon radiates over the roaming waters.

Identical days chase after each other.

 

Fog loosens into dancing figures.

A silver seagull unhooks from the sunset.

Sometimes a sail. High, high stars.

 

Or the black cross of a boat.

Alone.

Sometimes I wake and even my soul is damp.

The faraway sea sounds and resounds.

This is a port.

Here I love you.

 

Here I love you and in vain the horizon hides you.

I am loving you still among these frozen things.

Sometimes my kisses leave in those grave boats,

which run towards a sea they never reach.

I find myself already forgotten like these old anchors.

The piers are sadder when the night docks.

My uselessly starving life grows tired.

I love what I do not have. You are so distant.

My weariness wrestles with slow twilights.

But night arrives and starts its serenade.

The moon spins her clockwork dreams.

 

The greatest stars look at me with your eyes.

And because I love you, the pines in the wind,

long to sing your name with their wire leaves.

translator's note​

Neruda’s “Aquí Te Amo” is a playground of images shifting from darkness of the trees in the opening line to phosphorescence of the moon in the next. The visuals that Neruda provides, coupled with the sense of touch that la niebla and húmeda evoke, make the original an in-depth and lyrical experience, which I tried to capture in my translation. The issue I encountered and re-encounter every time I revisit this translation is the use of the phrase “I love you.” This staple of the English language has often seemed overused to me, as though it does not carry the weight or connotation that it should. I realized, however, that this did in some ways play into the meaning that I saw in the original—not because Neruda’s aquì te amo is meaningless or trivial, but rather because  it is simple. The line holds a certain immediacy that is not urgent or impatient but frank, honest, and pure, which I felt I would lose with a phrase other than our English equivalent.

about the poet

PABLO NERUDA, born in 1904, was a Chilean poet and diplomat who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Neruda’s works include poems such as “Aquí Te Amo” as well as epics, an autobiography, and manifestos. Despite his success in Chile and around the world, Neruda remains less known in the United States—perhaps due to his politics, specifically his close ties to the Communist Party. In his youth, Neruda was guided by Gabriela Mistral, a Chilean writer who took note of Neruda’s talent and mentored him.

about the translator

STEPHANIE DIAZ is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying French and Francophone studies, with minors in art history and sociology. Defining "home" is a bit difficult for her, but all the same she'll tell you that she grew up in a small town in Georgia and that her family comes from a Mexican town called Rio Verde. Stephanie grew up speaking Spanish, despite initial difficulties rolling her Rs. She started learning French in high school and has been studying the language and culture ever since. Her hobbies include baking, gardening, and dreaming of a future life in a cottage by a lake with dogs and a garden.

 

มั่นยึดถือในแก่นสาร

มิใช่ร่านหลงแพรพรรณ

ไว้ป่ายปีนความใฝ่ฝัน

มิหมายมั่นกินแรงใคร

เพื่อเสาะหาชีวิตใหม่

มิใช่คอยชะม้อยชวน

เป็นดวงไฟมิผันผวน

ด้วยเธอล้วนก็คือคน

ล้างรอยผิดด้วยเหตุผล

มิใช่ปรนกามารมณ์

มิใช่แย้มคอยคนชม

ความอุดมแห่งแผ่นดิน

อหังการของดอกไม้

Chiranan Pitpreecha

          สตรีมีสองมือ   

เกลียวเอ็นจักเป็นงาน      

          สตรีมีสองตีน               

ยืนหยัดอยู่ร่วมกัน    

          สตรีมีดวงตา          

มองโลกอย่างกว้างไกล   

          สตรีมีดวงใจ        

สร้างสมพลังมวล         

          สตรีมีชีวิต              

คุณค่าเสรีชน            

          ดอกไม้มีหนามแหลม

บานไว้เพื่อสะสม        

A Flower’s Pride

translated by Peeriya Pongsarigun and John Viano

A woman’s hands hold firmly

the righteousness of which she is worthy.

Her muscles create a masterpiece.

She is not bewitched by golden fleece.

 

A woman’s feet climb up to her dreams;

Determined and brave, she seems.

She loves her people and fights like a warrior—

not giving up until the war is over.

 

A woman’s eyes look toward a better life.

The world is too big just to be someone’s wife.

She sees the world as if it were hers,

not wasting time seducing men—as they might prefer!

 

A woman’s heart is determined for success.

Her strong heart leads to genuine progress.

She works hard; her hands are never free,

to prove she is as human as a man can be.

 

A woman’s life tells right from wrong.

She has her seasons; she stands strong.

She deserves her rightful freedom—

to decide for whom to show her blossom.

 

A flower has thorns for protection.

A flower does not make false pretensions.

A flower blooms, like a woman, not a girl.

She stands for herself, and changes the world.

translator's note​

The original poem was written using a Thai rhyme-scheme called Kapyani 11, in which each line consists of 2 parts, with the first part containing 5 syllables and the second containing 6—making for 11 syllables per line. Each stanza is made up of two lines and the last syllable of each stanza must rhyme with the last syllable of the first line of the next stanza. It may sound complicated, but Kapyani 11 is actually one of the simplest forms of Thai poetry. Below is a further illustration of the Kapyani 11 style. Like font effects indicate rhyming syllables.

 

Satri mi chiwit                 lang roi phit duay het phon

Khunkha serichon           mi chai pron kamarom

 

Dokmai mi nam laem     mi chai yaem khoi khon chom

Ban wai phuea sasom    khwan udom haeng phandin

 

As is seen above, the 5th and the 8th syllables of each line rhyme and the 11th syllable of the first line of the couplet continues the scheme by rhyming with the 5th syllable of the second line.  

 

We chose to translate the poem into couplets because they are simple and easy to read. We kept the use of the pronouns “she” and “her” as in the original, as well as the use of a flower to symbolize women and womanhood. We adapted many of the Thai idioms with devices or constructions of similar semantic and visual value in English, such as “She is not bewitched by golden fleece” or “to decide for whom to show her blossom.”  In Thai, the two phrases literally mean “She is not excited by beautiful clothes” and “Not men’s banquet,” respectively. In English, the use of the literal phrases would drastically reduce the intelligibility of the translation while also depriving the reader of the original’s visual intensity. Hence, we endeavored to make the literary imagery as sharp in translation as in the original, while doing our best to preserve the sense of sound and rhythm that give the poem its full power.

about the poet

CHIRANAN PITPREECHA is a famous Thai writer and poet. She was a student at Chulalongkorn University and was one of the leaders of the October 1973 pro-democracy student movement against the military government in Thailand. She, with thousands of other Thai students, fled to the jungle in the aftermath of the October 6, 1976 massacre at Thammasat University, Thailand’s “Tiananmen Square” moment.  During the massacre, the Royal Thai Police, the Royal Thai Border Police, the Royal Thai Military, and civilian paramilitary forces surrounded and invaded the Thammasat University campus under “free-fire” orders, resulting in the deaths of an untold number of unarmed student protesters, many of whom were killed trying to surrender to authorities. Their bodies were hung from the trees on campus and left for the public to deface. Pitpreecha later joined the Communist insurrection, as well. She wrote a lot of feminist and left-wing poetry while hiding from authorities in the jungle. Pitpreecha returned from the jungle in 1981 and resumed her education at Cornell University where she received a B.A. and M.A. in History. The Missing Leaf, her first book of poetry, which was based on her experience in the jungle, won the prestigious South East Asia Write Award in 1989. A Flower’s Pride is one of the main poems in The Missing Leaf.

 

about the translators

PEERIYA PONGSARIGUN is a native speaker of Thai, and a current Fulbright Teaching Assistant grantee at the University of Pennsylvania. JOHN VIANO is an American fluent in Thai, and a researcher affiliated with Chulalongkorn University. Together, we have translated more than 100 children’s books, principally from Thai to English, as well as song lyrics and poetry. Most recently, we won third place for poetry in the Bangkok Literary Review’s 2018 Translation Prize (and were subsequently published). All in all, we excel in creating English language rhyme schemes that echo those of the Thai sources while faithfully communicating the author’s message.

 

copyright

Domin, Hilde. “Herbstaugen” [Autumn Eyes] (German). Hilde Domin, Herbstaugen. In: Id. Sämtliche Gedichte. © 2019 S. Fischer Verlag GmbH, Frankfurt am Main 2009. Used with permission.

 

Li Yuansheng. “纸 鸽” [Paper Crane] and “走得太快的人” [The man who walks too fast] (Chinese). Copyright © 2019. 华龙网鸣家李元胜专栏 [Column of Li Yuansheng, Hualong Net] http://mingjia.cqnews.net/html/node_399341.htm  Used with permission.

 

Mistral, Gabreila. “La Abandonada” [The Abandoned] (Spanish). Lagar. [Wine Press]. Chile, Editorial del Pacífico, 1954. Copyright © 2019. The Franciscan Order of Chile authorizes the use of the work of Gabriela Mistral. Used with permission of Fondo Gabriela Mistral.

 

Neruda, Pablo. “Aquí Te Amo” [Here I Love You] (Spanish). 20 Poemas de amor y una Conción desesperada. [Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair]. Chile, La Editorial Nascimento, 1924. Copyright © 2019. Used with permission of Fundación Neruda.

     

Pitpreecha, Chiranan. “อหังการของดอกไม้” [A Flower’s Pride] (Thai). “ใบไม้ที่หายไป”

[The Missing Leaf]. 1989. Copyright © 2019. Used with permission of Chiranan Pitpreecha.