from How Many Names

September 24, 2020 in French, Poetry by ndannels

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 by ndannels

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 by ndannels

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.

by atosun

sunflowers (and two other poems)

February 11, 2020 in English, Poetry, Portuguese by atosun

Original by Michael Garcia Spring
Translated, from the English to the Portuguese, by Maria João Marques

sunflowers

it’s nearly impossible
to look at a sunflower and not think
of van Gogh

a bullet-shaped bee shoots past

and my mind takes off – a crow-black flame
over a golden field

 

girassóis

é quase impossível
olhar para um girassol e não pensar
em van Gogh

uma abelha em forma de bala passa por mim

e o meu espírito levanta vôo – a chama de um corvo negro
sobre um campo dourado

boxing gloves

they are still on
the table
where I left them
the day I refused
to fight my father

they are the color of dried blood
and resemble the torn
out hearts of bulls

when I visit
my father never talks about them
but they are always there

the somber smell of old
dust and leather

lumped and tied together
with a frayed shoelace

luvas de boxe

continuam
na mesa
onde as deixei
no dia em que recusei
lutar com o meu pai

são da cor do sangue seco
e parecem os corações
arrancados dos touros

quando o visito
o meu pai nunca fala delas
mas estão sempre lá

um sombrio odor a pó
e a pele de outros tempos

abandonadas e enlaçadas
por um frágil atacador

 path to the lighthouse

between the cragged rocks
and the molting ocean
a woman undresses and becomes
the beach

a crow above her
stumbles out of the wind
into a chorus of crows

and here you are
on the cliffside path to the lighthouse
among soggy pines
and dark ferns
wondering if this is the time
you too will finally lift out of your body
and become something else

you get lost in the walk to the lighthouse
your eyes catching every glint
of a gull’s wing or falling leaf

below you
in the soupy enclave of ocean
a sea otter is done playing in the waves

it rolls onto its back
coasting with a flat stone on its chest
and an oyster in its paws

but before it begins drumming
before the shell cracks open
and the milk
of salty meat oozes 

and before it devours the pearly flesh
it pauses

because it notices you
wading in a flow of fog
floating in a grove of scrub trees

your image clearly submerged
in the otter’s dark eyes

 

rumo ao farol

entre as paredes rochosas
e o oceano mutante
uma mulher despe-se e torna-se
a praia

sobre ela surge um corvo
cambaleando por entre o vento
na direcção de um bando de corvos

e aqui te encontras
na encosta do penhasco rumo ao farol
por entre pinheiros encharcados
e negros fetos
cismando se no momento presente
também te elevarás finalmente do teu corpo
e serás algo mais

perdes-te a caminho do farol
os teus olhos absorvendo cada brilho
da asa de uma gaivota ou folha cadente

abaixo de ti
no enclave caldo de oceano
uma lontra marinha pára de brincar nas ondas

põe-se de barriga para o ar
flutuando com uma pedra lisa no peito
e uma ostra nas patas

mas antes de lhe começar a bater
antes de a concha se abrir
derramando
o leite da carne salgada

e antes de devorar a polpa cor de pérola
ela detém-se

porque repara em ti
pairando numa corrente de nevoeiro
flutuando no emaranhado de arbustos

a tua imagem nitidamente submersa
nos olhos negros da lontra

Michael Garcia Spring is the author of four previous poetry books and one children’s book. He’s won numerous awards and distinctions for his poetry, including the 2004 Robert Graves Award, an honorable mention for the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Award, the 2013 Turtle Island Poetry Award, a Luso-American Fellowship from Disquiet International, and an honorable mention for the 2017 Green Book Festival Award.  Michael is a poetry editor for the Pedestal Magazine, and founding editor of Flowstone Press. He currently lives on a mountainside in rural Oregon.

Maria João Marques is a graduate in Screenplay Writing from the Lisbon Theatre and Film School and MA in English and North-American Studies from Nova University of Lisbon. Her dissertation was distinguished with the JRAAS Quality Seal for outstanding achievement by the Centre for English, Translation, and Anglo-Portuguese Studies (CETAPS). Her translations of Michael Garcia Spring’s poems have appeared in Açoriano Oriental Arts & Letras (Portugal), Adelaide Literary Journal (Portugal/USA), Janelas em Rotação (Brazil), and The Portuguese Times (USA). These poems are part of a bilingual book set to appear in March, 2021 by Companhia das Ilhas, Portugal.

by atosun

About Death

February 11, 2020 in Crossgenre, Poetry, Romanian by atosun

Original by Iulia Militaru
Translated, from the Romanian, by Claudia Serea

 

Iulia Militaru is the editor-in-chief of frACTalia Press and the InterRe:ACT magazine. After a few children’s books and her study Metaphoric, Metonimic: A Typology of Poetry, her first poetry collection Marea Pipeadă (The Great Pipe Epic) was published in 2010, receving two major awards in Romania. Dramadoll, co-authored with Anca Bucur and Cristina Florentina Budar, is part of a larger poetry/graphic art/video/sound project; a part of this video project (Images of the day number 8, directed by Cristina Florentina Budar) was selected for Gesamt 2012 (DISASTER 501: What happened to man?), a project coordinated by Lars von Trier and directed by Jenle Hallund. Her collection of experimental poetry Confiscarea bestiei (o postcercetare) (The Seizure of the Beast. A Post-research.) was published by frACTalia Press in 2016. She has published poems and digital collages in MAINTENANT, A Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art #9, #10, and #11. Her art exhibit “The Path. Filling-in Abstract Forms: Overwriting Barnett Newman” opened in 2016 in Iowa City at Public Space One. In 2016, she was also featured at The Third Annual Brussels Poetry Fest.

Claudia Serea’s poems and translations have appeared in Field, New Letters, Gravel, Prairie Schooner, The Malahat Review, Asymptote, RHINO, and elsewhere. She has published five poetry collections, most recently Twoxism, a poetry-photography collaboration with Maria Haro (8th House Publishing, 2018). Serea co-translated The Vanishing Point That Whistles, an Anthology of Contemporary Romanian Poetry (Talisman House Publishing, 2011) for which she received a grant from the Romanian Cultural Institute. She also translated from the Romanian Adina Dabija’s Beautybeast (Northshore Press, 2012). Serea is a founding editor of National Translation Month.

 

 

by atosun

Epigraph (and two other poems)

February 11, 2020 in Bosnian, Poetry by atosun

Original by Adem Garić
Translated, from the Bosnian, by Mario Frömml

 

Epigraph

In the mornings I call my mother.
Or in the afternoons, on my way back from
the mosque; the scent of blossoms rushes
through a crack in my car window.

 White tree tops line the streets
like the kind words I often miss.

It dawns Here when
Bosnia prays the zuhr.

A day is at its zenith when Their
maghrib brings it to its close.    

Time is Here a gold dust.

Prospectors all over the place pitch
their tents on the slopes of their days.

Gold, buried in the pits of time,
is running out, ever so dwindling.

I notice that the sky is blue,
and green is the grass, the soil
so wet, right after the rain. 

Thus, everything’s the same,
and — then again — nothing is.

I do not speak out of melancholy,
but for the sake of Truth.

 

Zapis

Ujutro nazovem majku
ili popodne, kad se vraćam iz džamije.
Jutrom zamiriše behar kroz otškrinut
Automobilski prozor.
Duž ulica su redovi bijelih krošnji
poput lijepih riječi koje mi često nedostaju.
U Bosni je podne kad je Ovdje jutro.
U Bosni je akšam kad je Ovdje podne.
Vrijeme je Ovdje zlatna prašina.
Kopači na sve strane razastiru šatre
Po obronicma dana.
Zlata je u jamama vremena
sve manje i manje.
Primjećujem da je nebo plavo
trava zelena, i zemlja je mokra poslije kiše.
Dakle, sve je isto, a ništa opet isto nije.
Ne kažem to radi sjete
Već radi Istine.

Screenplay  

In American movies
Russians always get defeated.
Guns lurk at every corner.
Cowboys are good guys, though may not be.
Indians play supporting roles and extras.
Except for making wars, or being fought against,
no one has been noticing ten million Muslims.
Knowledge is useful if it rakes in profits.
Everything bringing in the profits is knowledge.
Drugs are native to the concrete jungle.
Alcohol gets sipped, just like coffee.
The streets – the foundation of crimes.
White men are sheriffs. Their badges are relics
everyone venerates.
America rides while the entire world walks.
Everything in the world takes places in America.
America discovers the world.
America has an American dream.
American is the dream of
houses that the banks rent out.

 

U američkim filmovima 

 U američkim filmovima
Rusi uvijek gube.
Pištolji vrebaju iza svakog ćoška.
Kauboji su dobri, makar i ne bili.
Indijanci su sporedne uloge i stažisti.
Osim kad ratuju, ili se protiv njih ratuje
za 10 miliona muslimana se i ne zna.
Znanje je korisno ako donosi profit.
Sve što donosi profit je znanje.
Droga je u prirodi betonske džungle.
Alkohol se srče, poput kahve.
Ulice su temelj kriminala.
Bijeli čovjek je šerif. Značka je relikvija
koju svi ljube.
Amerika je na kojnu, dok cijeli svijet kaska.
Sve u svijetu se dešava u Americi.
Amerika otkriva svijet.
Amerika ima američki san.
Američki je san
kuća koju banka izdaje.

 –

February Agony 

 february snaps in
a frigid air

the heavy rains of
shells and bullets pour

across the fields
mount Udrič
echos

in the eyes of wolves
bloody pyres blaze up

while the february snaps
at the fox holes of
life and death,
she bundles her baby
up in her arms

in her armful is a baby
and the two more cling to her skirt

at the end of a
distraught single file

a soldier yells  at
the woman and her child
at her child, the infant

shut her up, he screams
shut her up;
or the icy darkness will
silence her

 

Februarska morija

od studeni
februar puca

sipaju teške kiše
granata i metaka

preko polja
Udrič
odječe

u kurjačkim očima
plamte krvave lomače

dok februar puca
tranšejima
života i smrti,
njojzi je u naramku
dojenče

u naramku joj dojenče
a, za skut’ma još dvoje

pri dnu
izbezumljene kolone

vojnik viče
na ženu i dijete
na dijete, dojenče

ušuti je, reče
ušuti je;
ili će je ušutjeti
studen veče

Adem Garić is a poet from Bosnia and Herzegovina currently living in Erie, PA. He has written two books of poetry in Bosnian, and is in the middle of translating his new book America is Hollywood.

Mario Frömml is a US-based translator who is contributing to the translation of America is Hollywood. 

by atosun

The Song of Endless Sorrow

February 5, 2020 in Chinese, Poetry by atosun

Original by Juyi Bai
Translated, from the Chinese, by Zixi Cai

Part 1

Long had the monarch longed for a true beauty.
For years he sought,
His efforts in vain.
In the house of the Yangs a girl was newly in her prime,
Behind the gates of gates,
No one ever knew.
Born with undeniable beauty she could not hide,
One day she was selected to attend the emperor by his side.
Glancing back her glamour blossomed,
Rouge turned grey at the sight of her smile.
In the chill of spring she bathed in the royal pond,
Lukewarm water cleansed her lustrous skin.
When the maids helped her up she was lightheaded,
For the first time she received the emperor’s favor.
Rosy cheeks, fairy hair,
Headdress of gold embellished her grace.
There she spent her nights cuddled,
In the warmth of flowery veils.
But nights of love were short. Before long the sun would rise,
Since then the monarch never summoned the morning court.
Feasts and frolics left her no leisure, in spring
His companion on travels, his lover every night.
In the palaces three thousand beauties were in his possession,
But his love for that three thousand,
She had in her possession.
A gilded house, some tender nights,
In the tower of jade, one mellow spring of feasts with wine.
Brothers and sisters all made nobles,
The House of Yang shone with gleam;
Pity on the fathers and mothers throughout the state,
In their hearts a pretty girl valued far more than a son.
From on high the palaces rose into the blue clouds,
Wind carried heavenly music over the hills, to everyone’s ears.
The song and the dance were slow, frozen notes in the air
Until the end of the day the emperor still desired more.
But then the drumbeat of war came and the ground shuddered,
Splintering the notes of  “The Song of the Feathery Rainbow Dress.”
Within the nine gates of the palace dust and ash arose,
Thousands and millions headed southwest.
Amidst them the emperor’s emerald standard wavered,
Ever going, ever stopping,
Hundreds of miles out from Chang’An.
His warriors would not march,
There was no other way,
In front of the horses,
The tender beauty was forever gone.
Fallen floral hairpins on the ground,
Emerald clip, golden finch, and her barrette made of jade.
No one could keep hold of these delicate jewels:
The emperor covered his face,
Yet save his girl he could not.
Peering back, his tears and her blood mingled and flowed. 

Part 2

Yellow ashes pervaded the air with dismal winds,
Along winding lanes, amidst entangling clouds,
The emperor mounted the towering Tower of Swords.
By the foot of the mountains few roved about,
Banners bore no light, the sun and the moon glimmered palely in the sky.
Western waters green, western mountains blue,
He thought of her at dawn, he thought of her at dusk.
In the summer palace moonlit nights burned his heart,
The sound of a tolling bell in the rain twisted his guts. 

Part 3

The odds suddenly turned, and he returned to the old palaces,
Midway through he paused long by her grave, hesitant to leave.
Down by the hills, in the depth of the soil,
Where her blood had been shed, her fairy face he could not see.
He and his ministers looked at each other, their clothes wet with tears,
Staring at the east, letting the horses run wild back to the capital gate.
Upon their return the ponds and the gardens remained still,
Lotus in the royal waters, willows by the Middle Palace.
Lotus her face, willow her brows,
At the sight of these, how could his tears not fall?
When vernal breezes again signaled peach and plum blossoms,
When autumnal rain once more heralded falling sycamore leaves.
Western palace and southern court,
Autumnal weeds were overgrown,
Fallen leaves filled the stairs,
Crimson color left unswept.
His protegés in the Pear Garden grew white hair anew,
Deep in the palace of the queen, even her maids had aged.
At nightfall fireflies flew around and sorrows inhabited his heart,
The lonesome lamp went out well before he could fall asleep.
Bell chimes and drumbeats came late,
Lengthening the lingering night.
Light of faraway galaxies glimmered,
Forecasting the coming daybreak.
Yet pairs of lovebird tiles were bitter cold,
Laden with frost flowers layers thick,
Kingfisher-decorated quilt was chill,
With whom could he share?
For years and years they had been parted,
But never had her shadow returned to his dreams.
A Taoist sage was invited to the grand palaces,
Well-trained to send for spirits well-remembered.
For the Highness’s yearning heart,
The sage eagerly searched for hints.
Up in the air, riding the flow,
Fast as a flash of lightning crossing the sky.
Bordering the heavens, down in the netherworld,
None could find her, nowhere on earth.
Suddenly the sage learned of holy mountains,
Holy mountains overseas, afloat in the misty void;
Exquisite edifice imposing on the rising cloud,
In which elegant fairies spent their days.
Amongst the fairies one bore the name “Ever True,”
Snow was her skin, petals her face, all that may offer a clue.
In the western chamber of the golden palaces the jade bolt was sounded,
One to another the maids had the name of the new guest relayed;
Upon hearing the monarch’s messenger had sent,
Behind nine-fold curtains the soul asleep was startled.
Gathering her clothes, pushing her pillow aside,
She rose up from her bed and paced her room,
Pearl curtains and silver screens turned open as she hurried out.
Her coiffure half tipping, freshly awaken from her sleep,
With rumpled headdress she rushed down the hall;
A waft of winds lifted her fairy sleeves afloat,
As though she was dancing along the “Song of the Feathery Rainbow Dress.
Tears of grief streamed across her pearly face,
Like a twig of pear blossom in spring rain;
In her vision she gazed at the monarch ardently with grateful eyes,
Since they parted his voice and face had been obscured in the distance;
In the imperial court this love ended long before,
In the heavenly palace it still had days and nights to go;
Turning back she stared down at the earthly dwellings,
Chang’An could not be seen through mist and ashes afloat.
Only old collections could carry her love,
Her golden hairpin she split in two,
Her jeweled chest she cut in half,
One she kept the other she sent.
“May our hearts be firm, firm as these gilded hairpins,
One day we will meet, in heaven or on earth.”
Upon parting she keenly reminded his envoy of her message,
In her words there were vows,
Vows familiar to only her lord and her.
On the seventh day, in the seventh month,
In the Palace of Longevity,
When no one else was around.
Right as the bells for midnight tolled,
And this he whispered, so this she heard:
“May we be birds, our wings adjoining,
Up into the sky together we will rise,
Should we be trees, our branches interlinked,
Down in the fields together we will sprout.”
Heavens and lands with their infinite years,
Till they had their day,
This love will stay unrequited, this sorrow unceasing.

Translator’s Note

The poem, “长恨歌 (Chang Hen Ge, The Song of Endless Sorrow)” is arguably one of Juyi Bai’s most popular poem in China, from which a multitude of love quotes are still frequently revisited by the young nowadays. It beautifies the tragic love story between the Xuanzong Emperor of Tang Dynasty and his charming concubine, Lady Yang. The poem can be divided into three parts story-wise: first the poet elaborates on how the two lived a hedonistic life in the royal palaces, foreshadowing the coming disaster; the second part starts with line 36 (“The drumbeat of war…shuddered”), when a trusted general of the emperor instigated a rebellion that altered the fate of the once prosperous Tang Dynasty, marking a critical point in the story as well. While on exile, the emperor was forced to kill his beloved. The third part starts with line 61 (“The odds…palaces”), when the emperor returned to the capital and began to try every means to see his lady once more. Chinese folklore comes to be involved in the theme as well. The fate of the state and the fate of the couple were intertwined throughout, providing insights into the historical events while giving this love poem a deeper takeaway.

Surprisingly, this poem was left out in the collection of Herbert A. Giles’s translations of Bai’s poems. Many poems less known in China by the public were included in that anthology. 

Juyi Bai was primarily a writer of realism, capturing the sufferings of the poor while he was a low-ranking local official. Weighing the instructive value of poems more than their formats and rhetoric, Bai was the informal leader of a group of poets who defied the hackneyed court poetry at that time. His lines, simple but concise as they are, were said to be sung in the streets by all in his time.

Juyi Bai (772-846) (more often appearing as “Pio Chu-yi” in the Wade-Giles romanticized format) was a Tang Dynasty Chinese poet, usually ranked alongside other prominent Tang Dynasty poets such as Li Bai(“Rihaku”), Du Fu and Wang Wei. His political career had a quick end when he was banished to a minor post, in return saving him much effort as he pursued his interests in poetry and prose.

Zixi Cai is currently a student at Shenzhen Foreign Languages School, Guangdong, China. She became interested in the translation of Chinese poetry after spending a year in the US as an exchange student.

 

by atosun

Lives Hidden

August 1, 2019 in Fiction, Poetry, Spanish by atosun

Original by Andrea Zelaya
Translated, from the Spanish, by the author

We were lying down, at night, looking at the stars, you and I. Only there weren’t any stars that we could look at. We were pretending. We were on top of all those boxes, covering ourselves from the cold with a shared blanket, and the sky was the dark above and around us. We were the last to still have some human in us. The rest were all gone. They had been killed on earth during the war and then during the migration, when the technologicals were trying to stop us from coming in. I was telling you about how you had to hold on because we were the only ones still with some human in us. We were part machine but we were still human, unlike the others. The others were all technologicals. I was telling you all this. I was telling you about how we were the only two children who had survived the cages and the mutilations. All adults were meant to be killed, and some of their children were captured and put in cages to await mutilations, to open us up, to see what made us human, and to take it away. Most died. But we didn’t die, you and I, because of that guard, that guard who was a mixed one. Somebody had helped her survive before and then she helped us too. She tried to help others but then she got caught and killed. She knew how to perform the operations and gave me a technological arm and foot and gave you a technological leg and a half face. She also gave us this blanket. I was telling you all this as we were lying down on all those boxes filled with technological parts she kept hidden inside this broken vessel. But I couldn’t read your expression. I think that you were scared, and tired, and in pain, like I was, but I couldn’t tell anymore. I think you tried to move your lips, but then nothing really happened. So I told you to try to rest. I told you we would figure it out. We would have to live our lives hidden from now on but we would try to keep surviving, day by day. Rest your eyes, I said to you, while I closed your human and your technological eyelids at the same time, and imagine that we’re on a terrace on earth, lying down at night, looking at the stars. 

Vidas escondidas 

Estábamos acostados, en la noche, mirando las estrellas, tú y yo. Sólo que no había ninguna estrella que pudiéramos ver. Estábamos fingiendo. Estábamos arriba de todas esas cajas, cubriéndonos del frío con una cobija que compartíamos, y el cielo era la oscuridad sobre nosotros y alrededor de nosotros. Éramos los últimos que todavía tenían algo humano dentro. Los demás ya no estaban. Habían sido aniquilados en la tierra durante la guerra y luego durante la migración, cuando los tecnologianos estaban tratando de impedirnos llegar aquí. Te estaba diciendo que debías aguantar porque éramos los únicos aún con algo humano dentro de nosotros. Éramos parte máquina pero éramos todavía humanos, a diferencia de los otros. Los otros eran todos tecnologianos. Te estaba diciendo todo esto. Te estaba diciendo sobre cómo éramos los únicos dos niños que habían sobrevivido las jaulas y las mutilaciones. Todos los adultos tenían que ser aniquilados, y algunos de sus niños fueron capturados y puestos en jaulas a esperar la mutilación, para abrirnos, para ver qué nos hacía humanos, para quitárnoslo. La mayoría murió. Pero nosotros no, ni tú ni yo, gracias a esa guarda, esa guarda que era mixta. Alguien la había ayudado a sobrevivir antes y ahora nos ayudaba a nosotros también. Trató de ayudar a otros pero fue descubierta y aniquilada. Ella sabía cómo realizar las operaciones y me dio un brazo y un pie tecnológicos y a ti una pierna y la mitad de la cara. También nos dio esta cobija. Te estaba diciendo todo esto mientras estábamos acostados en esas cajas llenas de piezas tecnológicas que ella mantenía escondidas en esta nave averiada. Pero no podía descifrar tu expresión. Creo que tenías miedo, cansancio, y dolor, como yo, pero no lo podía asegurar más. Creo que intentaste mover tus labios, pero nada sucedió. Entonces te dije que descansaras. Te dije que lo solucionaríamos. Tendríamos que vivir nuestras vidas escondidas desde ahora pero intentaríamos seguir sobreviviendo, día con día. Descansa tu ojos, te dije, mientras cerraba tu párpado humano y tu párpado tecnológico al mismo tiempo, e imagina que estamos en una terraza en la tierra, acostados en la noche, mirando las estrellas. 

 

Andrea Zelaya is a student in the PhD literature program at UCSD, and has published her short stories and poetry in both English and Spanish. She has also worked as a pro bono translator.

by atosun

Chocolat

August 1, 2019 in Crossgenre, English, Fiction, Poetry by atosun

Original by Siloh Radovsky
Adapted, from the Lasse Hallström film, by the author

Let’s pretend: 

I am the Chocolatier. 

Carrying colonial blood around in wooden vessels; also, the woman who refuses to stay, moving from place to place only to rescue restless souls from Christendom. Her father (my great- grandfather) was the one to collect the secret Cacao rituals with his ethnographic apparati— transcription, transmission, etc. But her professional peddling most closely mimics matrilineal survival strategies. 

Relocating to the tweed town full of broken marriages wrapped in wool jackets, Vianne began to foil the sweets. 

Finding the correct flavor unlocks the stuck blood portal due to chemical traces they crave. Though at the time what comes across is a hint of understanding—lumps of sugar which know the soul. 

She means it truly, wrapping her own self up in her woolen coat and visiting tropical sunshine upon citizens’ calcifications, agitating them out of daily abuse: “This delicious flavor filling your mouth means you deserve better—the best each day.” Hot cocoa for wayward boy-child, pastilles for his secretly diabetic Gran. But the danger lies not in the indulgence itself but the suggestion of pleasurability. 

Culturally, our broken sweet tooth soothed in but one way such that the Gremlin shirks off to its alternate enclaves leaving behind a slime trail of ethical hedonism interspersed with some badly- needed nutrients. 

// 

My grandmother was beholden to the brick & mortar, with all the trappings and covered in fog, castle-like, with some excessively repentant village mayor breathing down her neck about Catholicism. Back then, the 1950’s, the technology was social engineering. Things are different now but the same—the technology is still social engineering—except now I’m beholden to the app, freed and not freed from the constraints of physical place. The app is called Cafe. It says, Take this quiz, this personalized quiz regarding which category to place you in then the advice will algorithmically follow. We chocolatiers have been both aggregated and multiplied so I’ve been teleporting my emotional labor into the privacy of the home while the Developers work on building a market for us. The Developers say, Thanks for believing in the work we do every day! Only they’ve programmed that saying, and everyone gets the same message. Meanwhile, I play the roulette one-on-one, inviting my customers to dig deeper inwards. They take the quiz and I match them with a chocolate box; they receive the box in the mail after they spin the Plate and interpret it all Rorschach-like. 

Once and a while while that digitized relic blurs on-screen someone will say, “I see my employment prospects.” Ah, the hunger for financial security—I recognize and resonate but must uphold my position of transcendence. I tell them that if they master themselves as students of their own desire, they too can occupy this position, refracting their positivity and good taste; it’s a good side-hustle. We were not the first to digitize this highly-structured system of understanding, externalizing the pathways of our diagnostics, but we’ve learned to work within the constraints we were given. My lineage is a lineage of restless wanderers and we’ve always learned to make a place for ourselves in a less-than-ideal circumstance, while earning for ourselves a nominal fee. While clicking the buttons for cayenne pepper recipe (lacking-passion- dominant) and rose cream packet (needing-sweetness-dominant) I try to reconnect to my grandmother and think about how much more efficient our job has been made. She was so dressed up and ready for the show, in that dollhouse for chocolate she spruced up real good (the place was such a cave before) for the pleasure of the townsfolk. But now we can go ahead and wander around as we please, and we are even free to work other kinds of jobs, and develop other aspects of our personhood. Even so, as I assign chocolate boxes for my customers, I try to keep the spirit alive. I send out a little prayer for the renewed manageability of their daily lives, reminding myself that in the faintest personal realignment is the potential for an unquantifiable expansion. “Will it or will it not change the whole lonely city,” I wonder, while peering out the window of my apartment, wondering if I have earned enough that day to take myself to the cafe down the street for a little treat, squeezing my eyes shut to relieve the pressure of digital eyestrain. I think Damn, I sure could use some chocolate. 

_

Siloh Radovsky is a graduate student at UCSD in the Literature department, pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing. Much of her research and creative work concerns the contemporary landscape of self-care, its connections to the violence of colonization, and the perimeters between science and pseudo-science in medicine and health fadisms. On this adaptation: “I’m probing the ethics of the contemporary self-care trends that the film anticipates, applying its representation of magical commodities to the digitally-mediated context of the present.”
by atosun

organic chemistry; prelude in b sharp

August 1, 2019 in Poetry, Spanish by atosun

By Laura Yasan
Translated, from the Spanish, by Phoebe Carter 

 

organic chemistry

all the time it takes the heart to forget music
and get used to the sound of dead leaves
emitted by memory when it moves on

all the time it takes to divide
impure strands of oxygen
earthquake’s heartbeat
signals in the fault

all the time it takes its obedient angel to react
his blue mouth against the night
that dark gush running through the scar
like a fish in mystery’s riverbed

all the time it takes the carbon cycle
to rot
and burn its tree trunk below the nape

a silk rug rubbed on cheeks
the tongue floating in a swamp
and it’s a salt kiss on the wound
all the time it takes the heart
to let you go

prelude in b sharp

so let them tie me
to a hospital bed
let a mute nurse open her pillbox every twenty minutes
let her play me chopin’s preludes
at six in the evening when the mercury blows
and my body is the sheath of a dragon trained
for great numbers of fire

let her rub anesthesia on my gums
and sew up my lips
and twice a day give me a hundred-volt shock
if my arms don’t let go
if I repeat that name

let her say a prayer over my heart
so it doesn’t wake up on me

and the hours shape the spaces
where oblivion might hold it back

_

Born in Buenos Aires in 1960, Laura Yasan has published twelve books of poetry and anthologies, including ripio, awarded the Municipal Poetry Prize of La Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires in 2005; la llave marilyn, awarded the Casa de las Americas prize in 2009; and animal de presa, awarded the Carmen Conde prize in 2011.Her work has been partially translated into English, German, French and Italian.

She lives in Buenos Aires where she runs writing workshops in prisons, libraries, nursing homes, and virtually through her program “Palabra Virtual.”

 

Phoebe Carter is a graduate student of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. She earned her BA from Kenyon College in 2017, where she began studying translation with Kate Hedeen.