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.”

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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.

Two Contemporary Mongolian Poets

April 28, 2011 3 comments

translated by Simon Wickham-Smith and Lyn Coffin

1. G. Mend-Oyoo, translated by Simon Wickham-Smith

Чулууны аялгуу
(уугаан аялгуу)

Бумбан бор манхан наранд щарагдаж намайж
Бургих булнийн усөлмий юугий нь сүрчин сэрүүцүүлнэ.
Ерөөлөөр учирсан биз ээ, үйрмэг зөөлөн элсэн дунд
Ембүү хэдэн чулуу усны амь бараадна.

Онгон их элсэнд чулуу ховортойнх ч юм уу даа
Оргилох булгийн хэдэн чулуугаар тоглохын хорхой хөдлөөд
Аваачиж, адуу мал болгон наадсан өдөр
Аабын щилбүүрийн хуйв аянга цахилгаан щиг тачигнаж билээ.

“Булгийн хэдэн чулууг булааж авсан уу, та нар!
Бурхны нэрийг дуудаж буруугаа хүлээж гуй!
Чихээ дэвсэж байнаад урсгал чагна, та нар!
Чимээ аялгууг нь аргидан дуудаж авчир!”

Эрх цовоо булгийн урсгал сатааран намхраад
Эл хулийн дунд дуугаа хулжаасан байж билээ.
Хоёр өвдөнд хоорондоо толгойгоо хавчуулаад
Хорвоон учрыг сүүмэн ухаарч гэмщиж билээ.

Цоносон халуун тэр өдөр тоглоомон гэрээ нүүлгэж
Цолхийтэл булгийн уснаа буцаан тавиж билээ.
Булт чулууг зөөн зөөсөөр буруугаа засахад чинь
Булгийн аялгуу нь ирээд ход ход хоржигнож билээ


The Melody of Stones
(the original melody)

Gilded by the hazy sun which fills the ritual urn,
The waters of good fortune shower into air.
Amid tears and suffering, this is a benediction.
And how many silver pieces are there in those living waters?

And are stones rare on the vast sands of Ongon?
There are insects squirming among these lucky stones.
They take the stones away, excite the horses,
And father’s whip crashes like lightning and thunder.

“Have you stolen our lucky stones?
Call upon the Buddha and request forgiveness!
Keep your ears open, the current is strong!
Bring on the melody, call it forth!”

The flow of bright fortitude fades away,
The voices frightened off from these fawn-colored horses.
They tuck in their heads where the two old people are,
They regret how little they understand the world.

This blazing day moving the agreement of games,
The splashing water is taken back.
Returning all the stones, I repair my mistakes
The melody of the gifts comes gurgling.

* * *

2. Bavuudorj Tsogdorj, translated by Lyn Coffin


Намрын залуу модод
Навчаа шидэлнэ
Гэнэн гал навчис
Гишгэсэн мөртэй минь адил



Young trees in autumn
Throw down their leaves.
The incredible fiery leaves are
The same as my footprints.

* * *


Чи миний аглагийн аглагт суух юм
Чингэвч чамд ер очмооргүй нэгэн шалтгаан байна
Цаглашгүй ариун,таалшгүй эрхэмсэг
Залуу насыг чинь л би булаамааргүй байна
Зөвхөн чамтай,зөвхөн сартай
Зөрөг зам дээр би удмааргүй байна
Царай чинь харагдам,хөл чинь үзэгдэм
Сарны тунгалагт би гунигламааргүй байна
Гэгээн учрал,ариун тавилангаа
Гэргийнхээ өмнө,гэрийнхээ хойморьт
Өрж орхиод
Цаст уулынхаа чулуугаар
Өөрийгөө зодож сууна би
Чи миний аглагийн аглагт суух юм
Чингэвч чамд одоохон очмоор нэгэн шалтгаан байна


Under the Harmonious Moon

You exist so far from my world
But I have reason to want never to come to you.
I want not to hold aloft your youth
which is infinitely sacred and cannot be touched.
Alone with you and the moon
I want not to linger on the path.
And I want not to be sad in the moonlight
which reveals your face and legs.
So I offer my blessed meeting and my sacred fate
to my wife waiting at home.
Now I am pushing myself
through the stones of my snowy mountains.
You exist so far from my world
But I have reason to want to come to you right now.

* * *


Энэ амгалан цэнхэр үдшид хайр хүрнэм
Дорно зүгийн шилтгээн энэ яг л мөн
Энэ алтан дэлт үүлсэд хайр хүрнэм
Дорно зүгийн дэнлүү энэ яг л мөн
Энэ цэцэг үнэртсэн салхинд хайр хүрнэм
Дорно зүгийн аяс энэ яг л мөн
Энэ цэцэн ногоон царцаанд хайр хүрнэм
Дорно зүгийн амраг энэ яг л мөн
Энэ мэлмэрээ цагаан саранд хайр хүрнэм
Дорно зүгийн жүнз энэ яг л мөн
Энэ мэлтрэх бүлээн нулимсанд хайр хүрнэм
Дорно зүгийн шүлэг энэ яг л мөн


The Wind with its Smell of Flowers

I love this peaceful blue evening
It is absolutely a castle of the East
I love this cloud with its golden mane
It is absolutely a lantern of the East
I love this wind with its smell of flowers
It is absolutely the fragrance of the East
I love this sagacious green locust
It is absolutely a darling of the East
I love this moon in the white waves
absolutely the mirror of the East
I love these lukewarm falling tears
absolutely a poem of the East
This wind with its smell of flowers.

* * *

G. Mend-Oyoo is the Poet Laureate of Mongolia. Under his editorship, an anthology of American poetry in Mongolian translation has been recently published in Ulaanbaatar by the Mongolian Academy of Culture and Poetry. A tribute to him by David Lehman appeared recently on the Best American Poetry blog.

Bavuudorj Tsogdorj wrote his first poem when he was 11. He is married, has two boys and lives in Ulaanbaatar, where he serves as general editor of the ‘New Era’ radio station. He is currently at work on an epic poem about Vajrapani mountain, at 4060 meters the highest in Mongolia. He is a Nyingma Buddhist. An anthology of some of Bavuudorj’s poems and some of Lyn Coffin’s poems was recently published in Mongolia under the title Eastern and Western Poems.

Simon Wickham-Smith has translated the work of many contemporary Mongolian writers, and is the translator of The Hidden Life of the Sixth Dalai Lama (2011, Lexington Books). He is curently pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Seattle, his dissertation being on the Mongolian poet G. Mend-Ooyo’s novel Altan Ovoo. In 2007 he was honored by the Mongolian government as an Honored Cultural Worker, and in the same year he was the recipient of a PEN International Translator’s Grant.

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 has an honorary doctorate from the World Academy of Arts and Culture (UNICEF) for “poetic excellence and her efforts on behalf of world peace. As a graduate student, she was Joseph Brodsky’s teaching assistant the two years he taught Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. Poems of hers have been published in many languages, including Spanish, French, Belgian, and Mongolian. Her story appeared in Best American Stories 1969, edited by Joyce Carol Oates. 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.

Two homophonic translations from Old French and Provençal

April 27, 2011 4 comments

by Monica Raymond

Ballad of Dames in Jaded Time

after Villon

Tell me where, in what country
does Flora ring her bell of romaine,
encyclopaedic Thais
play footsy with cousin Germaine,
Echo, burbling like the Maine
rivers rushing over stone—
Beauty crows its human moan
Whose song? Negligees Downtown…

Where’s sage Eloise (once called Lui)
for whose love, chastened, stripped to skin,
Peter Abelard of St. Denis,
poor son, made monk where man had been?
Some blah blah, mine—oh, where’s the queen
who commanded Buridan
into a sack thrown in the Seine?
Whose song? Negligees Downtown…

Queen Blanche, white as a sheet or lily
chanting “why,” that voice a siren;
Bigfoot Bertha, Beatrice, Ally,
harem babes with tongues of men;
Joan, the good witch of Lorraine
who the English broiled at Rouen:
Where are they, weird sober wren?
Whose song? Negligees Downtown…

Prince, don’t ask this week, this year
why they ventured, where they’ve gone—.
Tunes rise up and disappear:
Whose song? Negligees Downtown…

* * *


from the Provençal

Wake up, friend, you dormouse of a fried banana,
totally birds of the world speak of our love—
Leda, me and you.

Wake up, friend, who sleeps till freezing tomorrow
totally birds of the word, dizzy with our love—
Leda, me and you.

Totally birds do muddle the love, dizzy it,
do my love and do boss ‘em, my lying birds
Leda, me and you.

Totally birds do muddle the love caravan,
do my love and do vacillate and lie
Leda, me and you.

Do my love and do si do love, end and life,
you who tortures bones, rams ‘em to Siam
Leda, me and you.

Do my love and do vaseline emendations
which you told, tested, ram most of ‘em who push
Leda, me and you.

You tortured this bone, rammed it to Siam
and this forecasts these bevies of fountains—
Leda, me and you.

You tortured this bone, me who pushes—
as this seacoast, a fountain, is to the Bahamas—
Leda, me and you.

* * *

These are homophonic renditions. While they are ruled by the form and rhythms of the original, and to a certain extent by the content of the original as well, my choice of words is governed as much by sound as by sense.

The first is of a widely translated poem by Francois Villon, “Ballade des dames du temps jadis,” the refrain of which is usually rendered as: “Where are the snows of yesteryear?” I have long wanted to do my own, slightly cockeyed, version, which qarrtsiluni’s call for submissions gave me impetus to attempt.

The second poem I wrote about fifteen years ago while taking a course in the Provençal (Occitan) lyric in graduate school. I haven’t yet re-located the original of Aubade, though believe me, it has one — I could never have come up with those dizzying rhythms and surreal juxtapositions without a source!


Monica Raymond is a poet, playwright, sometime essayist and photographer, general artist/teacher type, currently based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She’s published all of the above genres (except plays) in previous issues of qarrtsiluni.

Alfonso D’Aquino: Two poems from contemporary Mexico

April 26, 2011 1 comment

translated by Forrest Gander

de Astro Labio

Pez vertical / grafitti

trazado con un dedo en la superficie salitrosa de un muro
con la vejiga llena de sangre seca flota en la roca el esqueleto de fuera
pez anzuelo del pez redondo hueco
cosido con alambres azules a una boca de trapo
a través de la piel absorbe el agua a través de la piel expulsa el agua
fósil sin párpados ni nombre flota a la deriva ardiente y ocre
radiografía del pez en las alturas su radiante espuma
rupestre cuando las cuevas estaban todavía llenas de un agua inmóvil
fosforesce en la piedra envuelto en vaho
la espina oculta entre las comisuras de la risa
denso verde vaho en cada hueco suyo de carne o agua cruda
hace un nido de saliva en la pared de enfrente
lítico pez punzón pez hacha pez cuchillo del pez que corta el agua
pez de vidrio volcánico en los albores de la animalidad
*oscuro imán en el hueco craneal extinto pez sin lengua
supraceleste desnudo inamovible fusiforme esférico cilíndrico rojo
quien distingue entre las aguas pluviales y las aguas residuales
las aletas dorsales atrofiadas en el juego de los peces cruzados
columna y agujero
indistinto entre la multitud de ceros a la izquierda del erizo negro
oye por el cráneo a través del yeso la pared de adentro
entre las piedras llenas de animales pintados que nada ilumina
pez afuera del pez cuando ya su esqueleto no es su jaula
la saliva dorada y la música oculta
quien no distingue la pudrición del suelo de los nuevos tallos de la cola
pez colgante
por un sesgo imprevisto regresa al agua amarga debajo de la lengua
la líquida tortura de la sal en los abismos que ilumina
pez anzuelo del pez redondo hueso
espina de la luna atravesada en la garganta
el esqueleto interno disolviéndose en el azgue de su espejo
sol verde fosforece entre las aguas negras
fosa del pez sediento que otro pez imagina en su desierto
hileras de espinas irisadas bajo las estrellas
bajo el lodo del tiempo pez come pez es la verdad más honda
las escamas violetas en las profundidades de la tierra
la sal rojiza relumbra en sus escamas vidrios rotos
la hembra con la aleta caudal en media luna desova el primer huevo
pez uña el tragaluz desdobla
a través de la piel absorbe el agua a través de la piel expulsa el agua
grito del pez babeante mortificado en su lecho de hojas
canta en silencio como un ramo de sal en la cabeza


from Star Lip

Vertical Fish / graffiti

traced with a finger on the salty surface of a wall
with a bladder of dry blood it floats in rock its skeleton outside it
fish fish hook round hole
its feather-duster mouth stitched with blue wires
through skin water sucks in through skin water is expelled
lidless nameless fossil adrift hot and ocher
x-ray of the fish at its peak its radiant spume
mineralized when caves were still filled with tranquil water
phosphorescing into the foggy stone
thorn hidden in the corners of laughter
a dense green mist in each pocket of flesh or primal water
forms a nest of saliva on the facing wall
lytic fish hatchetfish awl fish fish knifing through water
volcanic glass fish in the dawn of animality
dark magnetism in the cranial hollow extinct fish before language
cerulean naked fixed spherical spindle-shaped cylindrical red
discerning stormwater from wastewater
dorsal fins atrophied in the genetic play of crossbreeding fish
column and hole
indistinguishable from crowded zeros to the left of black sea urchins
it hears through the plaster to the interior wall
between stones chock-full with painted animals that nothing illuminates
the fish emerging from the fish when its skeleton isn’t any longer a cage
golden saliva and fugitive music
unable to sense the putrefaction of new tail-stems on the ground
hanging fish
unimaginably distorted returned to the bitter water under the tongue
the salt-tortured liquid in abysses that illumine
fish fish hook round hole
the moon’s thorn piercing its throat
its internal skeleton dissolving in the quicksilver of a mirror
a green sun phosphorescing under black water
fossa of the thirsting fish imagined by another fish in its desert
rows of iridescent thorns below the stars
below the mud of time fish eating fish the surest verity
violet scales throughout all the earth’s layers
red salt lustrous on the broken glass scales
the female whose caudal fin stiffens as she spawns the first egg
fingernail fish the skylight opened
through skin water sucks in through skin water expelled
scream of a fish drooling mortified in its leafy bed
in silence it sings in silence like a bouquet of salt in the mind

* * *


No tiene ninguna forma
la hoja en medio
de las hojas

Las hojas no son el aile
sino el aire
que lo copa

Y una copa cabe en otra
dentro de una
sola hoja

Movimiento de la fronda
que desvela
otra rosa

Y una en otra se transforma
como un cielo
entre dos hojas

Invisible rama loca
se retuerce
por sí sola

Si una hoja y otra hoja
siempre son
la misma hoja

Veo por dentro de las hojas
movimiento de una a otra
que las ronda…

Todo el árbol una hoja
que contiene todo el aile
y otra hoja…

Apariencia de la fronda
que se enreda con las ramas
de otras hojas…

Veo por dentro de las formas
en las venas de las copas
la otra rosa…

Y el filoma se transflora
en el tejido invisible
que desdobla…

El estilo y la corola
espirales que se tiñen
y se ahondan…

Desde la rama no vista
a la sombra de esta hoja
que cae rota…



It’s formless
the leaf in the middle
of the leaves

Leaves aren’t the alder
but the air
in its sleeve

And trees drink each other in
from one of them
a singular leaf

Gesticulation of the frond
another flower

And each moves into the other
like a sky
between two leaves

Wild invisible branch
into one form

If one leaf and another leaf
always are
the same leaf

From within the leaves I see
one brushing another
that keeps it company

All the tree a leaf
that holds all the alder
and more leaves…

And a frond emerges
tangled in the branches
among the leaves

From within its patterns I see
in the shadowed bower
the other flower…

And the phylum transfloresces
invisibly woven and
opening out…

The stalk and the corolla
spirals darkening
and digging in…

From the unseen branch
to the shade of this leaf
falling broken…

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Born in Mexico City in 1959, Alfonso D’Aquino is the author of many books, including Vibora breve (Small Viper) and Piedra no piedra (Rock No Rock). At the age of 22, D’Aquino was awarded the prestigious Carlos Pellicer Poetry Prize. He makes his living now as an editor and he teaches occasional poetry workshops that have become as renowned and influential as those “Poetry as Magic” sessions that Jack Spicer conducted at the start of the San Francisco Renaissance. Forrest Gander has recently finished a translation of his Fungus Skull Eye Wing: Selected Poems of Alfonso D’Aquino.

Forrest Gander’s forthcoming books of translation include Watchword, a translation of Pura López Colomé’s Villaurrutia Prize-winning poetry (Wesleyan, 2011), Spectacle & Pigsty, co-translated with Kyoko Yoshida (OmniDawn, 2011), and Panic Cure: 10 Innovative Contemporary Poets from Spain. Visit his website:

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