Category Archives: Translations

Rosa Alice Branco

Translator’s Note on Rosa Alice Branco’s Work:

My task is to keep things unencumbered, as lithe and simple as possible.  Poem #10 is simply about the discovery of adolescent sexuality through a quiet observation of others. That eventually the girls may have to pay a price for this natural and unpremeditated activity is only vaguely hinted at by the phrase “never quite made it back.” In poem # 29, again a child is observing teenagers going off in pairs “to make nests here and there.” The suggestion that all this reveals our animal nature is made clear by the juxtaposition of the girl’s breasts “bouncing from her blouse filled with heat” and the immediate counterpoint of “The pig was grunting in the sty. /There was a smell of hay.” Rosa Alice Branco sees all this sexual activity as natural, but also as rather ominous, since in the end it will be the girls who have to pay for the animal pleasure they shared with the boys.

 

Rose Alice BrancoRosa Alice Branco’s most recent collections are Cattle of the Lord (winner of the Espiral Poetry Prize of 15,000 Euros for 2009), The World Does Not End in the Cold of Your Bones (she tells herself) (2010-2011), and Live Concert (2012). Her books have appeared in Spain, Tunisia, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Brazil, Venezuela, and Francophone Canada. Here in the U.S. her work has appeared in over thirty magazines, including Atlanta Review, Gulf Coast, The Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner and The New England Review.

 

Alexis Levitin’s (translator) thirty-two books include Clarice Lispector’s Soulstorm and Eugenio de Andrade’s Forbidden Words (both from New Directions). Recent publications include Tapestry of the Sun: An Anthology of Ecuadorian Poetry, co-translated with Fernando Iturburu (Coimbra Editions, 2009), Brazil: A Traveler’s Literary Companion (Whereabouts Press, 2010), and Blood of the Sun by Brazil’s Salgado Maranhao (Milkweed Editions, 2012).  Alexis Levitin translates Rosa Alice Branco from Portuguese.

 

10. The girls were lovely lithe

The girls were lovely lithe.
They went to the spring for water
with their earthenware jars and not even that weight
lessened the elegance of their haughty necks.

Quick as they could, the boys went after them,
and the water, the girls and the boys
never quite made it back

They must all have died of thirst

 

29. The men’s hands would graze

The men’s hands would graze
their skirts, their cunning breasts,
and everything would make them laugh.

Between gazes
they would  wander off a bit,
going away in pairs
to make nests here and there.
But I still could see the breasts of one of them
bouncing from her blouse filled with heat.
The pig was grunting in the sty.
There was a smell of hay.

It was night
and I an invisible little girl.

 

10.

Eram esguias as raparigas.
Iam buscar água à fonte
em bilhas de barro e nem o peso
diminua a elegância do pescoço altivo.

Mal podiam, os rapazes iam ter com elas,
mas a água, as raparigas e eles
nunca mais chegavam.

Devem ter morrido de sede

 

29.

As mãos dos homens roçavam-lhes
a saia, o peito matreiro
e tudo as fazia rir.

Entre olhares
afastavam-se um pouco,
iam indo aos pares
e criavam ninho mais além.
Mas ainda vi o peito de uma
a saltar da blusa cheio de calor.
O porco grunhia no curral.
Cheirava a feno.

Era noite
e eu uma miúda invisível

 

Maria Teresa Ogliastri

Translator’s Note on Maria Teresa Ogliastri’s work:
From the Diary of Madame Mao is a poetic journey into the heart and mind of Jiang Qing, the wife of Mao Zedong, who is known for her pivotal role in China’s Cultural Revolution. The 48 poems in the book are written in Jiang’s voice and represent, in the author’s words, “fragments of memory recorded in an imaginary journal tossed long ago in a forgotten corner somewhere … [whose] pages fly with the wind and fall into the hands of the poet.” Some poems evoke intimate moments in Jiang’s life, some revolve around historical events, and others reflect on Chinese society.

 

OgliastriMaria Teresa Ogliastri was born in Los Teques, Venezuela, and lives in Caracas. She is the author of five collections of poems: Del diario de la Señora Mao (From the Diary of Mme. Mao2011), Polo Sur (2008), Brotes de Alfalfa (Alfalfa Sprouts, 2007), Nosotros los inmortales (We, the Immortals, 1997) and Cola de Plata (Silver Tail, 1994). Polo Sur was translated into English and published in a bilingual edition, South Pole/Polo Sur, in 2011. Ogliastri has been featured at poetry festivals throughout Latin America, and her poems have been selected for publication in several anthologies of contemporary Venezuelan poetry. The selection here is from From The Diary of Madame Mao.

 

Yvette N. MorenoYvette Neisser Moreno’s (translator) first book of poetry, Grip, won the 2011 Gival Press Poetry Award, and in 2012 she was the first runner-up for the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award. Moreno is co-translator of South Pole/Polo Sur by María Teresa Ogliastri (Settlement House, 2011) and editor of Difficult Beauty: Selected Poems by Luis Alberto Ambroggio (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2009). She is the founder of the DC-Area Literary Translators Network (DC-ALT) and serves on the Program Committee of Split This Rock Poetry Festival. With a specialization in the Middle East, she has worked as an international program coordinator, writer, editor, and translator, and has taught at The George Washington University, Catholic University, The Writer’s Center, and elsewhere.

 

Patricia B. FischerPatricia Bejarano Fisher (translator) is a multidisciplinary language professional who has worked as a translator, teacher, and learning materials developer in both government and academia. She was born and raised in Colombia and has lived in the United States for the past 30 years. She began her poetry translation career in 2007. Her co-translation of Venezuelan poet Maria Teresa Ogliastri’s South Pole/Polo Sur was published in 2011 and her work has appeared in several poetry journals. 

 

To Be Empress

To be empress
the jade seal
wasn’t enough
nor raveling our scales
on the imperial bed
I needed an armor of rock
the heart of a lizard
and to swallow things whole

but the taller the tree
the longer its shadow

when you live so close to danger
you must prepare your grave
with bear skins
terracotta soldiers
and jade amulets

when you live so close to danger
you must learn the way
to the Spirit Path
and hope for mercy from the gods

when you live so close to danger
you must not take shelter
in the tree’s shadow

 

Alfalfa Sprouts

My mother was made of bamboo
whenever the breeze moved her skirt
I saw the marks on her thin legs

my father would grab her willowy waist
and shake her like a stringless marionette

the last concubine
would do all the housework
if she didn’t have a son

my mother’s feet were a wheelbarrow
going going going
never tiring

I remember her sprawled on the grass
by the small pond
where the ducks always swam

with a porcelain jug I’d draw water
then go over to where she lay
and sprinkle every toe
every alfalfa sprout

that was the only time I saw her smile
it is my oldest memory of love

 

 

Para ser emperatriz

Para ser emperatriz
no bastaba
el sello de jade
ni entrelazar las escamas
en el lecho imperial
necesitaba una armadura de piedra
un corazón de lagarto
y engullir entero
pero cuanto más alto es el árbol
más larga es su sombra
cuando se vive tan cerca del peligro
debemos arreglar la tumba
con pieles de osos
soldados de terracota
y amuletos de jade
cuando se vive tan cerca del peligro
debemos conocer el camino
a la Vía de los Espíritus
y esperar la bondad de los dioses
cuando se vive tan cerca del peligro
la sombra del árbol
no debe arroparnos

Brotes de alfalfa
Mi madre era de bambú
cuando la brisa movía su falda
veía las marcas en sus piernas delgadas
mi padre  tomaba la cintura de sauce
y la zarandeaba como una marioneta sin hilos
la última concubina
haría todo el trabajo de la casa
si no tenía un hijo varón
los pies de mi madre eran una carreta
andaban      andaban     andaban
sin cansarse
la recuerdo tumbada en la hierba
cerca de la pequeña alberca
donde nadaban los patos
con una jarrita de porcelana recogía agua
y me acercaba hasta donde ella estaba
para regar cada dedo
cada brote de alfalfa
fue la única vez que la vi sonreír
ese es el recuerdo más antiguo que tengo del amor

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Translator’s Note on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Work:

I’ve long admired Goethe’s work, but I’ve been always been struck by his Roman Elegies, perhaps Goethe’s most controversial work. In German they are known as Erotica Romana, and their publication was suppressed until after Goethe’s death. Given their often racy subject matter (and Western culture’s obsession with all things sexual), they seem particularly well-suited for translation in modern American idiom.

 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born in 1749 in Frankfurt, then a part of the Holy Roman Empire. Over the course of his lifetime, he produced some of the finest literature in the German language—and any language. His well-known works include Faust, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprentice and The Sorrows of Young Werther, and he produced a number of autobiographical works, including From My Life: Poetry and Truth and Italian Journey. A polymath, Goethe also produced several scientific works, including his influential Theory of Colors. He died in Weimar in 1824.

 

Brett OrtlerBrett Ortler (translator) is cofounder and coeditor of Knockout Literary Magazine and writes rather random letters at www.brettsletters.com. His work appears widely in print and online. He lives in the Twin Cities and works as an editor at Adventure Publications.

 

 

Goethe’s Third Roman Elegy

Look, don’t regret falling for me so quickly,
Believe this: I don’t think you’re cheap; I don’t think you’re easy.
Love’s arrows work in many ways: some only scratch
but sicken the heart for years with creeping poison.
Others, powerfully feathered, with fresh-ground tips,
go straight to the bone and the blood burns.
In ancient times, when gods and goddesses loved,
lust followed vision, pleasure followed desire.
Do you think that Aphrodite was really thinking about love
when she saw Anchises for the first time?
Had Luna delayed to kiss her beautiful sleeper,
Endymion would have awoken to a dawn full of jealousy.
Hero saw Leander at a festival, but soon his warm body fell into the evening flood.
Rhea Silvia wandered, a vestal virgin, to fetch water from the Tiber.
The god seized her—this is how gods make love.
Her twins drank from a wolf, and Rome calls itself the princess of the world.

 

Original German:

Laß dich, Geliebte, nicht reun, daß du mir so schnell dich ergeben!
Glaub es, ich denke nicht frech, denke nicht niedrig von dir.
Vielfach wirken die Pfeile des Amors: einige ritzen,
Und vom schleichenden Gift kranket auf Jahre das Herz.
Aber mächtig befiedert, mit frisch geschliffener Schärfe
Dringen die andern ins Mark, zünden behende das Blut.
In der heroischen Zeit, da Götter und Göttinnen liebten,
Folgte Begierde dem Blick, folgte Genuß der Begier.
Glaubst du, es habe sich lang die Göttin der Liebe besonnen,
Als im Idäischen Hain einst ihr Anchises gefiel?
Hätte Luna gesäumt, den schönen Schläfer zu küssen,
O, so hätt ihn geschwind, neidend, Aurora geweckt.
Hero erblickte Leandern am lauten Fest, und behende
Stürzte der Liebende sich heiß in die nächtliche Flut.
Rhea Silvia wandert, die fürstliche Jungfrau, den Tiber,
Wasser zu schöpfen, hinab, und sie ergreifet der Gott.
So erzeugte die Söhne sich Mars! – Die Zwillinge tränket
Eine Wölfin, und Rom nennt sich die Fürstin der Welt.

Anastasiya Afanasieva

A Note On Anastasiya Afanasieva’s Work

Anastasiya Afanasieva is a brilliant contemporary poet writing in the Russian language who lives in the Ukraine. Living in one country, writing in a language of another, in a time of difficult historical transition, writing in free verse in a culture that is very oriented towards more formal verse structures, writing in a very young literature but being influenced by poets (such as Paul Celan) of quite different traditions, writing in a language whose speakers still associate poets with bards, while being a professional psychiatrist by trade, all of this gives Afanasieva’s voice a sense of dislocation, of strangeness that characterizes the work of many great poets. She posseses both strangeness and a sense of clarity of view which is unmistakable. Already recognized as one of the best Russian poets writing outside of the borders of Russia proper, this poet has a great deal to bring to her native traditions, and to those of other languages. — Katie Farris & Ilya Kaminsky

 

Katie Farris (translator) is the author of BOYSGIRLS (Marick Press) and her work has appeared in many literary journals including Virginia Quarterly Review, The Literary Review, Indiana Review, Verse, and numerous others. She teaches literature and creative writing at San Diego State University.


Ilya Kaminsky (translator) is the author of Dancing In Odessa (Tupelo Press) and co-editor of Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (Harper Collins).

 

From “Cold” 

by Anastasiya Afanasieva (tr. Ilya Kaminsky and Katie Farris) 

And a neighbor-lady the other day lost her glorious dog, Tita.
And now she stands and chews
a clump of snow in her palm.
And a hand without a glove
is red as a shame.
And this I saw, in the morning, walking out of my window.

Walk, hug my torso, as if I know your torso.
Walk as if a hand can console a human torso.

(Step a way from me, you idiot, my neighbor-lady yells.)

*

I am unaware of the concept of neighbors
Their faces, strange,
I see in backyards, on the morning walk to work
on the evening walk from work
I see their faces.

(And my body to their eyes, my body, is snow)

Momentary beings, lungs
in snow
who can console snow, lungs?

*

To winter’s narrow splinter
Of s street, to an idiot neighbor
And her idiot dog
We will now announce:

glory.

To quiet and naked branches of poplars
To faces  also quiet
In winter’s splinter
Of a wind, say:

glory.

To a voice you don’t hear
The real
Voice, cold, cut from stone in
a bone:

glory.

To no one, unknown
One blue on white
And quiet that splinters
the winter:

glory.

 

The Plain Sense of Things 

by Anastasiya Afanasieva (tr. Ilya Kaminsky and Katie Farris)

1
Of simple things – whisper, whisper – not
touching the ear of another –
believe – in another’s – eardrum.
So February opens, opens-
The time
whistles in a straw
as if a child sips from a glass of sparkling water.
Mouth opens, opens
before each word.
And the “o” of the mouth
is quiet
with want. Wide, and restrained, want.

3
And the snow comes as if no one knows about us
and no one needs us
and there was no
breath, no failure
and no earth that takes us inside.

9
Of simple things – in whisper, whisper.
So gives us to our bodies, time.
So the hands are held in hands, the bodies
drop into us.
So, the flame —
which comes from this evening
which is in our stomachs.
Our stomach, a city where we
are not yet persons. And no longer a breath, us.
And we — we want to go back to that breath, us.
We remember, us. 

12
Of simple things whisper, whisper.
Whisper us. Us, time.

 

 

 

 

Dolores Castro

A Note On Dolores Castro Work

This poem appears in a string-bound book Dolores gave me when we first met in Comitán, Chiapas. After breakfast, she handed me this volume, along with another book of hers. It contains several poems accompanied by French translations. This encounter and seeing those poems rendered into another language inspired me to translate her work.

 

Dolores Castro was born in Aguascalientes in 1923. She studied law and literature at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Her poetry collections include Nocturnos (1950), Siete poemas (1952), La tierra está sonando (1959), and Cantares de vela (1960). In the U.S., translations of her poetry have appeared in Washington Square and Weave.

 

Toshiya Kamei (translator) holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas. His translations include Liliana Blum’s The Curse of Eve and Other Stories (2008), Naoko Awa’s The Fox’s Window and Other Stories (2010), Espido Freire’s Irlanda (2011), and Selfa Chew’s Silent Herons (2012). Other translations have appeared in The Global Game (2008), Sudden Fiction Latino (2010), and My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me (2010).


The Dream of the Stone

by Dolores Castro (translated by Toshiya Kamei)

The dream of the stone is long and cold
its gray nature
kept nothing of the splendor of the fire.

How frightened I am by what goes off and remains!

Burning, quiet,
under the night of my senses
imprisoned
I only ask for heat.

How frightened I am by what goes off and remains!

 

Largo y frío es el sueño de la piedra

Largo y frío es el sueño de la piedra
nada guardó del esplendor del fuego
su gris naturaleza.

¡Cómo me espanta lo que se apaga y queda!

Al rojo vivo, quieta,
bajo la noche de mis sentidos
prisionera
sólo pido calor.

¡Cómo me espanta lo que se apaga y queda!

 

Orit Gidali

A Note on Orit Gidali’s Work:
Orit Gidali’s poetry transforms a common word or gesture into a multi-dimensional experience by playing upon a word’s lineage and range of meaning. “Beloved” is composed in the language of the Song of Songs, and to achieve a similar echo in English, I used the language of the King James Bible. “Note” refers to the religious prohibition of combining milk and meat in a single meal.

 

Orit Gidali is an Israeli poet. “Note” and “My Beloved” originally appeared in the collection Esrim Ne’arot LeKane [Twenty Girls to Envy Me(Sifriat Poalim, Tel Aviv, 2003).  Gidali is also the author of Smikhut [Closing In(2009), and the children’s book Noona Koret Mahshavot [Noona the Mindreader] (2007). Her books are currently the top-selling poetry in Israel.

 

 

Photo Credit by Bill Wolff

Marcela Sulak (translator) is the author of two collections of poetry, Immigrant (Black Lawrence Press, 2010) and the chapbook Of all the things that don’t exist, I love you best (2008). She has translated three collections of poetry from 19th century Czech and from Congolese French. Her poetry and essays are forthcoming in such journals as Guernica, Black Warrior Review, Cimmaron Review, The Journal, and Iowa Review. She directs the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University, where she is a senior lecturer.


My beloved

by Orit Gidali (translated by Marcela Sulak)

Filled were my days with suns.
Filled were my days with love.
When he comes to the door I will open to him
and I will be wet loam.
*
The balcony of my body is rosemary for him
and he, clusters of vines.
Sometimes, in the darkness, before his sleep,
I hear a grape opening.
*
Behold, here he arrives at the gate,
he removes the breastplate of his clothing
set with shards from the floor of our house.
*
He kisses me and permits me
to lay my ribs
in the space between his ribs.
I return to him.

B.
He poeticizes our sated bodies
in the ears of friends.
They hear and are burned
as one who imagines the taste of a lemon.

Then he waves goodbye.
The movement of his hand caresses from afar
all the organs of my body.

C.
He kisses my extended hand,
fingers like the lashes of an eyelid.
He is a man who holds an etrog,
he brings his nose close to smell it.
*
My beloved who found a woman,
he looked for and found her in himself.
She is beautiful, she is more beautiful than I.
*
A well is full of lace,
fine lace, my love.
When my hands roll away the rock
the white light spills out.

 

Note

by Orit Gidali (translated by Marcela Sulak)

My beloved wakes up,
my body warm on him,
meat mixes with milk.