Archive for the ‘Translation’ Category

Translation: issue summary

May 10, 2011 6 comments

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.

Categories: Translation Tags:

Translation: Table of Contents

May 9, 2011 2 comments

wuirds/words by Andrew McCallum

To the Empathetic Poet from the Aphasic by Lisken Van Pelt Dus

Qavak Songs translated by Nancy Campbell

Two from Rilke translated by Florence Major

Organ Donor by Karen Stromberg

Three Poems: Sculpting Texts Through Japanese Poetics by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé

Loquebantur variis linguis by Teju Cole

My Soul Speaks in Three Languages: tanka from English, to Spanish and Iluko by Alegria Imperial

Nineteen years ago this summer by Andy Pokel

Three Modern Iranian Poets translated by Sholeh Wolpé

Insulation by Nicole Callihan

Max Ernst by Marie-Claire Bancquart, translated by Wendeline A. Hardenberg

Reclamations by Anna Dickie

Los Angeles and Hong Kong: two poems by Floyd Cheung

Three poems by Osip Mandelstam translated by Stephen Dodson

Two poems from the Plant Kingdom by Marly Youmans

Two Romanian poems by O. Nimigean translated by Chris Tanasescu and Martin Woodside

Downtown Montreal by Éric Dupuis

Mrs. Moshiach by KJ Hannah Greenberg

Mary: A Yiddish poem by Anna Margolin translated by Lawrence Rosenwald

Two poems from the Spanish by Enrique Moya translated by Nathan D. Horowitz

Mistranslating Li Bai’s “Voice of the Autumn Wind” by Avra Wing

Spotted Towhee: translating the guide by Deb Scott

Intellectuals in Bubbatown by Wayne Anthony Conaway

Two poems from the Turkish by Ahmet Uysal translated by Nesrin Eruysal and Ken Fifer

Two modern Greek poets translated by Dean Kostos

Flicker and Flux: Versions of Heraclitus by Magda Kapa and Teju Cole

Unsaid by Lois P. Jones

Spermicidal and other poems by Howie Good

Two poems from the Persian by Ali Abdolrezaei translated by Abol Froushan

Dirty Stump: upon reading Plath by Stuart Barnes

Three Swedish poems by Eva Ström and Johanna Ekström translated by Carol Berg

Ground Zero by Dominique James

The Ruin translated with commentary by Jesse Glass

Meditation on the Road: Chinese Wartime Sonnets by Feng Zhi translated by Huiwen (Helen) Zhang

זענעפט (Zeneft) by Zackary Sholem Berger

Le Chat/The Cat by Charles Baudelaire translated by Florence Major

Permutations: A Translational Odyssey from Visual to Musical Systems by James Ty Cumbie

Two poems with cello accompaniment by Sheila Packa with Kathy McTavish

Three poems in French and English by Heather Dohollau

An English-Finnish dictionary by Marja-Leena Rathje

On Defense by Barry Grass

awendan by Andrew McCallum

Love and Light in Brazil: Two Poems by José Carlos Limeira translated by Bruce Dean Willis

The Dream of the Rood translated by Marly Youmans

forms of being by Dorothee Lang

la felicidad es una pistola caliente/happiness is a warm gun by José Eugenio Sánchez, translated by Anna Rosen Guercio

Erasing Mallarmé by Lynne Shapiro

Auf dem Amt/At the Ministry by Marcus Speh

Body/Scape: Two Studies by Sarah Busse

Code by Hannah Stephenson

In-between us by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

Three Romanian poems by Mihail Gălăţanu translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Petru Iamandi

Bowl by Robin Chapman

Two Poems from a Heart-Mind, After Zheng Xie by Roberta Burnett

Two poems in French and English by Laura Merleau

Untitled poem by Vladislav Khodasevich translated by Andrey Gritsman

St George’s Bell by Magda Kapa

Hayyam’in Sabahi/Morning of Hayyam by Cahit Koytak, translated by Mustafa Burak Sezer

Atrium by Dominique James

Three Female Chinese Poets: Yuan Zhengzhen, Xue Tao and Yu Xuanji translated by Song Zijiang and Kit Kelen

Caprice by Algernon Charles Swinburne translated into English by Elisabeth Gitter

A Do-It-Yourself Kit by Peter Cherches

from Ode to the Dove by Avrom Sutzkever translated by Zackary Sholem Berger

Dear Old Stockholm by James Brush

Norse Code by Sarah Neely

Three poems by Jean-Claude Renard translated by Hélène Cardona

In Other Words by Marina Hope Wilson

A and B, from Pastoral Emergency (with Romanian translations) by Gene Tanta

BEOWULF: A Retelling With Children In Mind by Joshua Gray

A Cold December Night by Mu Dan translated by Huiwen (Helen) Zhang

Two Poems by Blaise Cendrars translated by Dick Jones

Azalais by Kit Fryatt

The Spoken Glyph by Steve Wing

Two erotic poems by Carlos Drummond de Andrade translated with original music by Tim Kahl

The Man in the Yellow Coat/L’Homme au Pardessus Jaune by M.J. Fievre

Three Filipino poems: John Iremil Teodoro and Rebecca T. Añonuevo translated by Luisa A. Igloria

Alfonso D’Aquino: Two poems from contemporary Mexico translated by Forrest Gander

Two homophonic translations from Old French and Provençal by Monica Raymond

Two Contemporary Mongolian Poets translated by Simon Wickham-Smith and Lyn Coffin

A Alfredo Hurtado by Pedro Garfias translated by Roberta Gould

The Truth About the World by Jane Rice

Three poems from the Czech by Jiří Orten translated by Lyn Coffin

Translating a Sangam poem by Uma Gowrishankar

Categories: Translation

Translating a Sangam poem

May 6, 2011 10 comments

by Uma Gowrishankar

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

Categories: Translation Tags:

Three poems from the Czech by Jiří Orten

May 5, 2011 1 comment

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 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.

Categories: Translation Tags:

The Truth About the World

May 4, 2011 1 comment

by Jane Rice

Mouth-image of the unborn
unwinds the ball
of wrappings

how old this hankering
this wanting to believe

plural for sky

of silence
in silence

flurry of conjecture

life passing
at the pace
of generations

what lies beneath
carrier of secrets
gazes inward
upon the mask

for now
darkness floats
carried away with itself

on a chain of logic
on the past paid in moons

newborn eyes will widen
newborn lips
trust me

form will grow


to distraction

boundless wave
lost at sea

tranquil mountain
ages the story
of beginning

day waits days
to become.


Silence with a thousand ears

specializes in purple
teats full of milk

the wind goes on singing

outside the houses
it rains and rains

clarity hides
on the shore
of the sky

despite everything
day ripens

you have my word

dream appears
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

exhausted gray

just rest
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.”

Categories: Translation Tags:

A Alfredo Hurtado by Pedro Garfias

May 3, 2011 3 comments

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.

Two picture-poem combinations

April 29, 2011 20 comments

by Tatiana Burghenn-Arsénie and Irina Moga


Knaackstraße — A Balcony

Knaackstraße - A Balcony
(Click images to see larger versions.)

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

The Former Stern Radio Building, Berlin-Weißensee
(Drawing from the series “gezeichnet.Weißensee” by Kulturring in Berlin e.V)

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.

Download the podcast

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.