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Udi Levy’s translations of René Noyau’s poem Fierté into German and Hebrew

Udi Levy came across René Noyau’s poem Fierté as the result of the friendship with his granddaughter. He was moved by it and translated it into German and Hebrew. Udi is an accomplished translator of poetry and prose (Hebrew-German). His translations of the Israeli poet Agi Mishol to German will be published soon.

Here is Fierté in its original French, followed by Udi Levy’s translations.

Fierté (1939)

Mes mains avaient appris a t’ àppeler parmi les foules.
Je t’avais reconnue au signe simple de la joie
Et nous sommes restés longtemps à regarder
Les hommes qui passaient au son tumultueux des cuivres de l’amour.

Puis tu m’as demandé d’oublier comme on demande à boire…
Je t’ai tendu ma grande coupe débordante de silence.
Et depuis, entre nous, il existe un regard
Don’t la lumière est déchirante comme un cri !

Stolz

Meine Hände lernten dich aus der Menge zu rufen
Ich erkannte dich am einfachen Zeichen der Freude
Und wir verweilten lange blickend
Die Menschen, die das Schillern der Liebe durchqueren.

Dann batest du mich zu vergessen, wie man zu trinken bittet…
Und ich reichte den grossen überlaufenden Kelch der Stille.
Und seither besteht unter uns ein blicken
Im Licht, zerreissend wie ein Schrei!

Fierte translation into Hebrew by Udi Levy 2021

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Fierté appears in Earth on fire and other poems, which presents a selection of René Noyau’s poems in their original French and in English translation.

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The Cracked Bell – a new translation by Ian Brinton

This is a new translation of Baudelaire’s ‘Spleen’ poem, ‘La Cloche Fêlée’ which was published in 1851. It is a bleak poem which presents the reader with the poet’s sense of loss and his isolation within a confined urban landscape.
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The Cracked Bell

To Hayley McLintock

 

Throughout the smoky winter nights,
Crouched by a fire which flickers,
It is bitter-sweet to listen to memories of long ago
Return rising slowly in a peal of bells through fog.

An iron-throated bell,
Awake and loud despite its age,
Booms a pious call upon the hour
Like a veteran on guard at the tent’s mouth!

But as for me my soul is cracked and in striving
To fill the cold night air with song
My weary feeble voice

Is a thick gasp of sound from the wounded and forgotten
Trapped below the dead on the bank of a bloody lake,
Dying pent in vain strife to stir.

~

Some of Ian Brinton’s translations of Baudelaire have been published in the Leafe Press magazine Litter and his version of the Tableaux Parisiens will appear from Two Rivers Press in July under the title Paris Scenes. His translations of poems by Paul Valéry were published by Muscaliet Press early this year and a selection of poems by Philippe Jaccottet is due to appear from Equipage in May.

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Le Serpent Qui Danse – a translation by Ian Brinton

The following poem is a translation of Baudelaire’s early ‘Le Serpent Qui Danse’.

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A Serpent’s Dance

How I love, dear indolence, to gaze
……….Upon your body of delight,
That flickering of material
……….A shimmering of skin!

Upon the dark depths of your hair
……….A tangle of pungent odour,
A wild scented ocean
……….Of surging blues and brown,

As a vessel setting sail
……….Upon an early morning breeze,
My erring soul embarks
……….For far-distant skies.

Your eyes let nothing show
……….Of the sweet or of the sour
But like two frigid jewels
……….Gold is merged with steel.

Gazing at your moves
……….Of rhythmic carelessness,
One might say you were a snake
……….Responding to the charmer’s stick.

Burdened with idleness
……….Your child-like head
Wags with the sluggish motion
……….Of a baby elephant,

And your body stretches out in leaning forward
……….Like a trim vessel
That sways from side to side before dipping
……….A yard-arm in the sea.

Like a flood-tide swollen by the deep groan
……….Of a melting glacier,
When the saliva in your mouth surges up
……….To the tooth’s tip,

I seem to quaff Bohemian wine,
……….Powerful and bitter,
A sky of moisture strewing
……….Stars in my heart!

~

Ian Brinton’s recent publications include Islands of Voices, an edition of the selected poems of Douglas Oliver (Shearsman Books) and a translation of the selected poems of Mallarmé introduced by J.H. Prynne (Muscaliet Press). Forthcoming publications include a translation of the selected poems of Valéry introduced by Michael Heller (Muscaliet Press) and a sequence of poems by Philippe Jaccottet (Equipage). His Paris Scenes by Baudelaire will appear from Two Rivers Press in July 2021.

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Translating the poetry of Maria Teresa Horta

Point of Honour is the first anthology in English of the poetry of Maria Teresa Horta, translated from the Portuguese by Lesley Saunders, herself a poet. In the book, Lesley provides a translator’s note which talks about the challenges and the joys of translating – or ‘bringing across’ – the poems. A slightly condensed version is reproduced here.

Book cover of Point of Honour

My first encounter with Maria Teresa Horta’s work was to read, when I was a young woman, the revolutionary New Portuguese Letters, translated into English in 1975 for the anglophone feminist market. Without exaggeration I can say that that book changed my life, and the torch I carried for her has stayed alight for forty years. So when, as a much older woman, I decided to try my hand at translating one or two of her poems, I felt I wanted to meet her. The network of connections that the internet makes possible resulted in a rendezvous in the famous Café Namur in Lisbon. (The French word is relevant here because French was the language Teresa and I shared!) Teresa graciously acceded to my request to make translations of her poems, and the idea of an entire book grew quickly soon afterwards.

It has been a rare privilege to work directly with Teresa, who has been the most patient and encouraging collaborator, whether in explaining the personal or political background to particular poems or engaging in lengthy discussions about the idiomatic meaning of individual words and phrases. But semantic fidelity is not the only criterion by which translations should be judged. I was acutely conscious of the responsibility to try to make poems which would be good in their own right.

What does constitute a ‘good’ poem-in-translation? Part of the answer lies in expanding the notion of ‘semantic fidelity’ in recognition of the fact that words – at least in poetry – do not have a single denotative definition but sit within a capacious semantic field. A word is a ‘knot of consensually agreed aspects and connotations’, as Don Paterson puts it. English is especially rich in synonyms – each, however, with its own ‘immediate circle of strong aspects, relations and associations… [its own] connotative blur’ (Paterson again). So translators have to ask of the foreign word, ‘what are all the shades of meaning that colour this word in its general and specific contexts?’ rather than resting content with its dictionary definition, and then do the same for all possible English equivalents.

The challenge in Teresa’s case is that she is an elliptical, allusive and uncompromising writer, with a strong vision of her own work – it is powerful, political, erotically charged, almost visionary. Readers want to hear that original voice insofar as it is possible, especially as very little of her work has come over into English, and consequently I believe it was my responsibility to translate her poetry as directly as possible, whilst not ending up with literal paraphrases which serve mainly to point readers to something that is not quite there. It has been a fine balance to find.

The other half of the answer to ‘what makes a good poem-in-translation?’ must be its ‘music’ – the sense that comes from, as a result of, the sound of the words. Portuguese has the morphology characteristic of Romance languages, with vocalic word-endings that arise from relatively regular inflections and other grammatical structures. These have created a naturally generous facility for melodic and variegated rhyming. On the other hand, the spoken language, being strongly elided (as well as having many nasalised vowels and fricative sibilants), has a softer, more muted acoustic than other Romance languages: what the eye sees is not the same as what the ear hears. English obviously makes a very different kind of music, visually and aurally. What a translator does with this difference must be a matter of taste, the outcome of tireless experimentation and critical reflection, of instinct and conscious technique. I chose to represent Teresa’s mellifluous and myriad end-rhymes, mid-rhymes and half-rhymes, her stresses and pauses, with sound-and-shape patterns that seemed to me to work in English, rather than attempting the fruitless task of reproducing the original cadence and metric. I could not avoid the fact that, in Paul Muldoon’s words, ‘the poem is inevitably becoming a different thing as it goes from one language into another’.

People often ask me if I speak Portuguese. My response to the other (implied) part of this query is that I believed making a good poem-in-translation would depend much more on my experience as a poet and editor than on my (limited) expertise as a linguist. In some ways it helped that Teresa’s poetic – dynamic compression, parataxis, declamation, the location of white spaces/silence – is quite different from mine, so I was not tempted to turn her poetry into something I might have written. But this difference of sensibility was also a huge challenge, in conserving, or finding, the right degree of ‘strangeness’ in conveying the poems in(to) English. I hope and believe that the residual ‘foreignness’ in these English versions is a true reflection of something essential in the original, an intensity of sensual imagination and a forceful, often rapturous, use of imagery that do not surrender themselves easily to prose explication. I hope and trust that readers will be able to assent to the poems’ compelling inner logic, recognising them as extraordinary works that have been ‘brought across’, though not in any way tamed.

Lesley Saunders

O Voo da Linguagem

(from Poesis 2017)

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Ser poeta é corer riscos

Trazer consigo a vassoura

De voar a linguagem

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A paixão, a liberdade

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As asa são seu

Oficio

Onde resguarda a saudade

The Flight of Language

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To be a poet is to court danger

Is to bring a broom and soar

The language into open air

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Its anger, ardour, freedom

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The wings are hers

Her calling

To serve and guard saudade

Buy Point of Honour