by Alex Cigale
Our Voyage Around the World in 80 Days is at an end dear friends; I am a little saddened to part, but we all must rest now. If your participation in this conversation through your comments on the site is any indication, our bread cast upon the virtual waters has already come back to us one hundredfold. May it continue to increase: please come back to re-read these pages at your leisure. Poetry in its largest sense, “making,” is the real gift that keeps giving. I wish to give thanks to my co-editors, Nick Admussen, Nathalie Boisard-Beudin and Ayesha Saldanha, for their dedication to the Translation issue of Qarrstiluni, and to our managing co-captains, Dave Bonta and Beth Adams, without whose guidance, participation, production work, the trust they’ve placed in us, and belief in the value of bringing a whole world of work into English, none of this would have been possible.
And we have indeed traveled far through both space and time, bringing to you work from 3rd C. BC Tamil India, Ancient Greece, from China, Tang Dynasty (8th C. AD) through contemporary, from the Anglo-Saxon, Old French, and Old Occitan. Between our virtual covers we have brought together Greenland’s female shamans, two poets of the Russian Silver Age, such acknowledged masters as Baudelaire, Swinburne, Rilke, Cendrars, C. D. de Andrade, Renard, Dohollau, and Sutzkever (from French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Yiddish), along with the work of leading contemporary poets of France, Greece, Iran, Mexico, Mongolia, Philippines, Romania, Sweden, and Turkey. I would also like to give thanks to all the contemporary writers and artists, too numerous to acknowledge individually, who have taken the leap with us across cultural boundaries and geographical borders.
Particular thanks is due to our translators, without whose sadly unrecognized work the world of literature would be as invisible to us, and to those many individual artists whose complex national, ethnic, and linguistic identities require them to cross these borders in their daily lives. In our age of post-colonialism and globalization, such “translators” are not merely Pound’s “antennae of the race” but in a very real sense our explorers, messengers, and representatives; they bring us the necessary news not only from abroad but from our own past. It has been my intention from the start not merely to provide a forum for translation, preaching to the converted, but to encourage all our readers to seek out this news that stays news.
As I write this, progressively more literary magazines are starting to bring attention to the importance of work in translation, and a number of new online communities such as Words Without Borders are making the presence of the rest of the world more real in our reading lives and minds. If our journey has been of value to you, both our managing editors have indicated that, in due time, another trip down this river it is impossible to step into the same way twice is possible. Please let them know of your experience with us these past 80 days, and tell us what and whom you would like to bring along the next time. I thank you, dear reader/community member, and look forward to our next occasion very much.
St George’s Bell by Magda Kapa
What Her Friend Said As Golden Flowers Covered The Hill
by Kapilar (Ahananuru 2)
Banana and jack fruits
ripened, weigh down from trees
in your mountain slope;
they fall in the cool pool of water
gathered in the rocks.
The thirsty male monkey
drinks the fermented sap
mistaking for water,
intoxicated he sleeps on flowered bower
unable to climb the sandalwood tree
its trunk twisted with pepper creepers:
when pleasures are easily attained in your land
you can never be insatiate.
My beautiful friend
shoulders slender like bamboo
has love for you that is unstoppable,
come to her as the moonlight
drenches the hills
scented by the Vengai flowers.
The Sangam Age in Tamil Nadu (2nd century B.C. to 3rd century A.D.) was the greatest period of literary outpourings. Tolkapiyam (literally meaning”‘Old Composition”), a detailed treatise on grammar and poetics written at this time, defined the Sangam poetic tradition.
According to Tolkapiyam, a poem either lay in the inner space of love, relationships and feelings (aham) or in the public realm of kings, war and community (puram). The aham poems or poems of the interior grew from the four landscapes of the Tamil country: the mountain region (Kurinji), forest lands (Mullai), the agriculture lands about river basins (Marudam), the coastal region (Neidal) and the parched hill slopes or forests (Palai).
Each of these landscapes with their gods, plants, animals, tribes of people and their occupations, watering holes, drums, and music became a rich repertoire of images, symbols and metaphors. This exterior landscape that mapped an interior terrain of emotion and feeling got associated with a phase of love. Thus a whole world of signifiers in the outer landscape with various living forms and cultural codes signified specific human feelings.
Kurinji landscape, the lush and beautiful land with waterfall and high hills was associated with the burst of passion in the first union of lovers. Mullai, the verdant forest land with the fragrance of wild jasmine, was associated with the patient waiting of lovers before their union in marriage. Neidal, the coastal plain, was inhabited by hardy fishing folk who lived at the edge of life. This landscape was associated with the feeling of anxiety experienced by the lover waiting for her man who has braved the stormy ocean. Marudam, the fertile river plains and centre of urban life, was associated with infidelity and misunderstanding between lovers. Palai referred to the forest land and hillside parched by the scorching heat of sun in the summer months. The bleak and relentless dry lands of Palai were associated with the feeling of desolation experienced by lovers in life’s harsh terrain.
Ahananuru is a collection of 400 poems written by over 145 poets. “What Her Friend Said As Golden Flowers Covered The Hill” is the second poem from this collection and is written by Kapilar. The poem is set in the mountain region (Kurinji landscape). Kurinji is also the name of a flower (Strobilanthes kunthiana) that blossoms in hundreds on the slopes of the hills once in twelve years. Bamboo trees, sandalwood, jackfruit and Vengai trees (Pterocarpus bilobus or the Indian Kino tree) grow luscious on the cool hills where waterfalls and pools of water are cradled between rocks. This region is a veritable haven for monkeys, elephants, wild bulls, peacocks and parrots. The hill tribe people who worshipped Cheyon or Murugan the god of war and beauty, collected honey, fruits and grew wild millets.
The honeyed fruits of banana and jack that fall in pools of water, the intoxicated male monkey are metaphoric signifiers of the pleasure that the man seeks in the first union with his woman during their clandestine meeting in the dead of a moon drenched night.
Uma Gowrishankar blogs at umagowrishankar.wordpress.com/.
translated by Lyn Coffin
Goodbye Letter #6
Oh, pain will die, I swear, when I succeed
in making a Myshkin of these tears
to master agony, quietly, there
where I burn with beautiful helpless need,
where voices go mute, and feelings wake late,
before finally disbanding.
To smile (to reach understanding)
just as He said. And not to wait.
So far. At a higher elevation
than the rise and fall of simple speech.
Who can’t write his way to conciliation
lived for the coffin. He should be betrayed.
And that’s me, woman, that’s me,
fullness rotting and being dispersed
and all that was suffered for will go
there where you wounded me the worst
where the air is fragrant with kisses
and fate forces those who’ve been tried
to love what so terribly isn’t,
about which I endlessly know.
Translated with Leda Pugh
This is a Glorious Tale
With a pocket knife
the world has been cut.
And much blood has been shed. Poems
and nights. The wind played along, but
didn’t finish— For women,
it was a matter of life,
but for us a matter of death, not only
our lips thirsted after
the spring. Even our voice!
Voice, dried out and blood-stained,
go to the home
which cliffs and greenery
perceive as lost— if it’s found for them, what
a time that will be!
it will push through with its prow
everything rotting in us now—
Translated with Zdenka Brodska
Trees of the Years
What’s it like to grow, trees of the years?
From start to finish, I understood
you can only be watered by tears,
and are made of wood
so flame burns you with ease,
so even a half-blind eye sees
you are burning, trees,
trees of many years.
In you, the beasts could hide,
in you was the happiness denied
to me by the merciless lion tamer. In you
went everything I had. From you
comes spring water, from you
comes morning which dawns, in you
the sun goes down to dust
trees, years, full of rust!
If I could look a little longer at least,
could look straight up at the heavens and stare,
watching the clouds as they turn red.
Let a feast begin, and at that feast
let my liberty hand me wine.
Don’t let that thing tear apart my bed,
that thing I wanted so to repair
with these twenty-two years of mine!
Translated with Leda Pugh
*This is likely to have been the last poem Orten wrote
Jiří Orten (1919-1941) was one of the key Czech poets of the 20th century. See Poets.org for more.
Lyn Coffin is a widely published poet, fiction writer, and playwright. Eight of her books have been published, three of her own work, five of translation. A ninth book, translations from the Czech of Jiri Orten, is forthcoming from Gazoobitales Press, under the able stewardship of Thomas Hubbard. Lyn is teaching at Ilia University in Tbilisi this spring, lecturing on English and American Literature while translating modern Georgian poets with her esteemed email friend and colleague, Professor Gia Jokhadze.
by Jane Rice
Mouth-image of the unborn
unwinds the ball
how old this hankering
this wanting to believe
plural for sky
flurry of conjecture
at the pace
what lies beneath
carrier of secrets
upon the mask
carried away with itself
on a chain of logic
on the past paid in moons
newborn eyes will widen
form will grow
lost at sea
ages the story
day waits days
Silence with a thousand ears
specializes in purple
teats full of milk
the wind goes on singing
outside the houses
it rains and rains
on the shore
of the sky
you have my word
sunrise full of noises.
Looking looks back
recognizes the world
so hungry to learn
work of hope
rewarded with joy
sad music may never stop
but dawn lightens
the way the wind
settles without its voice
invisible moon still the moon.
Jane Rice provided this Writer’s statement: “To a certain extent, all poetry attempts to translate the inexpressible. I try to make visible, ascribe meaning and devote myself to the challenge of learning what we can about ourselves.”
translated by Roberta Gould
Algo rozó la nada
y derramó su soplo por el orbe
Desde entonces el dia fragmentado
alterna con la noche
Las horas se fatigan
se devoran a si mismos los soles
y se huedece aquella piedra azul
que afila el trino de los ruiseñores
Cuando el hombre sea dios
habrá un toque de hombros
entre el llano y el monte,
los astros detrendrán sus vuelos milenarios
de sus jaulas abiertas se escaparán los bosques
una mano de dedos como ríos
halagará la frente de los mundos insomnes
un largo sueño abitirá sus alas.
el dia irá apagándose, se encendrá la noche
y todos moriremos de la misma manera
definitivamente como mueren los dioses
Something grazed the void
and spilled its breath over the globe
Since then, day fragmented
alternates with night
The hours grow weary
the suns devour each other
and that blue rock grows damp
the one that sharpens the trill of the nightingales
When man is god
there will be a touch of shoulders
between the mountains and the plains
the stars will stop their endless lflight
From their open cages, the forests will escape
A hand with fingers like rivers
will caress the foreheads of weary worlds
A long weariness will fold its wings
Day will start fading and night will light up
And we will all die in the same way
as the gods die
Pedro Garfias (1901-1967) was a Spanish poet from Salamanca who lived in exile in Mexico after the Civil War. He was a member of the Ultraist movement, and won the the Spanish National Award of Literature (Premio Nacional de Literatura) for Poesías de la Guerra Civil Española in 1938.
Roberta Gould has had nine books and chapbooks published, including Pacing the Wind, In Houses With Ladders, Louder than Seeds, Writing Air Written Water, and Not by Blood Alone. Visit her website to learn more.
Knaackstraße — A Balcony
Frail hours in the shadow of the Water Tower.
Muffled clouds, mixed with grains of sun
scattered under the traces of your steps on
Sidewalks. Closed cafés at dawn
when tree branches are almost silenced,
in the tapestry of whistling blackbirds and the sirens’ choir.
Bicycle spokes, empty tables and — ahead —
cathedral eyes gazing at me
through stained-glass flutter.
My love for you — a secret hymn, which I proclaim
from the balcony of a crystal whisper
on this day.
Knaackstraße — Un balcon
Des heures fragiles dans l’ombre de la Tour de l’Eau.
Nuages en sourdine, immiscés avec des graines de soleil,
éparpillées sous la trace des tes pas sur Knaackstraße.
Trottoirs. Cafés fermées à l’aube
quand les branches des arbres se taisent à peu près
dans l’arrière-plan tissu de chants de merle et sirènes.
Rayons des bicyclettes, tables désertes, et en face,
les yeux de cathédrale qui me regardent maussades
à travers des couleurs brisées par les vitraux.
Mon amour pour toi – hymne secret, que je proclame
sous le balcon d’un chuchotement en cristal.
* * *
The Former Stern Radio Building, Berlin-Weißensee
Walls — brick over brick layered in gusts of light, doors askance
— a wax monument to the hour.
On narrow windows, glass shards cut out jittery clouds.
I have stepped inside its rooms, bided my time on its terms,
listened to strange laws of symmetry under its roof,
as if an occult point of fugue, narrowed down by rubble
floated towards the equinox.
On a cornice of mildew, the ear strains to distinguish the laughter,
and the music trapped in odors of burnt wire.
Muffled voices sift down from the ceilings.
All is oval in the building’s lifted top, doggedly challenging the sky.
The seconds melt, fluid, tracing a flight of birds over sunken sundials.
L’Ancien Bâtiment de Stern Radio, Berlin Weißensee
Des murs — brique sur brique dans un frisson de lumière,
portes entrebâillées — un monument en cire dédié à l’heure.
Sur des fenêtres étroites, des tessons découpent les nuages las.
J’ai franchi son seuil, je me suis tue à ses termes,
écouté les lois de la symétrie étrange de ses toits,
comme si un point de fugue, occulte, étréci par les décombres
s’affaissait vers l’équinoxe.
Sur une corniche en moisissure, l’oreille s’apprête à déchiffrer
les rires, la musique prisonnière et l’odeur de câble déchiqueté.
Des voix muettes descendent, incrustés dans les plafonds.
Tout est ovale dans la rébellion de la tour qui se dresse vers le haut, dans son
affrontement avec les cieux.
Les secondes passent, et se fondent, fluides.
En vol d’oiseau, je retrace les bras d’un cadran solaire, enseveli
par la flamme de la dernière bougie.
Dr. Tatiana Burghenn-Arsénie is an artist living in Berlin, Germany. Tatiana has participated in numerous individual and group exhibitions and her art is held in private collections in Germany and Romania. She was recently part of the exhibition “Die Kunst Der Krise” (July 2010). Her latest exhibition of graphics, icons and paintings was at Brose Haus, Berlin through January.
Irina Moga (blog) lives in Ontario, Canada and writes poetry in English and French. She recently published poetry in The Chaffin Journal (2009) and Rockhurst Review (2010). Her two books of poetry, Limita Vizibilitatii (Limit of Visibility, 1982) and Poemul Continuu (The Continuous Poem, 1986) were published by the publishing house Editura Dacia in Cluj-Napoca under the pen name Irina Sturza. In 1981, Irina was awarded the awarded the prize for poetry debut by the magazine Tribuna in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.