Here’s the final prompt from Napowrimo http://www.napowrimo.net/ who have kept me entertained and my brain sharp throughout the month of April. Big thanks go to Divyam Chaya Bernstein, who has been a great writing mate and written some pretty good poems too over on her website at https://divyamchayabernstein.wordpress.com/ Thanks also go to all of you who have dropped in and ‘liked’ and made comments!
So here’s the final prompt:
Because we’ve spent our month looking at poets in English translation, today I’d like you to try your hand at a translation of your own. If you know a foreign language, you could take a crack at translating a poem by a poet writing in that language. If you don’t know a foreign language, or are up for a different kind of challenge, you could try a homophonic translation. Simply find a poem (or other text) in a language you don’t know, and then “translate” it based on the look or sound of the words. Stuck for a poem to translate? Why not try this one by Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska? Or here’s one by another Laureate, Tomas Transtromer.
What a great way to finish! Because I know a foreign language! I remembered that about 20 years ago I’d translated a poem by the German writer Klabund (1890 – 1928) for a competition run by the Association for Language Learning but I no longer have the obscure journal in which it was published (it won!) so I tried to redo it. Maybe it’s better this time! The title might on first sight appear unseasonal, but I only have to look out of the window at the snow on the hills to realise it’s not inappropriate for this freezing weekend. And also, after a month’s poetry writing it’s time for a rest…
Here’s the original by Klabund
Indem man sich zum Winter wendet,
Hat es der Dichter schwer,
Der Sommer ist geendet,
Und eine Blume wächst nicht mehr.
Was soll man da besingen?
Die meisten Requisiten sind vereist.
Man muß schon in die eigene Seele dringen
– Jedoch, da hapert’s meist.
Man sitzt besorgt auf seinem Hintern.
Man sinnt und sitzt sich seine Hose durch,
– Da hilft das eben nichts, da muß man eben überwintern
Wie Frosch und Lurch.
And here’s my translation. I have stuck as closely to the original as I could, with a little leeway here and there.
The year now turns to winter
and a poet’s lines come slow –
the summertime is over
and flowers do not grow.
What are we now to write about
with things in iced up state?
Into the soul we now must go –
that’s where we hesitate
With troubled brow we sit and think
till trouser seats wear through –
perhaps it’s best to hibernate
as frogs and toads all do.
Jane Dougherty said:
I don’t know a word of German, but your version is crisp and concise and humorous—not what German is noted for 🙂 The concise bit anyway.
Christine Cochrane said:
Thanks! I deliberately chose something snappy as much German poetry (though beautiful) has an excess of love, nature, Weltschmerz and nightingales in groves.
Marion Macfarlane said:
What a great way to end this month of poetry writing! I love the wry tone of this poem in the original, and you’ve captured it well. The photo is gorgeous, too. Well done! I’ve enjoyed keeping up with your creations over the month. Such ingenuity!
Christine Cochrane said:
This reminded me that we had to translate poetry in the language papers at St Andrews – not into poetry, though! Have you ever tried poetry translation yourself?
Jennifer G. Knoblock said:
I love this! “What are we now to write about”–how many times did I ask myself that last month! 🙂 The trouser seat wearing through does seem a German kind of thought…