Category Archives: Translations

Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire’s (author) poetry has been translated into virtually all the world’s major languages, a celebrity the more impressive, since it’s based on only two books– Les Fleurs du Mal (1857/ 1861) and Paris Spleen, Petites Poemes en Prose (1869). Baudelaire was born in Paris in 1821. He attended boarding school in Lyon followed by the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. In 1869, he received his baccalauréat from the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris, and for the next few years, lived the bohemian life. After returning from a voyage to the East, in 1841, he acquired a reputation as a dandy and drug addict, and fell into financial difficulties. The first edition of Les Fleurs du Mal brought prosecution for obscenity but its notoriety was not enough to save him, either financially or in terms of his reputation as a poet. He died in 1867, after a two year battle with paralysis.

 

Lola Haskins (translator) has published twelve collections of poetry. Her awards include the Iowa Poetry Prize, two Florida Book Awards, two NEA fellowships, and several awards for narrative poetry. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The London Review of Books, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Quarterly, Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, Another Chicago Magazine, and elsewhere. For more information, please visit her at lolahaskins.com.

 

The Clock

The Chinese tell time by the eyes of cats.

One day a missionary walking into a Nanjing bank realized
he had forgotten his watch, and asked a street urchin what
time it was.

The child of the Celestial Empire demurred at first, then
changing his mind, he replied: “I’ll tell you.” A few moments
later he reappeared, with a very large cat in his arms, and
looking, as they said, at the whites of its eyes, he ventured
without hesitation that it was not quite noon. Which was true.

For myself, if I lean toward my beautiful Feline, so aptly
named, who is the honor of her sex, the pride of my heart,
and my mind’s perfume, whether it be night, or day in its
most full light or its deepest shadow, in the depths of her
adorable eyes I always see the time distinctly, always the
same, an hour as wide and solemn and grand as space,
without the divisions of minutes or seconds, an immovable
hour unmarked on any clock, yet light as a sigh, quick as a
glance.

And if something inopportune should interrupt while my eyes
are resting on this delicious face, if some dishonest and

intolerant genie, some contrary demon should appear and
ask: “Why are you looking at that woman so carefully?
What are you looking for in her eyes? Do you see the time,
you prodigal, lazy mortal?” I would answer without
hesitation: “Yes, I see the time, and it is Eternity.”

And is it not the case, Madame, that here we have a truly
worthwhile madrigal, as emphatic as yourself? The truth is
that I had so much fun stitching up this pretentious

gallantry, that I won’t ask a single thing of you in exchange.

Rivka Basman Ben-Haim

Rivka Basman  was born in 1925 in Wilkomir, Lithuania. During World War II, she was first in the Vilna Ghetto, then in a forced labor camp for women. In 1947, she became a member of kibbutz Ha-Ma’apil, and she fought in Israel’s War of Independence. She graduated from the Teachers’ Seminary in Tel Aviv, and served as a teacher on kibbutz Ha-Ma’apil. Later she studied literature at Columbia University in New York. From 1963-1965, she worked as a teacher in the diplomatic corps of the Israeli Embassy in Moscow, where her husband, the late Mula Ben-Haim, an artist, served as a cultural attaché. She was among the founders of “Yung Yisroel”, the Yiddish writers of the early State of Israel. She has won many prizes, among them, the prestigious Itsik Manger prize. Her poetry has been translated into Hebrew, English, French, Polish, Flemish, and German.

Zelda Kahan Newman (translator) was born and educated in New York. She received her BA in philosophy from Brooklyn College, and her MA and PhD in linguistics from the University of Michigan. She lived in Israel for thirty years where she helped found MASLAN, the Women’s Center for victims of violence in the Negev. She received certification as a(n) “halakhic advisor” from the Jerusalem Institute for Women’s Studies: Nishmat and she was elected to the Academy for Awarding Theater Prizes in Israel. While in Israel, she met and got to know Rivka Basman Ben-Haim. She feels honored to be able to find a wider audience for this fine poet. Now back in New York, she holds the post of Hebraic and Judaic Studies at Lehman College/CUNY. She is working on a biography of the prolific Yiddish writer, Kadya Molodowsky.

 

Doves Speak Yiddish

Doves speak Yiddish
I myself heard it.
Reflecting,
They send their words
To the earth
Looking for grain–
They coo– like poets– a Yiddish word
To a dawn somewhere.
I spoke with them
And with a Yiddish word
I stroked their flight into the air.

 

 

Ben-Haim Poem

Avrom Sutzkever

Avrom Sutzkever was the greatest Jewish poet of his time. He spent his childhood in Siberia and emerged as a writer in the youthful literary flowering of Jewish Vilna. As poet and Jew in the Vilna Ghetto, he was transformed into a living remnant of a people’s near death, writing immortal works and helping to conceal Jewish cultural treasures for later rescue. After the war, he became a prophetic symbol and a cultural-historical institution, founding Yiddish literature’s greatest journal in Israel. A committed Zionist, he earned his country’s highest literary honor even as its powerful never abandoned their suspicion of Yiddish literary creativity. He died in 2010.

 

Zackary Sholem Berger (translator) is a poet, short story writer and translator in Baltimore who works in Yiddish and English. His first Yiddish-English collection of poetry, Not in the Same Breath, was published in 2011, and his second, One Nation Taken Out of Another, is due to appear in 2014 from Apprentice House. He was a Translation Fellow at the Yiddish Book Center in 2013, and his translations of poetry by I.L. Peretz and C.N. Bialik were shown at the Kennedy Center to accompany recitations by the pianist Evgeny Kissin.

 

From Diary Poems

Of course, your ladder’s inside you. In-you is your ladder.
Not that ladder, anyhow, leaning out there on the attic.
The first climber is actually behind the second
Who is the first to the top – instead of the first.
A cloud darkens your pupils: a pointless reflection.
Words with six wings are ready for your rungs.
You wrestle with one, who touches your thigh.
You will always limp, climbing on the rungs.
Limp then. But don’t neglect completion’s line.
Your ladder won’t fall down from quaking earth.
At night there are no stars, just the burning leaves of books.
There is none other. You are second, and the third.
In you, a living breath in a valley of bones.
No one enlivens them except for your breath.
In you, the weeping storm, the air of sea
that comes after it. The fecund kernel.
The triumph of the tree that comes tomorrow.

Yves Bonnefoy

Translator’s Note on Yves Bonnefoy’s Work:

I began translating Yves Bonnefoy’s work when I was a teenager, so long ago that I no longer remember how I came across his poems or had the chutzpah to think I could do an adequate job of translating them into English. He was very patient with me, as I lived within his world for the time it took to translate Pierre écrite (Words in Stone) and L’Origine du langage (The Origin of Language). It is a very different world than my own. It’s not just the distance from Paris to the small college town where I was working, or from one language to another; he has a different vision, a different approach to language than my own, more focused on the essential than the particular. Different as it was and as it remains, his vision and his words have shaped me as a human being and as a poet, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to re-enter his poems after so many years. It is like an oasis, this border between the known and the unknown where so many of his poems pause and consider. This one in particular is moving to me, presenting the image of an artist reaching the end of his life’s work. Yves Bonnefoy was born in 1923. Of course, he is thinking about the end of his road, with the same clarity and grace that he has thought about every step along the way.

 

Photo credit to Mathilde Bonnefoy
Photo credit to Mathilde Bonnefoy

Yves Bonnefoy, born on June 24, 1923, is perhaps the most important French poet of the latter half of the 20th century. He has also been a respected critic, scholar, and translator, having translated works by Shakespeare, John Donne, and William Butler Yeats into French. After studying mathematics at the University of Poitiers, Bonnefoy moved to Paris where he came under the influence of the Surrealists. His first poetry collection, Du movement et de l’immobilité de Douve (1953; On the Motion and Immobiity of Douve), explored the relation of poetry to life, a theme that has continued through the 20 books of poetry published in succeeding decades. He explored the visual arts as well as literature in studies of Giacometti and Goya. In 2007 he was awarded the Franz Kafka Prize in recognition of his contributions to literature. 

 

Susanna Lang Susanna Lang’s (translator) most recent collection of poems, Tracing the Lines, was published in 2013 by the Brick Road Poetry Press. Her first collection, Even Now, was published in 2008 by The Backwaters Press, and a chapbook, Two by Two, was released in October 2011 from Finishing Line Press. She has published original poems and essays, and translations from the French, in such journals as Little Star, New Letters, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Green Mountains Review, The Baltimore Review, Kalliope, Southern Poetry Review, World Literature Today, Chicago Review, New Directions, and Jubilat. Book publications include translations of Words in Stone and The Origin of Language, both by Yves Bonnefoy. She lives in Chicago, where she teaches in the Chicago Public Schools.

 

He Is Leaving

In this wash drawing, sketch of a landscape,
You could see him leave. Hesitant at first,
Taking one road and then another,
And more, still more, till he reaches his night.                                   

Soon those who loved him
Could see only a clear remnant
Of his color, a red, beneath this sky
With its unknown waves along our shore.

Tall trees from over there, pathless, dense;
He goes forward, immobile, we do not know
If he wants to risk himself in their other world.

Or perhaps like the sun that has achieved its task,
He puts aside his brushes and lies down
In peace, on the flagstone of the evening sky.

 

Il s’éloigne

Dans ce lavis, ébauche d’un paysage,
On le vit s’éloigner. Hésitant, d’abord,
Puis prenant ce chemin après quoi cet autre
Et d’autres, d’autres encore, jusqu’à sa nuit.

Ceux qui l’aimaient
N’aperçurent bientôt qu’un reste clair
De sa couleur, un rouge, sous ce ciel
Qui ourle d’inconnu notre rivage.

Grands arbres de là-bas, serrés, impénétrables,
Il avance, immobile, nous ne savons
Sil veut s’aventurer dans leur autre monde.

Ou comme le soleil qui achève sa tâche
S’il pose ses pinceaux, et va s’étendre
En paix, sur la dalle de pierre du ciel du soir.

Hafez

Hafez, one of the classical masters of Persian poetry, was born in Shiraz, Iran, in the early 14th century. His ghazals excel both in musicality as well as in intricate wordplay. Because of both its incredible style as well as its deft philosophical treatment of such themes as death, love, and divine worship, his verse has had a lasting and pervasive influence on Persian language and culture. 

 

Roger Sedarat (translator) is the author of Dear Regime: Letters to the Islamic Republic, which won Ohio UP’s Hollis Summers Open Book Competition, and Ghazal Games (Ohio UP, 2011). His translations of classical and modern Persian verse have appeared in World Literature Today, Drunken Boat, and Arroyo. His translated collection of the Iranian poet Nader Naderpour is forthcoming from Teneo Press. He teaches poetry and translation in the MFA Program at Queens College, City University of New York.

 

Ghazal 6

Who will recite this prayer to the sultan?
“Let love link the beggar to the sovereign.”

When demon eyes watch me in the dark woods,
Look, for light and shelter, to the sovereign.

Idol, be mindful of dark eyelashes.
Deceit doesn’t matter to the sovereign.

A loving expression consumes a world.
Your selfishness looks poor to the sovereign.

In restless nights, I pray the morning breeze
Will carry the lover to the sovereign.

Moon-strike them, beloved! Cypress-shake them.
Show the lovers’ nature to the sovereign.

For God’s sake, give Hafez a morning drink.
He’ll bless you in a prayer to the sovereign.

 

 

Hafez_Poem

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, a 13th century Persian sufi mystic poet, was born on the eastern edge of the Persian empire and resettled with his family in early adulthood to Turkey. Descended from a long line of theologians and scholars, he absorbed the teachings of such masters as Attar from an early age, quickly becoming a spiritual leader. A friendship with his greatest teacher, Shams-y-Tabriz, and this man’s subsequent departure after a few years, greatly influenced the outpouring of Rumi’s verse of longing for the beloved. Rumi’s writing continues to make an integral impact upon literary traditions throughout the world.

 

Roger Sedarat is the author of Dear Regime: Letters to the Islamic Republic, which won Ohio UP’s Hollis Summers Open Book Competition, and Ghazal Games (Ohio UP, 2011). His translations of classical and modern Persian verse have appeared in World Literature Today, Drunken Boat, and Arroyo.  His translated collection  of the Iranian poet Nader Naderpour is forthcoming from Teneo Press. He teaches poetry and translation in the MFA Program at Queens College, City University of New York.

 

I’ve lost it all my life all lost—
the sky the earth, dear moon, all lost.
Don’t hand me wine. Pour it in my mouth.
(I’ve even lost the way to my mouth). 

 

 

Rumi_Poem

Carmen Vascones

Translator’s Note on Carmen Vascones’ Work:

This translation was quite straight-forward. I felt it essential to keep the language clean, direct, unadorned. The repetitions of the original had to be respected, since they contributed powerfully to the general sense of loneliness and emptiness that both precedes and follows the moment of love. The only real liberty I took was with the word “rent.” In the original, the image “lechos marcados” could be translated as “marked beds.” I toyed with the idea of carving the pain deeper with “scarred beds.” However, since in the original “lechos” echoes “hechos “ in the previous line, I felt that I had to strive for a similar internal rhyme. So I settled on “beds rent,” as a slant rhyme to echo “ending.” I felt that the violence implicit in my original choice of “scarred beds” was maintained, if not intensified, by “beds rent.”

 

Carmen Vascones (author) is a psychologist working with abused children and their mothers. Her most recent collection of poetry, Oasis of Voices, published by the Casa de la Cultura in Ecuador, draws on her work from the last twenty years. Here in the USA she has appeared in eleven magazines, including Bitter Oleander, International Poetry Review, Mandorla, Metamorphoses, Mid-American Review, Moon City Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Osiris, and Per Contra.

 

Alexis Levitin (translator) has translated thirty-four books to date, the most recent being Salgado Maranhão’s Blood of the Sun (Milkweed Editions, 2012), Eugenio de Andrade’s Art of Patience (Red Dragonfly Press, 2013) and Ana Minga’s Tobacco Dogs (The Bitter Oleander Press, 2013). His work has appeared in well over two hundred magazines, including Kenyon Review, APR, New England Review, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, and Grand Street. Two of his translations appeared in Blue Lyra Review, Volume I.

 

How lonely love remains

How lonely love remains after love is gone
how lonely love before it arrives
how lonely we before and after love

Desires ending up in absences
beds rent
kisses killing other kisses

And you?
And me?

What sculpture will our death become?

 

Que solo queda el amor después del amor                

Que solo queda el amor después del amor
que solo está el amor antes del amor
que solos estamos antes y después de él

Deseos hechos ausencias
lechos marcados
besos matando otros besos

¿Que de ti?
¿Que de mí?

¿Qué escultura será nuestra muerte?

Katrine Marie Guldager

Translator’s Note on Katrine Marie Guldager’s Work:

As an innate writer of poetry, Guldager’s prose fiction has a strong lyrical resonance of immense depth, while still retaining a simplicity and clarity that is characteristic of Danish fiction. In her autobiography Lysgrænsen [The Border of Light] (Gyldendal, 2007), Guldager writes that she was torn between becoming a psychoanalyst or an author, but during one of her many travels to Africa, which has had a strong influence on her poetic imagination, she realised that her fascination with the intricacies of family ties is best expressed in the language of literature.

Guldager’s short story, “Trafikulykke” [The Car Accident], is from her second collection of short stories, Kilimanjaro (Gyldendal, 2005). In an interview in the magazine Udvikling [Development] 1 Febr./Mar. 2013 about her writing and the significance of her three years in Zambia as a child, she remarks:

“We know very well that we cannot save the world. We turn off the TV, because we cannot bear to see the pain and suffering we see there. But how often can we continue to do this, without losing something of our own humanity? There is no definitive answer to this question, but this is the conflict I write about [in Kilimanjaro].”

All eleven stories in Kilimanjaro are independent, and set in Copenhagen and the capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, yet they are connected by a subtle intertextuality in order to demonstrate the fragility of the arbitrary connections between our lives. 

 

Katrine Marie GuldaKatrine Marie Guldager, born in Hillerød north of Copenhagen in 1966, is one of Denmark’s most acclaimed authors, and has published several collections of poetry, short stories, children’s books and novels since the appearance of her poetic debut, Dagene Skifter hænder (The Days Change Hands), in 1994. She is a graduate of the renowned Writer’s School in Copenhagen and holds an Masters of Philosophy from Copenhagen University. Her works have been translated into Swedish, Norwegian, and German. Her first collection of short stories, København (Gyldendal, 2004) [Copenhagen, BookThug, Toronto] was published in English in 2011.

She is currently writing a family chronicle stretching from the Second World War to 2012–about a fictional family living in suburban Copenhagen. The first three volumes, Ulven [The Wolf] (2010), Lille Hjerte [Little Heart] (2012), and Den Nye Tid [New Times] (2013) have been published by Lindhardt & Ringhof (Egmont), Copenhagen, and the fourth volume Peter’s Død [Peter’s Death], is forthcoming in 2014. 

Van RooyenLindy Falk van Rooyen (translator) was born into a multi-lingual family (Danish/English/Afrikaans) in South Africa. She studied Law at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, and worked as an attorney in Cape Town until she emigrated to Copenhagen in 1998. After living and working in Denmark as a commercial translator and legal liaison for four and a half years, she moved to Hamburg, Germany in 2002. She holds an LL.M in Commercial Law and an MA in Scandinavian and English Literature from the University of Hamburg. Her book on Virginia Woolf’s fiction, Mapping the Modern Mind: Virginia Woolf’s parodic approach to the art of fiction in ‘Jacob’s Room’ (Diplomica, 2011) is an adaptation of her MA thesis. She is a freelance writer and has been working as a literary translator since 2012.  

 

The Car Accident

If Kilimanjaro is Africa’s roof, then Dar es Salaam is its damp, teeming floor. A man and a woman drive past Ubungo and down into Dar es Salaam via Morogoro Road. There is a teeming crowd on the streets and a throng of boys who are trying to sell everything from ragdolls to automobile equipment. It is hot. The man and woman drive down United Nations Road and cross over Selander Bridge. The woman casts a wistful glance over the Indian Ocean that is lying in waiting like a serene queen. They stop on Haile Selassie, and the woman buys some flowers; the boy selling them has some difficulty in hiding his surprise. He hands over her change without looking up.

The man turns the car onto Haile Selassie. He is looking forward to getting home, feels the wind in his hair. He is driving too fast. At the junction of Haile Selassie and Chloe Road there are always a lot of people: people, who stop and shop; drivers, who stop and wait. The man is still driving too fast, and he doesn’t notice a woman about to cross the road approximately fifty meters farther ahead. The woman is carrying a little bundle in her arms. A bundle, which may very well be a child, but the man is oblivious.

The man breaks as hard as he can. The car swerves and very nearly rams into several other cars. People grab onto their neighbors, and jump for their lives. But the damage is done: The little bundle which the woman had been carrying has rolled under the car. People close in, people gather round the car; engulf it. Two men emerge from the mass. They talk to the man in Swahili, wave their arms in the air, and fish the bloodied bundle out from underneath the car. Now people emerge from everywhere. They swarm around the car from all sides, rest their hands on the hood; their eyes scour the car’s interior.

One woman cries out that the child has been killed, and the cry is planted from one mouth to another like an echo. The crowd isn’t agitated, yet. The man gets out of the car and walks over to the child with the intention to take responsibility for his actions. The question of money had just entered his mind, when his path is barred by the woman who had initiated the cry. She looks at him with eyes that seem to say: you’ve done enough harm already. The man wants to go over to the child, wants to see the woman who had held it in her arms. But the crowd won’t allow the guilty party to meet the victim; on the contrary, the victim is cordoned off.

Without knowing what prompts his sudden unease, he realizes that the mood is about to change, and he casts his eyes downwards; he doesn’t turn his back, but retreats to the car. The woman is still sitting inside. The further he retreats, the greater the crowd’s animosity. The man is like a foreign object that must be expelled from the body.

The man gets into the car, slams the door, and thinks that, perhaps, under the circumstances, it is best to drive home and call the police. The woman doesn’t say anything­–she is too shaken to say anything­–she has lost her power of reason. She doesn’t know what they should do. She just says:

Drive!”

 *****

They drive back to their home, hoot at the port, and leave the car standing with doors open wide. They discuss what should be done. Their maidservant is home, but they don’t notice she’s there. They cannot agree. The man wants to call the police and explain what has happened­–tell things the way they are­–but the woman is more cautious. Perhaps it’s the shock. Perhaps it’s best not to do anything: They must think about the consequences. The man cannot understand why she won’t take responsibility for their actions. They were, after all, driving too fast, way too fast. He should have seen them. He doesn’t know what he was thinking. The man is overwhelmed by emotion; he feels a lump rising in his throat. Was it really a child wrapped in the bundle? How can he live without knowing the truth?

The woman doesn’t say anything, and, in the interval she doesn’t speak, the man decides to call the police and lay all his cards on the table. He would like to explain that he had tried to help the injured party. He would have liked to drive the injured child to the hospital, but the crowd was so agitated that they wouldn’t let him anywhere near. He imagines explaining everything to a friendly policeman, but, before his call is answered, he puts the receiver down: His wife is right. If you involve the police, there’s no telling what the consequences would be.

  *****

It is the woman who suggests that she drive her own car back to the scene of the accident. She will try to find the woman with the child, ask her what she needs and offer compensation. Surely the sight of the man would merely give rise to hostility, but if it were the woman who tried to help? This would be best for all parties concerned. Perhaps they could call the police afterwards. First and foremost they should concentrate on finding the woman; find out what happened to the child.

The junction at Haile Selassie and Chloe Road exudes peace and quiet. The shopkeepers are standing in the doors of their shops and looking out onto the streets in anticipation of a good deal. Cars stop; people pile out of them and buy fruit. There is no hint of the accident that took place less than an hour ago. The sea is calm; the waves have flattened themselves out. The woman parks the car next to the taxi stand and walks down Haile Selassie to the place where the woman had sat with the bloodied bundle. Not a trace. She looks into the shopkeepers’ faces, tries to discern whether they recognize her, but the shopkeepers’ eyes mirror neither a white woman, nor a car accident. Confused, she walks over to the other side of Haile Selassie. Can that be? Is it really possible that a child can die here, at this junction­– less than an hour ago­–and every discernible trace of it is gone? The woman observes the shopkeepers who are stacking bananas, oranges, and coconuts in bags; she sees white people fishing in their bags for money; she sees tired drivers flipping open the daily papers. Life goes on as before.

The woman drives home to the man, hoots in front of the port, and drives into the carport. Before she gets out of the car, she glides her head into the nape of her neck, allows it to hang suspended there; she closes her eyes to ward off the incredulous sense of irreality. This morning, they had woken up peacefully in a hotel in Ruaha, tired from the Safari they had joined at dawn. Now everything had changed; now, they were the kind of folk who hit and ran. The woman goes into the house and explains to the man that everything was utterly peaceful on Haile Selassie. It seems as if everything was just an evil dream. The maidservant is listening from the kitchen. She can hear what the man and women are talking about, but she doesn’t dream of interfering. She doesn’t consider what would be the right thing to do at all. Even so, she feels a rising sense of disquiet. What if the man and woman don’t go to the police? Perhaps she should go to the junction and make some enquiries. Perhaps­ after the working day is done. 

Fernando Valverde

Translator’s Note on Fernando Valverde’s Work:

“Snow Covered Landscape” is from Fernando Valverde’s 2004 collection Razones para huir de una ciudad con frío, a work that left me with a feeling of cold, a sense of solitude and nostalgia. In this poem, we are reminded of time’s inevitable passing, and of the way that the mundane can evoke memory, such as in the lines “the rain…/ remained constant, tracing/ your face on windows and shop fronts.” 

 

Fernando Valverde is a critically acclaimed poet based in Granada, Spain. He has been widely published not only in Spain (by Visor Libros), but throughout Latin America. He has been awarded, among others, the Juan Ramón Jimenez prize, the Premio del tren ‘Antonio Machado’ for his poem Celia o El viaje del mundo, and the Premio Emilio Alarcos for his most recent book Los ojos del pelícano. An English version of the latter (The Eyes of the Pelican) was recently published by the University Press of North Georgia. Valverde is the director and co-founder of the Festival Internacional de Poesía de Granada.

 

Liam Walke (translator) is making his debut as a literary translator, though his translations have appeared previously in Diálogos online forum. Collaborating with Fernando Valverde to publish an English/bilingual version of Razones para huir de una ciudad con frío is his first major project. Liam lives in Montreal, Canada, where he works as a freelance translator and editor. Find out more at Liam’s blog or here 

 

Snow Covered Landscape

The snow appeared this morning,
it is a solemn act after so much time,
a moment of peace
that hides the summer’s ragged vignettes.

And the rain, the rain that predicted this story
remained constant, tracing
your face on windows and shop fronts.

I had just enough time to kiss somebody
until my lips were purple and cracked.

A strange taste of you, without you, so clearly ours.

The children came out of their houses
with neither books nor wallets,
so weighed down already
by the strange presence of discoveries.

And the hats,
a city covered in colourful hats,
I thought I saw you a thousand times,
leaving some bar or with your tired
face, and your expectations,
your grievances, your yawns.

The cars seem like the embers
of a primitive fire,
entranceways are guests of smoke
and a trembling of promise undoes
beyond the hours and all the plazas.

It snowed tonight, I’m cold,
I woke up sweating and winter existed.

 

Paisaje nevado

La nieve ha aparecido esta mañana,
es un acto solemne después de tanto tiempo,
un momento de paz
que esconde las estampas traposas del verano.

Y la lluvia, la lluvia que predijo este suceso
permaneció constante dibujando
tu rostro en las ventanas y en los escaparates.

Tuve tiempo siquiera para besar alguno
hasta tener los labios morados y con grietas.

Un extraño sabor a ti, sin ti, tan nuestro.

Los niños han salido hoy de sus casas
sin libros ni carteras,
iban ya muy cargados
de la extraña presencia de los descubrimientos.

Y los gorros,
los gorros de colores por toda la ciudad,
creí reconocerte cien mil veces,
saliendo de algún bar o con el rostro
cansado, y tus expectativas,
y agravios, y bostezos.

Los coches se parecen a las brasas
de un fuego primitivo,
los portales son huéspedes de humo
y un temblor de promesa se deshace
más allá de las horas y de todas las plazas.

Ha nevado esta noche, tengo frío,
me desperté sudando y el invierno existía.

Edna Aphek

Translator’s Note on Edna Aphek’s Work:

My guidelines when translating my own work are: 1) Making sure the original meaning is conveyed, 2) Translation should be as close as possible to the original work, and 3) The translated material should read as it were originally written in the target language. Keeping this in mind, I have both the luxury and the difficulty of mostly translating my own work. The luxury being that I take license in deviating sometimes from my original work but the same luxury can also be a hurdle. How far can I exploit this license? This becomes very clear in the last stanza where I substituted Beit Hakvarot (Hebrew) as “cemetery tombs.” Then for Azmutcha (Exem is bone in Hebrew and Azmut is being), I decided to translate it as “bone marrow.” I felt it might combine the two. However, the greatest liberty I took in the last line of “My Father” is in the last line where Minaleihem (Hebrew for ‘their shoes’) is translated as “feet”. When translating this painful poem, I could see that what I meant when writing it was that my father’s blood and bone marrow continue living in my children, and therefore their shoes, while the original idea, became clearer in English as “feet.”

 

AphekEdna Aphek, born in Israel, 1943, is a linguist, a lecturer, a researcher in Hebrew Language and Literature, Education and Israeli culture. She writes in Hebrew and in English. She translates much of her own work mainly from Hebrew to English. Edna is a poet and an artist. She has published one book of poems and many poems in magazines and journals. Some of her poems have been translated into English and appear in several anthologies and can be read online.

 

My Father

Snow is falling over my father
Wrapping him in a feathery blanket
My mother’s sorrowful hair
Caresses his dead-open eyes

Snow keeps falling over my father
Serving him water to drink
My mother’s rivulets of sorrow
Water his bones

Snow keeps falling over my father
Pearls of tomb
My children coming home from their play
Your bone marrow in their light feet.

 

 

Aphek_MyFather

Kim Myung Won

Translator’s Note on Kim Myung Won’s Work:

The root of my desire to translate, which is selfish, is the same thing that keeps me from the perfect translation. Translating Kim Myung Won’s poems, I wanted to break open my own memories of Korea for the reader: washing dishes in a bucket out on the street, jumping on trampolines over the rooftops of neon buildings, tasting squid so spicy that I shove both nostrils full of mayonnaise. But inevitably, I got in the way of myself. I fixated on the words and how I rearranged them—for my own benefit as a Korean American poet. In the end, I realized her words were only ropes. And what I needed to translate, in fact, were not the ropes themselves, but what those ropes were tied to.

Last summer, my mother introduced me to her childhood friend Kim Myung Won, who was vacationing in the States during her professorship at Daejun University of South Korea where she taught Korean Literature. Not only did I have direct communication with Kim Myung Won throughout the translation process, my father provided insight behind meanings that I often did not recognize. For instance, it is normal in Korean culture to follow ceremonies from Shintoism at birth, Christianity at the time of marriage, and Buddhism at death. Even more, what many of my colleagues were not privy to: I was reunited just last year with my parents after eight years of separation. Translating these poems with my family was the first thing we had done together, and somehow, we vanished the distance that had been wedged between us—from both verbal communication and cultural differences.

As Jorge Luis Borge said Don Quixote “wins posthumous battles against his translators and survives each and every careless version,” I hope Kim Myung Won’s poems survive me. Rather than override her subjects with impassioned verbosity, I hope to be a vessel for them. For me, my pursuit exists in the tonal, in creating something that sticks to the ribs, and I learned that could not happen with words alone. I aim to translate her poems less with the mind, and though it took many years to learn, more with the heart.

 

Kim Myung Won is a poet and a professor of Korean Literature at Daejun University in South Korea.

 

EJ KohEJ Koh is a poet and translator. Her poems have appeared in TriQuarterly, Columbia Review, Alchemy Journal, and others. Her work is forthcoming in Narrative, Fence, World Literature Today, and The Anthology of Surveillance Poetics from Black Ocean Press (ed. Andrew Ridker Black Ocean 2014). She is a Kundiman Fellow and was named as number two in Flavorwire’s (2013) list of 23 People Who Will Make You Care About Poetry. Her blog is located at www.thisisEJKoh.com.

 

 

49th Day

Father, Father,
I wanted to call you, bursting at my throat.
Only in my mind did I call twice.

I know you would grieve
for not being able to answer me.

Even in my mind,
I could not call you a third time.

The red glow of twilight bursts
beyond that sky, which cannot be called.

My throat ached all night.
My voice hoarse for several days.

 

*49th Day: A formal Buddhist ritual executed on the 49th day marking the time from death to rebirth.

 

 49thday_MyungWon

 

On the Road

With bones for legs
and a bird slender chest,
an old man with a felt hat
dawdles along the road.
Father, I follow you without knowing.

Cotton white strands of hair,
a voice that rushes straight ahead,
never once falling to the ground,
your courteous and coolheaded stride.

Never once able to catch up
to the beautiful gap you maintained, Father.

I never reached you while you lived.

So many of your roads were erased.
Without knowing, Father,

Without knowing, Father,
if I hold onto everything that collapses,
little by little, I catch up to you.

You are in the distance.

 

MyungWon_Ontheroad

Inna Kabysh

Translator’s Note on Inna Kabysh’s Work:

With the exception of several short poems published in anthologies of contemporary Russian writing, almost none of poet Inna Kabysh’s work has been translated into English—this despite national and international acclaim for her work.  What draws me to Kabysh is the breadth of her vision: she’s equally at home doing the laundry, depicting an orphanage for the souls of aborted children, or talking shop with Dante.  This translation appears in a dual-language edition of Kabysh’s poetry for the iPad that includes text and audio versions of the poems in both Russian and English, as well as video interpretations of the poems. 

 

Inna Kabysh (b. 1963) is the author of six books of poetry: Lichnye trudnosti (1994), Detskiy mir(1996), Mesto vstrechi (2000), Detstvo, otrochestvo, detstvo (2003), Nevesta bez mesta (2008), and Mama myla ramu (2013).  In 1996 Kabysh was awarded Russia’s Pushkin Prize.  She is also an awardee of the Alfred Toepfer Fund (Hamburg, Germany) and winner of the Anton Delwig Prize (2005). 

 

Katherine E. Young’s (translator) translations of Russian poet Inna Kabysh were awarded a share of the 2011 Joseph Brodsky-Stephen Spender Prize and commended by the judges of the 2012 Brodsky-Spender Prize: a dual-language edition of Kabysh’s poetry for the iPad is forthcoming from Artist’s Proof Press.  Young’s translations of Vladimir Kornilov appear in Russian Poetry from Pushkin to Brodsky (Penguin Classics, forthcoming).  Day of the Border Guards, a book of Young’s original poems, was recently published as part of the 2014 University of Arkansas Miller Williams Prize series. http://katherine-young-poet.com

 

Triptych

*
…When Jesus said
Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone,
she, taken in adultery,
narrowed her eyes –
and there and then felt
a stone hitting her head.
She opened her eyes
and saw
not a soul around:
the people
who’d demanded to stone her according to the laws of Moses
had dispersed, having heeded their conscience;
Jesus, saying Go and sin no more,
had turned to the people waiting for him;
and she herself threw that stone
because sin – it’s a stone
thrown at the sky,
and it falls on one’s head
not according to the laws of Moses
but according to the laws of Newton.

*
If Christ had been asked to fill out a questionnaire,
then in the profession column
he’d have written: man of letters.
Jesus spoke in parables,
that is, he was aware
not everyone understood him,
but he couldn’t do otherwise:
like a true man of letters
he spoke as he heard,
not following the opinion of the crowd.
He wasn’t even a man of letters
but a philologist,
not even a philologist
but a word:
he was both singer and song –
one person with two faces.
…Why do we mourn the death of the Singer,
when he left us his songs?
But that’s just the point, we love
the singer – all of him.

Literature – it’s the personal body of the writer.

*
If Jesus were human to the same degree
as he’s God,
then he’d in full measure have been a man.
But insofar as women are prone to idealize,
they all followed him exclusively
               as God.
All except Magdalene.
Magdalene,
to fill the emptiness
arising after Jesus expelled seven devils
           from her,
needed something from Him that,
entering into her and instantly filling her,
would afterwards grow day by day.
And that,
as she knew from experience,
could only follow a sexual path.
She followed Jesus
on a path
that was different
from the rest of the women:
she wanted him.
But the body
she never received,
even approaching the grave.
Because that would have been happiness for her.
And Jesus, like an honest person,
never promised anyone happiness –

he promised bliss.

 

 

Kabysh poem

Moshe Dor

Translator’s Note on Moshe Dor’s Work:

The Hebrew language is spare, rough and guttural, without frills.  It is about one third more compact than English.  Today’s spoken Hebrew is a vital language, its slang richly peppered with Arab and Americanized words.  Israelis speak of the “layers” of their language—low and scruffy, or elevated.  Poets from Dor’s generation can incorporate many of these layers into their speech as well as their writing.

 

Moshe DorMoshe Dor, born in Tel Aviv in 1932, is one of the most prominent poets in Israel. The author of forty books of poetry, essays, interviews and children’s books, A recipient of the Bialik Prize, Israel’s top literary award, and twice winner of Israel’s Prime Minister’s Award in Literature, he is former President of Israeli P.E.N., Counselor for Cultural Affairs in London, and Distinguished Writer in Residence at American University, Washington, DC. As a young man, Dor joined the Haganah and later worked as a journalist, serving on the editorial board of Ma’ariv, a leading Israeli newspaper. Many of Dor’s poems can be found in Hebrew textbooks and studied by students of all ages. His poems have been translated into some 30 languages, including Arabic and Chinese. Dor is the lyricist of Erev Shel Shoshanim (Evening of Roses), one of Israel’s most beloved songs, performed worldwide as a wedding song.

 

Barbara GoldbergBarbara Goldberg (translator), raised in Forest Hills, New York, has worked with Moshe Dor for over twenty years. They have translated and edited several books of contemporary Israeli poetry, including After the First Rain: Israeli Poems on War and Peace with a foreword by then Prime Minister Shimon Peres (University of Syracuse Press), The Stones Remember: Native Israeli Poetry, recipient of the Witter Bynner Foundation Award (The Word Works) and The Fire Stays in Red: Poems by Ronny Someck (University of Wisconsin Press). Goldberg is a poet in her own right, with four prize-winning books of poetry, most recently, The Royal Baker’s Daughter, recipient of the Felix Pollak Poetry Prize (University of Wisconsin Press). Among her awards are two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, numerous grants from the Maryland State Arts Council as well as awards in translation, fiction, feature writing and speechwriting. Goldberg’s work appears in American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, Paris Review and Poetry. Goldberg, visiting writer in American University’s MFA program, lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland. www.barbaragoldberg.net

Scorched by the Sun: Poems of Moshe Dor, translated from the Hebrew by Barbara Goldberg and Moshe Dor (The Word Works, 2012) is their most recent collaboration.  The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature awarded Goldberg a grant for her translations.

 

Old People Talking

Old people talk too loud
because they can’t
hear themselves  and because
they want to leave a word
or two in the death
song of the universe.

They have no idea if
their voices will blend into
that mighty stereophonic chorale
but they try, their throat muscles
stretched thin.   It’s impossible
not to honor that human
urge to keep talking.

 

 

Moshe Dor_OldPeople

Victor Hugo

Translator’s Note of Victor Hugo’s Work: 

Like a battlefield doctor performing triage, a translator has the unenviable task of deciding what can be saved and what must be sacrificed for the latter’s sake. In the case of Hugo’s “Even as the sailor,” I chose to jettison the end-rhyme in order to preserve the rhythms and syllabics of Hugo’s phrasing and the deliberate simplicity of his diction. The original ten-line poem rhymes abbabcddcd and is in alexandrine meter (12 syllables to a line). My translation, although unrhymed, maintains the original’s alexandrine syllabics.

I also chose to retain the direct translation of lieues as “leagues” rather than to substitute the more modern “miles.” Evoking Jules Verne’s 19th-century sci-fi novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and the old French folktale of the Seven-League Boots, that one word seemed to me to impart a more distant, mysterious, and timeless quality to the setting of the poem. “Even as the sailor” is the tenth in a sequence of seventeen poems concerning the death of Hugo’s beloved daughter Léopoldine. Newly married and pregnant, she drowned with her young husband in a boating accident. 

 

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) was a French writer and political activist. While he is best known in English-speaking countries for the novels Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in France he is considered to be a major Romantic poet. 

 

Julie Kane’s translations from French and co-translations from Lithuanian have appeared in Nimrod, The Drunken Boat, Louisiana English Journal, and the anthologies Druskininkai Poetic Fall 2005 and Contemporary Lithuanian Poetry: A Baltic Anthology. The 2011-2013 Louisiana Poet Laureate, she is a Professor of English at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

 

(Even As the Sailor)

Even as the sailor, who calculates and doubts,
Asks the constellations to steer him on his way;
Even as the shepherd, that visionary one,
Seeks in the midst of woods his polestar and his route;
As the astronomer, inundated by rays,

Measures a planet’s mass across millions of leagues;
Me, I seek something else in that vast and pure sky.
To me, that dark sapphire is a hidden abyss.
One can hardly make out, at night, the blue dresses
Of shivering angels, gliding in the azure.

—   April 1847

 

X.

Pendant que le marin, qui calcule et qui doute,
Demande son chemin aux constellations;
Pendant que le berger, l’oeil plein de visions,
Cherche au milieu des bois son étoile et sa route;
Pendant que l’astronome, inondé de rayons, 

Pèse un globe à travers des millions de lieues,
Moi, je cherche autre chose en ce ciel vaste et pur.
Mais que ce saphir sombre est un abîme obscur!
On ne peut distinguer, la nuit, les robes bleues
Des anges frissonnants qui glissent dans l’azur.

— Avril 1847

Mordechai Geldman

Translator’s Note:

Mordechai Geldman came of age as a poet in the seventies, a heady and auspicious time in the development of Modern Hebrew poetry. Young poets, such as Yair Hurwitz and Yona Wallach—friends and contemporaries of Geldman, with whom he shared a strong kinship—were publishing their first books, inspired by the freedoms their elders had established as a matter of course. These poets—David Avidan, Natan Zach, Yehuda Amichai, and Dahlia Ravikovitch—who began publishing two decades earlier, had turned away from the poetic conventions of their immediate predecessors, notably Natan Alterman and Avraham Shlonsky, who were still very dominant in the fifties and sixties. Avidan, Zach, and their contemporaries vehemently rejected the flowery, the hyperbolic, and the sentimental, along with rhyme and formal verse. They advocated for and embraced the modernism of Pound, Eliot, Auden, and Wallace Stevens, to name a few, and so paved the way for Geldman and his generation of poets.

Geldman’s poetic journey is transformative, and he seems to exhort us to pay attention, to be mindful, and perhaps share in the kabbalists’ vision that “There can be no perfecting above without the perfecting influence of humans when they are righteous and act from love.” (Zohar 2:155a). For Geldman, the determination to seek and to understand through the act of writing is equated with the determination to live. To feel and to formulate becomes not only his way of life, but his survival strategy. The devotion to the written word is sacramental and binding, impelling him toward precision, on the one hand, and toward humility, on the other.


Mordechai Geldman
’s poems, in my translation, have appeared in The Kenyon Review, Absinthe Literary Review, Cider Press Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, and in Poets on the Edge: An Anthology of Contemporary Hebrew Poetry (SUNY Press). Years I Walked at Your Side, spanning thirty years of Geldman’s work, is now under consideration with a publisher in the United States.


Tsipi Keller
(the translator) was born in Prague, raised in Israel, and has been living in the United States since 1974. The author of nine books, she is the recipient of several literary prizes, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fiction Award. Her short stories and poetry translations have appeared in journals and anthologies in the United States and in Europe. Her novels include Retelling, Jackpot, and, most recently, The Prophet of Tenth Street (2012). Her translation collections include: Poets on the Edge: An Anthology of Contemporary Hebrew Poetry; and The Hymns of Job & Other Poems.

 

Voice

What is his true voice?

Have words wrapped him
in murmurs
in forms
in worn-out constructs that came before him?
“Person” described him
better than “frog”
but the croaking of frogs in the night’s ponds
or the whistle of birds at dusk
or the sound of fruit dropping to the ground
drew him out better than Hebrew
as Being revealed itself to him in its fullness

And at moments of imposed openness
when fatigue dissolved his inhibitions
Yiddish melodies floated up in his mind
songs of mournful wisdoms
of a cursed chosen people of God
tunes of an exiled truth
and suffering and the rolling of the dead[1]

And at times other voices
voices of others
snuck surreptitiously into his secret cave
echoed in his voice and from within
infecting his voice with alienation
alien voices echoed in his voice, simulating his voice
his voice at times getting lost in simulation

But was it really simulation
was there really a voice that was not his voice
as it used his mouth, his palate, his tongue, his teeth
in order to set forth in the world
out into a vastness of odd-looking funnels

And wasn’t his voice muddled up
when adjusted to the auditory frequency of listeners
who had no intention to listen
and certainly never made the effort
and in fact never could

A suspicion played in him
annulling any pure sound
true like the roar of a river
virginal like the note of a reed
that has just been pulled from the edge of the swamp
or cruel and desirous like the wail of prairie wolves

But always an intense pain
an absolute final truth
whose voice was a scream or a shout
a voice distilled of dross
a voice of pure pain
pure voice of pain
four final words
and the chorusing of wasps
in landfills

*

In the end I couldn’t save her 

I who was appointed by her to save her
I who had saved her since childhood again and again
from the death that hummed in her
from the Poles, the Germans, from the neighbors, from Father
even from myself—
in the end I couldn’t save her
all my efforts fell short
for in the end her time had come

In the end she knew nothing
except her death
that surged from within her like a conquering killer
and she, as if yearning for him without alarm
placed herself in his hands

In the end she could only say—
“Shabbat is here”
as if all of time had been lost
and only Shabbat remained
a white dress she wore for her Shabbat
and all the days all day
she lit more and more Shabbat candles
and a Shabbat fire she lit on the stove
and eternal light she lit in the bulbs
and set the table for the Friday meal
as if waiting for me
as if waiting for him
lecha dodi likrat kallah[2]

In the end the candles dimmed
and the white dress perished as well
for it was stained with food urine and excrement
and I who had been appointed to be her grace and glory
could not in the end save her
for all my efforts fell short

 

Chu

          A monk asked Chao-Chu:
          Is the nature of Buddha in the dog?
          Ehhhh, said Chao-Chu

 

1.

A car ran over the cat Chu
and I wept for my cat Chu
(affectionately I called him Chu-Chu)
as if he were my son or my friend-beloved

But my weeping distressed me—
how can you, I said, cry for a cat
while death consumes people in its thousand mouths
the land is filled with widows and orphans
and many parents lost their sons
and he who didn’t die in the war died in a terrorist attack
and he who didn’t die in a terrorist attack
died in a car crash, floods, fires

And he who didn’t die in those died from old age or illness
and he who didn’t vanish in death
is now blind and lame or scarred with burns
and all are awaiting the next war
that will destroy even the birds and cats

 

2.

The cat Chu like most of the cats in our land
was a fourth-world citizen
living at the bottom of society’s ladder
below the beer guzzling foreign workers
below the shaking drug-addicted whores
together with the litter-nibbling hobos

But I raised him from the gutter
to be a domestic noble tiger
a green-eyed striped tiger
daintily stepping on pillows and armchairs
feeding on Italian preserves
and preferring to catnap with his head in my palm
Am I an orphic poet who seeks
his beloveds in the lower worlds
who favors a stone the builders refused[3]
who imports his poems from the lands of death?

 

3.

At night Chu came to me in his spirit
and said in the language of humans:
“Now that you’ve written two poems
you want to forget me
but I’m a cat of three poems
if not more”
 


[1] Refers to the belief that when the Messiah arrives, Jews who had died in the Diaspora would roll under their graves, through tunnels and caves, to Israel for the Resurrection

[2] From the liturgy, a song recited in synagogue Friday evening to welcome the Shabbat, referred to as a bride and queen: “Come my beloved to greet the bride”

[3] From Psalms, CXVIII, 22: “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.”

Moshe Dor

Moshe DorMoshe Dor, born in Tel Aviv in 1932, is one of the most prominent poets in Israel. The author of forty books of poetry, essays, interviews and children’s books, A recipient of the Bialik Prize, Israel’s top literary award, and twice winner of Israel’s Prime Minister’s Award in Literature, he is former President of Israeli P.E.N., Counselor for Cultural Affairs in London, and Distinguished Writer in Residence at American University, Washington, DC. As a young man, Dor joined the Haganah and later worked as a journalist, serving on the editorial board of Ma’ariv, a leading Israeli newspaper. Many of Dor’s poems can be found in Hebrew textbooks and studied by students of all ages. His poems have been translated into some thirty languages, including Arabic and Chinese. Dor is the lyricist of Erev Shel Shoshanim (Evening of Roses), one of Israel’s most beloved songs, performed worldwide as a wedding song.

 

Barbara GoldbergBarbara Goldberg, raised in Forest Hills, New York, has worked with Moshe Dor for over twenty years. They have translated and edited several books of contemporary Israeli poetry, including After the First Rain: Israeli Poems on War and Peace with a foreword by then Prime Minister Shimon Peres (University of Syracuse Press), The Stones Remember: Native Israeli Poetry, recipient of the Witter Bynner Foundation Award (The Word Works) and The Fire Stays in Red: Poems by Ronny Someck (University of Wisconsin Press). Goldberg is a poet in her own right, with four prize-winning books of poetry, most recently, The Royal Baker’s Daughter, recipient of the Felix Pollak Poetry Prize (University of Wisconsin Press). Among her awards are two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, numerous grants from the Maryland State Arts Council as well as awards in translation, fiction, feature writing and speechwriting. Goldberg’s work appears in American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, Paris Review and Poetry.  Goldberg, visiting writer in American University’s MFA program, lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Find her website at www.barbaragoldberg.net 

Scorched by the Sun: Poems of Moshe Dor, translated from the Hebrew by Barbara Goldberg and Moshe Dor (The Word Works, 2012) is their most recent collaboration. The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature awarded Goldberg a grant for her translations.

 

Sentimentality

Listening to Russian folk songs while brooding
over dim memories, which even now
are growing dimmer, and biting
your lips as you mull over each
missed opportunity, and feeling
your tears flow without
restraint or shame, oh,
oh what a jerk!

 

MosheDor_Hebrew

Chantal Bizzini

Chantal BizziniChantal Bizzini is a poet and translator who was born in 1956 and lives in Paris. She’s published poems as well as translations of Anglo-American poets including Ezra Pound, Hart Crane, W. H. Auden, Adrienne Rich, Denise Levertov, John Ashbery, Clayton Eshleman and Jorie Graham in Po&sie,  Europe, Poésie 2005, Action  Poétique,  Le Mâche-Laurier, Rehauts, and Siècle 21. She defended a thesis at the University of Paris on Ezra Pound and Hart Crane and is currently pursuing research on these poets. She just completed translating the complete poems of Hart Crane and an anthology of poems by Adrienne Rich both of which will appear in Circé Editions. Éditions Obsidiane will publish Bizzini’s first collection of poems in 2012.

 

 

Marilyn KalletMarilyn Kallet (translator) is the author of sixteen books, including The Love That Moves Me, poetry, 2013, as well as translations of Benjamin Péret’s The Big Game (Le grand jeu) and Paul Eluard’s Last Love Poems, all from Black Widow Press.  She is the director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Tennessee where she holds the Nancy Moore Goslee Professorship in English. Each spring she also teaches a poetry workshop for the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Auvillar, France. Kallet has won the Tennessee Arts Literary Fellowship in Poetry, and has served on the Tennessee Arts Commission Literary Advisory Panel. She was inducted into the East Tennessee Literary Hall of Fame in Poetry in 2005. She has performed her poems on campuses and in theatres across the United States, as well as in France and in Krakow and Warsaw, as a guest of the U.S. Embassy’s “America Presents” program. 

 

Bloom

This unknown flower that disturbs,
miniature death
mask, opaque object,
you turned away from it, not able to undo
the mute chains.

The hue and the texture of this abrupt flowering…
it must now
dazzle black sky with its revelation
since its oblivion would carry bare
and solitary death.

It will blossom like this, another star,
scarlet and without fire;
and the slow swinging of the sky
in the regularity of its movement
will negate the verve of its color
to weave, in the style of a destiny,
the space where you live;
on the same stalk that ties earth and sky
pain
and vertigo cling.

The stars, the Milky Way, two planes glimmer.

 

 

Éclore

Cette fleur inconnue qui trouble,
masque miniature
de mort, objet opaque,
tu t’en es détourné, ne pouvant défaire
les chaînes muettes.

La teinte et la texture de cette floraison brusque…
il faut maintenant
éblouir le ciel noir de sa révélation
puisque son oubli porterait la mort
solitaire et nue.

Elle éclora ainsi, autre étoile,
écarlate et sans feu ;
et le lent basculement du ciel,
dans la régularité de son mouvement,
niera l’élan de sa couleur
pour tisser, à la manière d’un destin,
l’espace où tu vis;
sur la même tige qui lie terre et ciel
s’attachent la peine
et le vertige.

Les étoiles, la voie lactée, deux avions clignotent.

Gülten Akin

Gülten Akin was born in 1933. She is Turkey’s most distinguished female poet and stands at the forefront of poets for whom poetry is synonymous with social responsibility. In a wide-ranging survey participated in by Turkish writers and publishers in 2008, she was selected as “the greatest living Turkish poet.” She studied Law at Ankara University and worked as a barrister in various parts of Anatolia. Her poems have been translated into English, German, Flemish, Danish, Italian, Bulgarian, Arabic, Polish, Spanish and Hebrew, and used in academic studies. Her major poetry collections include Rüzgâr Saati / Hour of the Wind, Kestim Kara Saçlarimi / I Cut My Black Black Hair, Sigda / In the Shallows, Kirmizi Karanfil / Red Carnation, Maras ‘in ve Ökkes ’in Destani /Epic of Maras and Ökkes, Agitlar ve Türküler / Elegies and Folk Songs, Ilahiler / Hymns, Sevda Kalicidir / Love Endures, Sonra Iste Yaslandim / It Was Then That I Aged, Sessiz Arka Bahçeler / Silent Back Yards,  and Uzak Bir Kiyida / On a Distant Shore. She won the Turkish Language Association Poetry Award in 1961 and 1971 and the Sedat Simavi Literature Award in 1992.

Saliha Paker (co-translator) is a literary translator and Professor of Translation Studies who retired in 2008 from Bo?aziçi University, but still teaches a course there in the PhD Program. She founded the Cunda International Workshop for Translators of Turkish Literature in 2006 under the sponsorship of the Turkish Ministry of Culture. Her translations include three novels by Latife Tekin, Berji Kristin Tales from the Garbage Hills (with Ruth Christie), Dear Shameless Death and Swords of Ice (with Mel Kenne), all published by Marion Boyars (1993, 2001, 2007), London/New York. She edited Ash Divan, Selected Poems of Enis Batur, brought out in 2006 by Talisman House, New Jersey, which will also be publishing What Have You Carried Over? Poems of 42 Days and Other Works of Gülten Akin, co-edited with Mel Kenne, in September 2013. 

Mel Kenne (co-translator) is a poet and translator who has lived in Istanbul since 1993. A founding member of the Cunda Workshop for Translators of Turkish Literature, he has translated much Turkish poetry and prose into English. Saliha Paker and he edited What Have You Carried Over: Poems of 42 Days and Other Works by Gülten Akin, and translated many of the poems in the collection, which will be published by Talisman House Publishers in September 2013. He and Paker also co-translated the novels Dear Shameless Death (Sevgili Arsiz Ölüm) and Swords of Ice (Buzdan Kiliçlar), by Turkish author Latife Tekin, which were  published in 2000 and 2007 respectively by Marion Boyers Publishers. Six collections of his poetry have been published, most recently Take (Muse-Pie Press 2011), and a bilingual collection in English and Turkish, Galata’dan / The View from Galata (Yapi Kredi Publishers 2010), translated by Ipek Seyalioglu.

 

Spring

Oh, no one’s got the time
to stop’n give thought to fine things

With broad brush-strokes they move along
Sketching homes kids graves onto the world
Some are obviously lost when a rhyme starts up
With one look they shut it all out
And the rhyme enters the night, as fine things do

Some pus in your breasts, some fish, some tears
Sea sea sea you turn into a giant
Evenings your fog creeps up the river-mouths
Raids our hazel-nuts
What to do with their blackening buds
We beg our children: go hungry for a while
We beg the tycoons
Please, one less “Hotel,” one secret marriage less to sketch
Please one less bank, a plea
From us to you and from you to those abroad

We send our wives out to get a manicure, to say
—sir, if you please—
We send our children out to beg
We’re off on our way, our beds entrusted to God
Motorized gypsies of the summer

Oh, no one’s got the time
to stop’n give thought to fine things
To return to the stream where we first bathed, our fathers’ homes
Passion for the earth, for what it’s being here
We plug our ears: money money money
We pull out the plugs: fight fight squabble
Someone may inquire: quarrel but why
An ever-grinding axe for our neighbor, a fist for our wife
Why the quarrel—we have no idea.

Then in our small town, that prison
We place our eraser before our eyes
With a shove we widen our days
We make room to give thought to our wives
To think about the bloom of the violet passing without us

Even if no one’s got the time
To stop’n give thought to fine things
Even if the little schoolteachers
Multiply their holidays
And in the name of whatever we hold sacred
Weave blindfolds for our eyes
What’s stored up and sketched will in time
Break into blossom as spring flowers

From across the stream over yonder
Some will whistle, we’ll sound it back.

GultenAkinPoem3

Hasan Ali Toptas

Hasan Ali Toptas, a truck driver’s son, was born in Baklan, southwest Anatolia, in 1958. He received higher vocational training in the district town of Çal, and after completing his military service survived by doing odd jobs until he found a position at the Office of Inland Revenue. He worked in various small towns as a bailiff and treasurer, and finally as a tax officer in Sincan near Ankara. Despite his inability to in get published, Toptas managed to continue writing. Following the publication of a few short stories in journals and anthologies, he paid for the printing of his first volume of stories, Bir Gülüsün Kimligi (Identity of a smile) in 1987. He submitted his second novel, Gölgesizler (1995) to the Yunus Nadi Prize jury and won. After the book won the Orhan Kemal Prize, the most coveted literary prize in Turkey, it appeared in German. Toptas is frequently named as an equal to Orhan Pamuk. Among other works, he published a children’s book, Ben Bir Gürgen Daliyi (I am a hornbeam branch), in 1997, and his fifth novel Uykularin Dogusu (East of Dreams) was published in 2005. In 2006 his Yalnizliklar (Solitudes), poetic texts he constructed as a series of encyclopedia entries in 1990, was translated into Flemish and adapted for the stage. In 2005 Toptas, took early retirement and since then has dedicated himself full time to his writing. 

Mel Kenne (co-translator) is a poet and translator who has lived in Istanbul since 1993. A founding member of the Cunda Workshop for Translators of Turkish Literature, he has translated much Turkish poetry and prose into English. Saliha Paker and he edited What Have You Carried Over: Poems of 42 Days and Other Works by Gülten Akin, and translated many of the poems in the collection, which will be published by Talisman House Publishers in September 2013. He and Paker also co-translated the novels Dear Shameless Death (Sevgili Arsiz Ölüm) and Swords of Ice (Buzdan Kiliçlar), by Turkish author Latife Tekin, which were  published in 2000 and 2007 respectively by Marion Boyers Publishers. Six collections of his poetry have been published, most recently Take (Muse-Pie Press 2011), and a bilingual collection in English and Turkish, Galata’dan / The View from Galata (Yapi Kredi Publishers 2010), translated by Ipek Seyalioglu.

Sehnaz Tahir-Gürçaglar (co-translator), the Coordinator the Cunda Workshop for Translators of Turkish Literature, studied Translation Studies at Bogaziçi University in Istanbul and Media Studies at Oslo University in Norway. She holds a PhD in Translation Studies and teaches literary translation, translation theory, history, and criticism and interpreting at Bogaziçi University. She is the author of Kapilar (2005), a book exploring different approaches to translation history, The Politics and Poetics of Translation in Turkey, 1923-1960 (Rodopi, 2008) and Çevirinin ABC’si (Sel Yayincilik, 2011), an introduction to translation and translation studies in Turkish. She has been involved in the organization of CWTTL since its launch in 2006, and while the Workshop she translated works by Nurdan Gürbilek, Hasan Ali Toptas, Murat Gülsoy and Hatice Meryem. She has also published translations of works by Haydar Ergülen, Melih Cevdet Anday, Dervis Zaim and Hür Yumer.

 

from “Lonelinesses, #5”

I once thought of loneliness as my granma.
Legends, during those years, would begin as bandit songs.
No thyme-perfumed forests pealing out partridge melodies
resounded in my granma’s voice;
rather, if anything,
mountains;
smoky,
blood-soaked mountains
sentenced to be so by official decree.
Then, rising out of a dry cough
that crumbled like lor cheese
bandits would suddenly attack the village;
or from granma’s eyes,
that looked like a pair of olives,
would leap army deserters;
they’d vault over my head
and charge up the mountains,
pulling along their shadows like a great, bloody coat.
Next, the echoing of gunshots…
With a shift of her eyelids like two dusty bugs
crushed under the yoke of centuries,
my granma would say,
your mamma’s popping corn
but I never believed her,
for I could still see those gangs everywhere; I would witness them
and I was a child
who understood
that this seeing opened belief’s widest gate.
Even when my granma stopped storytelling and dozed off
the gangs didn’t pipe down;
the bullet-whine from mausers at Besparmak
never let up day or night,
smacking cradles with their evil-eye beads
that ricocheted off the blinders of oxen.
The villagers set aside their shovels, pickaxes
and sieves,
set aside tarhana soup and cayenne pepper
set aside the odor of ginger, their voices, their dreams,
set their courage aside and gazed up at the mountains
interminably.
The chimneys watched the mountains,
the doors, the tiny windows, the sheep
watched the purple mountains,
the goats watched the sky-blue mountains,
in other words nature felt curious about itself,
quite curious
and during those years
my eyes were composed of what they looked upon
my hands of whatever they touched.
Don’t ask me about my tongue,
it was made out of what I failed to say
and it lay in my mouth like a bloody book.
During those years
I didn’t even have my forests inside me
to hide my track,
I wasn’t yet even an island
in the sky
I wasn’t even a sky.
I had nothing but my grandma
(my dad would stay faithful to her in himself when he went away)
and it was as an island
that I knew my grandma,
then as a father;
as the windows heaved back my likeness,
as my looks, faced by those images
that thrived on my reflection, grew wrinkled,
and as I became short even as I grew tall,
I clung to her.
In the craggy lines of her face
I edged toward myself.
At times I was swept up in the brine of a flood,
other times I scaled sheer heights
in the belief that the nail scratch of a year (who knows which one?)
was the bed of riverand those slopes full of me.
And then, much later, the gory bodies of bandits
were hauled down the slopes
to land right in the midst of my dreams.
When I saw them I trembled (which is how I learned to tremble
even today when I shudder
a bandit drops in me).
Yes, I trembled
and wanted to grab the tired mauser on the floor
and take to the mountains.
But the guards twitched their great moustaches
(each one its own state, founded by the face)
and drove me off;
I began to flee, garbed in my fears, with no mauser,
I would dash off through the birds,
the scent of manure rushing through me,
I would cut under the wings of a chicken
scurry through the bottom of a sack of bulgur
or
slip through the way a sifter hangs from a nail
but
I’d not stop even once to look to turn and look back.
From the way I ran you could see the guards were hot on my trail;
I had to run and so I ran and ran,
until after a while all the running
made running feel like stopping.
At that point the only way I could find to run was to stop;
I stopped and a cliff got tangled up in my ankles.
To be got up in a cliff somehow is what loneliness means.

Zeynep Uzunbay

Zeynep Uzunbay was born in the Karaözü district of Kayseri in 1961. After primary and middle school, she graduated from the Vocational High School for Health and served as a nurse in Turhal and Tokat. In 1985, she graduated from the Faculty of Literature in Gazi University. Since 1995, she has published four collections of poetry: Sabahçi Su Kiyilari (Morning Water Shores) in 1999; Yasamask (Lifelove) in 1998; Kim’e (Who For) in 2003; and Yara Fali (Telling Wounds) in 2006. In 1998 and 2004, she received awards for her poetry, some of which has been translated into Italian and English. After teaching in several schools, she retired in 2006. Uzunbay presently lives in Izmir, where she continues to write her own poetry and articles on the poetry of others.

Arzu Eker Roditakis (co-translator) has a BA in Communication Studies from Istanbul University and an MA degree in Translation from Bo?aziçi University Department of Translation and Interpreting Studies, where she also began her doctoral studies and gave courses on translation theory, practice and criticism. Her MA thesis, Publishing Translations in the Social Sciences since the 1980s: An Alternative View of Culture Planning in Turkey was published by Lambert Academic Publishing in 2010. She currently resides in Greece, where she is working at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki on her doctoral dissertation on the English translations of Orhan Pamuk’s fiction. Since 2006, she has been participating in the CWTTL, where she has collaborated in the translation of fiction and poetry into Greek and English. In collaboration with Saliha Paker, she produced a first-time English translation of a chapter from Cemil Meriç’s Bu Ülke, which was published in the Journal of Levantine Studies in 2011.

Elizabeth Pallitto (co-translator) has lived in New York, Boston, and Istanbul, where she was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Kadir Has University. She received a PhD in Comparative Literature from the Graduate Center of City University of New York and a Master’s in Creative Writing from New York University. Dr. Pallitto teaches creative writing, rhetoric, and literature at CUNY. She has published translations from the Italian of poetry by Campanella, Velardinello, Fioravanti, and the Iraqi exile Thea Laitef. In 2007, she published Sweet Fire: Tullia d’Aragona’s Poetry of Dialogue and Selected Prose, the first English version of d’Aragona’s 1547 Rime. Her articles appear in Hybrido: Arte y Literatura, Comitatus, and Renaissance Quarterly; translations in Philosophical Forum and Forum Italicum; and original poetry in Litspeak, Fox Chase Review, and The North American Review. Her poetry collection “That Other Garden” was awarded First Place in the Academy of American Poets’ CWP competition. In 2004, she moved to Istanbul and began the journey that led to Cunda.

 

ZeynepUzunbay_poem

Güven Turan

Güven Turan was born in Gerze, Sinop, in 1943. He studied English and American Literature at Ankara University and holds an MA degree in American Literature. He worked as an instructor at the same university, wrote programs for the “Voice of Turkey,” which broadcasts for Turkish nationals living abroad, edited literary reviews, and, from 1976 to 1995, worked in advertising. His first poem was published in 1963, and since then he has published many poems, short stories, novels, art and literary critiques, and translations of English and American poets. To date he has produced nine books of poetry, three novels, three books of essays and criticism, and a book of short stories. A number of his poems and short stories have been translated into English and French. He has participated in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa; in the Cambridge seminars; and in the Voix de la Mediterranée, in Lodéve, France. He is now a consultant editor for Yapi Kredi Publications. 

Ruth Christie (translator) was born and educated in Scotland, taking a degree in English Language and Literature at the University of St Andrews. She taught English for two years in Turkey and later studied Turkish language and literature at London University. For many years she taught English literature to American undergraduates resident in London. With Saliha Paker she translated the Turkish novel Berji Kristin, Tales from the Garbage Hills, by Latife Tekin (Marion Boyars 1993) and in collaboration with Richard McKane a selection of the poems of Oktay Rifat (Rockingham Press 1993) and a major collection of Nâzim Hikmet’s poetry (Anvil Press 2002). In 2004 her translations from the Turkish of Bejan Matur’s In the Temple of a Patient God, was published by Arc Visible Poets. Recent translations, with Richard McKane, include Poems of Oktay Rifat (Anvil Press 2007) and The Shelter Stories, by Feyyaz Kayacan Fergar (Rockingham Press 2007). Her translation of Bejan Matur’s How Abraham Betrayed Me (Arc Visible Poets) was awarded the Poetry Book Society’s Recommendation for 2012. 

GüvenTuran_Poem

Haydar Ergülen

Haydar Ergülen was born in Eskisehir in 1956. He graduated from the Middle East Technical University (METU) Department of Sociology in the Faculty of Social Sciences. He has lectured on Publications, Advertisement and Turkish Poetry at Anadolu University and worked as a copy-writer and written columns for Radikal and Birgün newspapers. He currently writes a column for Varlik, the most renowned Turkish literary periodical. He was in the group that produced the literary magazines Üç Çiçek (1983) and Siir Ati (1986) in Istanbul. From 1979 onwards his works have been published in many literary periodicals such as Somut, Felsefe Dergisi, Türk Dili, Yusufçuk, Yarin, Gösteri, Yasakmeyve and Varlik. His first book of poems Karsiisini Bulamamis Sorular (Questions without Answers) was published in 1981. His other works include Sokak Prensesi (Princess of the Streets), published in 1990), Surat Siirleri (Poems on the Bridge to Heaven) in 1991, Eskiden Terzi (Former Tailor) in1995, Kabareden Emekli Bir Kizkardes (A Sister Retired from the Cabaret) in 1996, Kirk Siir ve Bir (Forty Poems and One) in 1997, Karton Valiz (Cardboard Suitcase) in 1999, Hafiz, in 1999, Ölüm Bir Skandal (Death is a Scandal) in 2000, Toplu Siirleri: Nar (Collected Poems, Vol. 1) in 2000, Toplu Siirleri: Hafiz ve Semender (Collected Poems Vol. 2) in 2002, Keder Gibi Ödünç (Borrowed Like Grief) in 2005, Yagmur Cemi (Rain Djem) in 2006, and Üzgün Kediler Gazeli (Ghazal of Sad Cats) in 2007), and Zarf (Envelope) in 2010. 

Arzu Eker Roditakis (co-translator) has a BA in Communication Studies from Istanbul University and an MA degree in Translation from Bogaziçi University Department of Translation and Interpreting Studies, where she also began her doctoral studies and gave courses on translation theory, practice and criticism. Her MA thesis, Publishing Translations in the Social Sciences since the 1980s: An Alternative View of Culture Planning in Turkey was published by Lambert Academic Publishing in 2010. She currently resides in Greece, where she is working at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki on her doctoral dissertation on the English translations of Orhan Pamuk’s fiction. Since 2006, she has been participating in the CWTTL, where she has collaborated in the translation of fiction and poetry into Greek and English. In collaboration with Saliha Paker, she produced a first-time English translation of a chapter from Cemil Meriç’s Bu Ülke, which was published in the Journal of Levantine Studies in 2011. 

Elizabeth Pallitto (co-translator) has lived in New York, Boston, and Istanbul, where she was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Kadir Has University. She received a PhD in Comparative Literature from the Graduate Center of City University of New York and a Master’s in Creative Writing from New York University. Dr. Pallitto teaches creative writing, rhetoric, and literature at CUNY. She has published translations from the Italian of poetry by Campanella, Velardinello, Fioravanti, and the Iraqi exile Thea Laitef. In 2007, she published Sweet Fire: Tullia d’Aragona’s Poetry of Dialogue and Selected Prose, the first English version of d’Aragona’s 1547 Rime. Her articles appear in Hybrido: Arte y Literatura, Comitatus, and Renaissance Quarterly; translations in Philosophical Forum and Forum Italicum; and original poetry in Litspeak, Fox Chase Review, and The North American Review. Her poetry collection “That Other Garden” was awarded First Place in the Academy of American Poets’ CWP competition. In 2004, she moved to Istanbul and began the journey that led to Cunda.

HaydarErgülenPoem1

Ana Minga

Ana Minga is a journalist. She was born in 1983 in Loja, southern Ecuador. She won first prize from the Central University of Ecuador for her early collection Pandemonium. Her two books since then are Behind God’s Back and Orphaned Birds. Ana Minga’s poetry has appeared in Asheville Poetry Review, Bitter Oleander, Boulevard, Confrontation, Hampden-Sydney Poetry ReviewLake Effect, Per Contra and RosebudTobacco Dogs will come out in October from Bitter Oleander Press.

Alexis Levitin (translator) has thirty-two books in translation include Clarice Lispector’s Soulstorm and Eugenio de Andrade’s Forbidden Words (both from New Directions). His most recent book is Salgado Maranhão’s Blood of the Sun (Milkweed Editions, 2012). He has just finished work on Ana Minga’s Tobacco Dogs due to appear in the fall from Bitter Oleander Press and the bilingual publication of Eugenio de Andrade’s The Art of Patience (Red Dragonfly Press, 2013).

 

I have sought the dead among the living

while my heart beat on without reply.
If only I could know what hovers round them
when they gaze at flowers
when they turn to fire
when silence scratches out their words.

I have sought the dead
while wine soaked my face
while night
fell to the blade of battle…

defeat
defeat

but not one of my dead has been defeated
that’s why I seek them
for their valor
since somewhere they must be reproducing
turning to truth
turning to fruit
but where
where else can I go…

If my dead are not with the other dead
if my dead are not with the living either
if my dead have not yet gone
if my dead are children…

Where are they?
could solitude have devoured them?
could the fat one have taken their picture?
could they be caught in those prints?

where
where…

Could it be a living person can never reach the ears of the dead
could it be one has to know the map of the cemetery
in order to come upon one’s perfect resignation…

I seek and do not find
and should I enter the uncertain
if worms will eat me free of doubt…?

 

HE BUSCADO A LOS MUERTOS ENTRE LOS VIVOS

y el corazón me ha latido sin respuestas
si pudiera saber qué les ronda
cuándo miran las flores
cuándo se hacen fuego
cuándo el silencio raspa sus palabras.

He buscado a los muertos
mientras el vino me ha empapado la cara
mientras la noche
se ha caído al filo de la batalla…

derrota
derrota

pero ningún muerto mío se ha ido derrotado
por eso los busco
por valientes

pues en algún lugar deben estar multiplicándose
haciéndose verdad
haciéndose fruto
pero dónde
a dónde más ir…

Si mis muertos no están con los otros muertos
si mis muertos tampoco están con los vivos
si mis muertos aún no se han ido
si mis muertos son niños…

¿Dónde están?
¿la soledad se los tragaría?
¿la muy obesa les habrá tomado fotos?
¿será que allí están estampados?

dónde
dónde…

Será que un vivo nunca puede llegar a los oídos de un muerto
será que hay que conocer el mapa del cementerio
para dar con la resignación exacta…

Busco sin encontrar
¿y cruzar lo incierto?
¿si los gusanos me comen sin dudar…?

Peretz Markish

Translator’s Note on Peretz Markish’s Work:

Peretz Markish was a prominent Yiddish writer who was executed by Stalin on August 12, 1952, a date that has come to be known as “the night of the murdered poets.” His work is among the most acclaimed Yiddish poetry that has come out of Russia in the early to mid-twentieth century.  LW Markish’s greatest poetic accomplishment was his epic poem, Di Kupe (The Heap), which describes Jewish suffering through a metaphorical heap of corpses in a marketplace. This selection is an excerpt.

 

Rose Waldman (translator) is an MFA candidate and a writing instructor at Columbia University. Her work has appeared in Pakn Treger, The MacGuffin, Ami Magazine, Meorot, and elsewhere. Her translation of a I. L. Peretz story from Yiddish is forthcoming from Back Pages Books.

 

The Heap (15)

Night unbuttons her black mouth
Its teeth dripping with stars
Board, lonely ones, and sail
The silver ship of the new moon

Who has no rest in his bed
Who has no cure in the night-hour
Board, naked ones, without coffins
The silver ship of the new moon

Like the ark on Ararat
The new moon sits on the heap
They sleep.  Only the crow does not rest
She busies herself in the rotting trash:

“Enter, residents of mourning
The skin of sunset lies slaughtered
We the crows don’t want to sail
The silver ship of the new moon

Pack the new moon with victuals
Lay a pair of carcasses onto it.”
And the silent crows wander like clouds
On the silver ship of the new moon.

Leib Kvitko

Translator’s Note on Leib Kvitko’s Work:

Leib Kvitko was a prominent Yiddish writer who was executed by Stalin on August 12, 1952, a date that has come to be known as “the night of the murdered poets.” His work is among the most acclaimed Yiddish poetry that has come out of Russia in the early to mid-twentieth century. 

 

Rose Waldman (translator) is an MFA candidate and a writing instructor at Columbia University. Her work has appeared in Pakn Treger, The MacGuffin, Ami Magazine, Meorot, and elsewhere. Her translation of a Yiddish I. L. Peretz story is forthcoming from Back Pages Books.

 

A Silence  

When no one is in my room
I become sprightly
Smile to myself
And dance a silence with the stillness
We spin in secret, easy wildness
We spin – I and stillness 

She clings to me, blows into my ear
Intoxicates me with her grey appearance
I become a simpleton
I spin, effortless, my body spins itself
But soon in stillness’ corners
A whisper dissolves
It moves me
I recognize her, my stillness
We dance with easy wildness
In the dark air, like dark cloths
We dance, I and stillness
A deep light silence
 
It happens—
Sometimes I appear
And stillness refuses to recognize me
I seek my reflection in her eyes
I see: my temples burning
I turn back
She steals a glance
And pounds both me and the door
I startle
And bow to her
 
When I awake
The sky is already a black roof
I and stillness stand, embrace
Eyes moist, cheeks warm
Soon we sing a ballad
Of nights and rains
And dance a silence light and long

Alisa Velaj

Translator’s Note on Alisa Velaj’s Work:

A Velaj. blrAlisa Velaj is a prolific Albanian writer and poet who received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Tirana, College of History and Literature. An accomplished teacher of Albanian, Velaj has received a Master of Arts degree in literature from the University of Tirana. Her graduate thesis was entitled “The Catharsis in Mitrush Kuteli’s Prose” (Discussions on the Intertextual content of Kuteli’s prose). Alisa Velaj is a Ph.D. candidate of Albanian literature at the “Blanzhe Koneski” University in Skopie, Republic of Macedonia. She is fluent in English and Italian.

Velaj has published two volumes of Poetry: Foundations of Wind (Ideart Press, 2006), and Around the Flames (2011). She has also written a foreword to Godot is not Coming, 2010, a poetry volume by Ndue Ukaj, translated in English and Spanish by Peter Tase and published in the United States by Lulu Enterprises. Alisa Velaj regularly participates in regional conferences on comparative literature, and Albanian language and professional writing seminars. Her verses of  “A tale of pilgrims” is published in the October, 2012 issue of  Enhance  in the United States, translated by Peter Tase. Velaj’s poems are translated in Portuguese by Fernando Dias Antunes and printed in his magazine which is published in Lisbon, Portugal.

 

Peter TasePeter Tase (translator) received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Italian Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, United States (2006) and is a graduate of Marquette University, Les Aspin Center for Government in Washington, D.C. (2006).  Tase has translated more than ten fiction and poetry volumes by Albanian writers, from Albanian to English and Spanish. Tase is the author of Simultaneous Dictionary in Five Languages (2010), and editor of El Idioma y Cultura Guarani en Paraguay (2011), a volume of essays and research articles written by David Galeano Olivera, president of Ateneo de Lengua y Cultura Guarani, Paraguay. For more information see, www.petertase.com

 

Manna

I ate Manna
at Zacharia’s home.
Sweet Manna
and two grilled fish.

Later was upset with my mother
who would never cook tasty food
just like grandma Rachel.

Many years went by,
but myself, a kid,
still cherish that sweet flavor
every time I see fish,
as they’re fed with coins from worshipers,
there, at the river near a synagogue…

 

Mana 

Vogëlushëve hebrenj të fëmijërisë time

Une hëngra mana
në shtëpinë e Zakarias.
Mana të ëmbla
dhe dy peshq të pjekur zgare.

Pastaj u zemërova me nënën time
që s’gatuante kurrë ushqime
si të gjyshe Rakelës.

Kaluan shumë vjet,
por une-fëmija,
ruaj ende atë shije të ëmbël
sa herë shoh peshqit,
tek ushqehen me lëmosha besimtarësh.
atje, në lumin pranë një faltoreje…

Stella Vinitchi Radulescu

Translator’s Note on Stella Vinitchi Radulescu:

Stella R.Stella Vinitchi Radulescu was born in Romania in 1946, and left the country permanently in 1983 at the height of Ceausescu’s communist regime. After seeking political asylum in Rome, she immigrated to the U.S. She received an M.A. in French from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a Ph.D. in Philology from the University of Bucharest. Since 1989, she has taught French, first at Loyola University, then at Northwestern University

Radulescu began writing poetry in Romanian at an early age, and published several collections in Romania. As she puts it, “Writing poetry was risky—it could have been ‘a political manifesto’ against the regime!—but it was also a refuge.” She faced a crisis of sorts when she left Romania, because she was uncertain how to continue writing in a new language. However, she enjoyed discovering other dimensions of expression through writing in English. She attributes part of her success in this area to her study of philology. She also began to write in French, which was always “la langue de la poésie” for her. She points to the fact that Samuel Beckett wanted to write deliberately in French, and asserts that “there is always something mysterious about the language.”

For Radulescu, it is difficult to translate her own poems. As she puts it, “I feel, think, act, perceive, smell, touch differently according to the language I write in.” She has been kind enough to allow me to begin translating her French poetry, and I gratefully acknowledge her partnership in finalizing these translations. These poems are from her collection, Un cri dans la neige [A Cry in the Snow], which was awarded the le Grand Prix de Poésie “Henri-Nöel Villard” and published by Éditions du Cygne in 2009.

In addition to publishing books of poetry in Romanian and French, Radulescu has published five books of poetry in English, including All Seeds & Blues (WordTech, 2011), Insomnia in Flowers (Plain View Press, 2008), Diving with the Whales (March Street Press, 2008), and Self Portrait in Blue (March Street Press, 2004).

 

Luke H.Luke Hankins (translator) is the author of a collection of poems, Weak Devotions (Wipf & Stock, 2011), and is the editor of Poems of Devotion: An Anthology of Recent Poets (Wipf & Stock, 2012). A chapbook of his translations of French poems by Radulescu, I Was Afraid of Vowels…Their Paleness, was published by Q Avenue Press in 2011. His poems, essays, and translations have appeared in numerous publications, including American Literary ReviewNew England ReviewPoetry East, and The Writer’s Chronicle. He is Senior Editor at Asheville Poetry Review.

 

 

the earth begins

the earth begins one distant afternoon
with the breast’s
ochre color
the transparent milk that flows and the mouth
that takes pleasure in it

with the memory of another land
which has just left us

the fear of losing that land     the breast withdrawn
the milk dried up

look—the earth is beginning
today
and ends with me as I wait     you’d call it
a withered place

pinched between two fingers of silence

 

la terre commence  

la terre commence un après-midi lointain
avec la couleur ocre
du sein
le lait qui coule transparent et la bouche
qui s’y plaît

avec le souvenir d’une autre terre qui vient
de nous quitter

la peur de la perdre le sein qui se retire
le lait qui tarit

la terre commence, voilà
aujourd’hui
et finit avec moi qui attends        on dirait là
un endroit rétréci

tassé entre deux doigts de silence

Agi Mishol

Translator’s Note on Agi Mishol’s Work:

The poetry of Agi Mishol is evocative, accessible, grounded in the present yet steeped both in Mishol’s personal past and in the public past of Israel. The challenge is to translate the words without removing them from their larger cultural context and also to preserve the gentle lyrical quality that Mishol’s poetry possesses in the original Hebrew. Cynthia Ozick wrote that “a translation can serve as a lens into the underground life of another culture,” and my wish in translating Agi Mishol’s poetry is to create this lens for readers of English.

 

Agi MisholAgi Mishol is an established Israeli poet who has won an array of prizes, including the Yehuda Amichai Prize, the Prime Minister’s Prize and the coveted Dolitzky Prize.  The daughter of Hungarian Holocaust survivors, Agi Mishol was born in Transylvania, Romania in 1946, emigrating to Israel at an early age. Her work has been translated into a number of languages and she has published more than a dozen books of poetry in Hebrew. Look There was published in English by Graywolf Press. Her latest Hebrew poetry collection is entitled Working Order. Agi Mishol directs the Helicon School of Poetry in Tel Aviv.

 

Joanna ChenJoanna Chen (translator) is a British-born journalist and poet. She has published extensively in Newsweek, The Daily Beast, BBC World Service and Radio 4. She has also published world reports on women’s issues in Marie Claire that have been syndicated in the USA, Europe and Australia. Joanna Chen’s poetry has appeared in a number of literary journals both in Israel and abroad, most recently in Poet Lore.  www.joannachen.com

 

 

She-Dog

1.

When she sees me in the morning
coming out of the house toward the fields
she leaps around me leaving
on the path
one long, precise sentence
on happiness.        

2.

Proud of her name
she charges into the crows
just to prove she’s guarding
the yard.

3.

She returns with a chicken in her mouth.
It must have escaped the neighbor’s coop.
She won’t eat it but neither will she let it go,
just stands there steaming with the bird between her teeth
and a shy wag of her tail –
half she-dog, half she-wolf
lost on the border.

4.

She has no money
no clothes
and doesn’t hold a grudge.

When she’s hungry – she eats.
When she’s thirsty – she drinks.
When she’s tired she stretches out
and falls asleep under a bush.

5.

Always by my side
she goes where I want to
before I even get up. 

Lidia Kosk

Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka & Lidia
Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka and Lidia Kosk

Lidia Kosk is the author of ten books of poetry and short stories, including two bilingual volumes, Niedosyt/Reshapings and  Slodka woda, slona woda/Sweet Water, Salt Water, as well as a poetry anthology that she compiled and edited. Her poems and prose have been published in literary journals and anthologies in Poland and in the U.S. English translations of her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including anthologies such as Contemporary Writers of Poland; September Eleven: Maryland Voices Anthology; Against Agamemnon: War Poetry 2009; and literary magazines such as Passager, Loch Raven Review, The Fourth River, The Gunpowder Review, The Dirty Goat, and International Poetry Review. They have also been broadcast in a weekly program of Polish Radio. In addition, she collaborated with her late husband, Henryk P. Kosk, on the two-volume Poland’s Generals: A Popular Biographical Lexicon, published 1998-2001.She resides in Warsaw, Poland, where she is helping to spread a renaissance of oral-history performance, and she presently leads literary workshops and a Poets’ Theater.

 

Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka (translator) writes in two languages, English and Polish. Her poems have been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies in the U.S. and Europe. She is the translator for two bilingual poetry books by Lidia Kosk: niedosyt/reshapings and Slodka woda, slona woda/ Sweet Water, Salt Water. Her translations of poems by three Maryland Poets Laureate – Lucille Clifton, Josephine Jacobsen, and Linda Pastan – have been published in Poland; her translations of poems by Lidia Kosk, Ernest Bryll, and Wislawa Szymborska  have appeared in over 50 publications in the U.S. A scientist, poet, writer, poetry  translator, photographer, and co-editor of the literary journal Loch Raven Review, she resides in Maryland, U.S. 

 

Both poets were featured recently by Baltimore’s WYPR in a radio interview with Aaron Henkin: Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka in the studio and Lidia Kosk by phone from Warsaw.  The interview included some of Ms. Kosk’s poems read in Polish (L.K.) and English (D.E.K.K). The link is http://www.wypr.org/category/podcast-keywords/lidia-kosk

 

“The Moon Above the Wild Apple Tree”  The moon has various connotations in Polish culture, including a legend that placed one Mr. Twardowski, the hero of a ballad by the great Romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz, living on the moon. But this poem does not mention Mr. Twardowski. Rather, the one who seems to inhabit the moon is Lidia Kosk’s lifetime companion, her husband, with whom for decades she watched the moon from the balcony of their Warsaw apartment, in its various phases, kinds of weather, and moods. Even on the moon, he remains the companion who has always needed her presence and whose presence she feels.

 

The Moon Above the Wild Apple Tree  

by Lidia Kosk (translated by Danuta E. Kosk-Kosicka)

Suddenly I find you
peeking into the apartment’s windows—
the moon
suspended above the wild apple tree

you reside on the moon
whose growing and fading
we used to follow
from our balcony

but this cold glare—
I search for the warmth of your eyes
of when you stood beside me
in the dazzle of the full moon

today in its next phase
with a hazy ring predicting bad weather
the moon glances uncertainly
from the depth of secret shadows

you did not hide deeply                            
you had no liking for
rocky craters, waterless deserts
and you needed my presence.

 

Lidia Kosk_poem