from How Many Names

September 24, 2020 in French, Poetry

Original by Henri Meschonnic
Translated, from the French, by Don Boes and Gabriella Bedetti

from Combien de noms (How Many Names)
Improviste, 1999

 

between each word a desert
inside the words the
desert
and with each letter I
am grateful
to the silence
for what it has allowed me to
shout

entre chaque mot un désert
à l’intérieur des mots le
désert
et à chaque lettre je
suis reconnaissant
au silence
pour ce qu’il m’a permis de
crier

* * *

we lacked words
we became like a book
with nothing but margins
the words were inside
like a memory
safe from oblivion
listening to what’s coming
to remake our language
with no words
at the bottom of time on the brink of
speech

nous avons manqué de mots
nous devenions comme un livre
qui n’aurait plus que des marges
les mots rentraient au-dedans
comme une mémoire qui se met
à l’abri à l’oubli à
l’écoute de ce qui vient
pour se refaire un langage
avec une absence de mots
au fond du temps au bord de
dire

* * *

words have no Sundays
as the year has no door
the set table is within us
the chair that remains empty
creates the prophecy of the day
where each day is a letter
and the completed word is us

les mots n’ont pas de dimanches
comme l’année n’a pas de porte
la table mise est en nous
le siege qui reste vide
fait la prophétie du jour
dont chaque jour est une lettre
et le mot complet c’est nous

Henri Meschonnic (1932-2009) is a key figure of French “new poetics.” A core figure of the French literary scene of the last half-century, Meschonnic is known worldwide for his translations from the Old Testament and Critique du rhythme. During his long career, Meschonnic generated controversy in the literary community. As a poet and as a translator of the Hebrew verse of the Bible, he contends that rhythm rules over meaning, flowing from the bottom up. For him, the revolution in the idea of language is the basis of a continuing change, not only in the poem but also in the idea of history and social life itself. His poetry has received prestigious awards, including the Max Jacob International Poetry Prize, the Mallarmé Prize, the Jean Arp Francophone Literature Prize, and the Guillevic-Ville de Saint-Malo Grand Prize for Poetry. His poems appear in more than a dozen languages. However, even now, almost no Meschonnic poems have been translated into English. Selected from his nineteen poetry books, the accompanying works only suggest the richness, range, and intensity of his poetic output.

Don Boes is the author of Good Luck With That, Railroad Crossing, and The Eighth Continent, selected by A. R. Ammons for the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Louisville Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Cutbank, Zone 3, Southern Indiana Review, and Cincinnati Review.

Gabriella Bedetti’s translations of Meschonnic’s essays have appeared in New Literary History and Critical Inquiry, and she had an interview published in Diacritics, in addition to an article in New Literary History. Meschonnic was a guest of the MLA at her roundtable with Ralph Cohen and Susan Stewart. She studied translation at the University of Iowa and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.

“The Condition of the Verses”

September 24, 2020 in Poetry, Portuguese

Original by Maria Teresa Horta
Translated, from the Portuguese, by Edite Cunhā and M.B. McLatchey

 

I am of the condition of the verses
with eagerness rescued

I have a pact with the angels
I recognize the trace of light
I want the rigor of words

I sing the flame of poetry
in the most bitter extravagance

I write the excess
with the pain of the blaze
in the desire to be the splendor

And if in each poem
I invent flight
with my poetic voice

I choose lava

“Da condição dos versos”

Sou da condição
dos versos
com avidez resgatada

Tenho um trato com os anjos
conheço o traço da luz
quero o rigor das palavras

Canto a chama
da poesia
na desmesura mais amarga

Escrevo o excesso
com a pena do fulgor
no desejo de ser o esplendor

E se em cada poema
invento o voo
com a minha voz poética

eu escolho a lava

Maria Teresa Horta was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1937. At 82 years old, Horta continues to be recognized for her association with two fellow poets, Maria Isabel Barreno and Maria Velho da Costa. In 1971, during the fascist Estado Novo regime the three women (known thereafter as “The Three Marias”) wrote a collaborative work entitled Novas Cartas Portuguese (New Portuguese Letters). The book was banned, resulting in a trial that attracted worldwide attention and identified the three writers as feminist icons. In 1974 the regime fell, and the charges were dropped. Nevertheless, the imprint of an oppressive regime endured for Horta – both in her consciousness and in her poetry. Horta has always considered herself, first and foremost, a poet. She has published 21 collections of poetry. She has also worked as a journalist for several Lisbon publications during the 1960s (one of the few women to do so) and interviewed such renowned literary figures as Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras, and Christa Wolf. She edited the magazine, Mulheres (Women) and wrote plays and fiction pieces. She is most renowned as a poet and political activist. She lives in Portugal.

Edite Cunhā is a writer, artist, and activist who believes that creativity can transform the individual as well as society. She leads multi-media art and writing workshops for people of all ages. Cunhā has a BA from Smith College and an MFA from Warren Wilson College. She lives in Massachusetts.

M.B. McLatchey earned her graduate degree in Comparative Literature at Harvard University, her Master of Art in Teaching at Brown University, and her B.A. from Williams College. She was awarded the American Poet Prize from the American Poetry Journal and won the 2013 May Swenson Award for her debut poetry collection, The Lame God (Utah State University Press), and she was a Finalist in the New Women’s Voices Competition for her book, Advantages of Believing (Finishing Line Press). Her most recent book, Beginner’s Mind, will be published by Regal House Publishing in 2021 and explores the question, “How should we educate our children?” Currently serving as Florida’s Poet Laureate for Volusia County, she is an Associate Professor of Classics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. Visit her at www.mbmclatchey.com.

“The Albatross”

September 24, 2020 in French, Poetry

Original by Charles Baudelaire
Translated, from the French, by Will Cordeiro

 

Often, just for kicks, bored sailors reach
for that vast bird, the albatross, which glides
above them on lethargic winds as each
old ketch is drifting the abyss of tides.

Soon as they toss this monarch on the deck,
he stoops and gawks with awkward, drooping wings,
which, mortified, trail lifeless and dejected,
like useless oars through landlocked zones wherein

this skyborne voyager’s made comic—weak,
a stupid bumbler who was once all grace!
One sailor sticks a pipestem in his beak;
another mocks the cripple’s dull malaise.

The poet, too, is like this prince of clouds
who chases storms and laughs at arrows slinging;
but cast from heaven to a jeering crowd,
now hobbles, earthbound, with crass, heavy wings.

“L’Albatros”

Souvent, pour s’amuser, les hommes d’équipage
Prennent des albatros, vastes oiseaux des mers,
Qui suivent, indolents compagnons de voyage,
Le navire glissant sur les gouffres amers.

À peine les ont-ils déposés sur les planches,
Que ces rois de l’azur, maladroits et honteux,
Laissent piteusement leurs grandes ailes blanches
Comme des avirons traîner à côté d’eux.

Ce voyageur ailé, comme il est gauche et veule!
Lui, naguère si beau, qu’il est comique et laid!
L’un agace son bec avec un brûle-gueule,
L’autre mime, en boitant, l’infirme qui volait!

Le Poète est semblable au prince des nuées
Qui hante la tempête et se rit de l’archer;
Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées,
Ses ailes de géant l’empêchent de marcher.

Charles Baudelaire was a 19th-century French poet, translator, art critic, essayist, dandy, and flâneur. He is perhaps most famous for his poetry collection, The Flowers of Evil, and his book of prose poems, Paris Spleen. A self-styled poète maudit, Baudelaire’s work often celebrates decadent and anti-social tendencies—drinking, crime, violence, sexuality, insanity, and the life of outcasts in a way that is, at once, both ironic and biographically authentic.

Will Cordeiro has work appearing or forthcoming in Agni, The Cincinnati Review, Cimarron Review, Copper Nickel, The Threepenny Review, and elsewhere. Cordeiro’s collection, Trap Street, won the 2019 Able Muse Book Award. He received his MFA and PhD from Cornell University. Cordeiro co-edits the small press Eggtooth Editions and is grateful for a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. He teaches in the Honors College at Northern Arizona University. As an undergraduate, Cordeiro co-founded Plume, a literary journal of translation at Franklin & Marshall College, which is still going strong today. He currently lives in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Letter from the Editor

September 24, 2020 in Letter from the editor

Dear lovely readers,

I sincerely hope you are all well, and I am grateful for the investment of your time in reading our journal. What we present here to you in this issue of Alchemy may be considered a motley grouping of translations that stand together in their eclectic cohesion. Whether it is Will Cordeiro’s translation of “The Albatross,” a classic French poem from Charles Baudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil; or enthralling fragments from Efrén Ordóñez’s Smoke, a novel in Spanish translated by Robin Myers; or a trio of French poems from Henri Meschonnic’s How Many Names, a rhythmically oriented collection rendered into English by Don Boes and Gabriella Bedetti; or Maria Teresa Horta’s “The Condition of the Verses,” a Portuguese poem of passionate self-expression, which Edite Cunhā and M.B. McLatchey have translated; or whether it is Jack Kohler’s “Still Lifes,” a textual montage which explores artworks by Agnes Martin, Charles Ethan Porter, and Wolfgang Tillmans in an experimental fashion that blends the genres of visual art and poetic language, it speaks to the practice of translation as a genre and theme. These works are empowered by the unity that transcends their differences in style, content, and language.

This trend is also present in the visual art in this issue: Michelle Brooks’s cover art, “Blue Mural,” is a striking photograph whose colors harbor its mystique, while “God’s Lesson Plan” is an avant-garde translation by Bias Collins which adapts five of the Ten Commandments to a usable code of ethics for the 21st century. These works are so different from one another, and yet they find themselves in the same home.

At such a time of crisis and uncertainty, art and literature can lift our spirits. Translation has that ability, and it is made all the stronger for it because it is an inherently collaborative art: from source to target language and from creator to translator, the original text is reimagined and rendered into an entirely new work of art, and in doing so, it uncovers another reality, another world of possibility. One may think of the joint effort in the path of translation to be a limitless art, then, with plenty of potential for new discoveries.

Our translators have entrusted us with their work, and we are proud to provide a home for their translations. My many thanks for their consideration in choosing to send their translations to us, as well as every translator who submitted to us; we were quite impressed with what we received, and we are honored to have had the chance to read and consider these submissions. So it is with great pleasure that we present this issue.

I would also like to convey my immense gratitude for Iliria Osum’s aid and exemplary leadership as the previous editor for the past three issues of Alchemy. Additionally, I want to thank Yaprak Yıldırım, Kevin Jang, and NM Mashurov for being such a wonderful editorial team; their collective efforts have allowed this issue to find the form that it has, and I commend them for their hard work. I also cannot thank Professor Amelia Glaser and the Faculty Advisory Board nearly enough for their guiding hand throughout this process. Lastly, I am grateful for the Literature Department here at the University of California, San Diego, where I myself feel overjoyed to be among such delightful and motivating professors.

We cordially invite you to share this moment with us as we share these translations with you, in turn. Enjoy this issue with us!

Make yourself at home,
Nolan Dannels