If you missed yesterday’ post, this may not make sense, and you’ll be better off reading that first. And if you didn’t miss it, this is just a reminder that I’m reflecting on the business of translating/interpreting/adapting poems from other languages; in this case with the built in advantage of being to workshop the poems with the poet him/herself.
Today’s interpreter is Christopher North.His poetry has won many prizes. His first pamphlet collection A Mesh of Wires was short-listed for the Forward Prize in 1999. His first full collection Explaining the Circumstances was published in 2010, followed by a bilingual joint collection Al Otro Lado del Aguilar in 2011 and a second full collection The Night Surveyor in 2014 (all Oversteps Books). Wolves Recently Sighted was a winner in the 2014 Templar Pamphlet & Collection Awards. He facilitates poetry retreats at the Almassera Vella in Relleu, Alicante and chairs Stanza Alacant for The Poetry Society.
Chris said this about the process..
“The workshop began a process for Gyula and for us.
I would say our first drafts were interpretations, hence versions rather than translations.
I attempted to pare down somewhat, seeking the core. A fascinating workshop.”
I have say, I really like the notion of ‘interpretations’. I’m comfortable with that.
(Translation from ‘Lejárt zenélödoboz)
Found on the Street yesterday,
the fat women sprawled
but clutching her ‘Mental Disability Card’.
Husband vanished long ago,
she sinks down and through the hours,
her breath rasps and snags.
After all those years, scarcely alive
and filled of strangling arguments
with the force of law,
all she can do with this ‘season ticket’
is enter their henbane ‘Garden of Welfare’
with its fake scent of flowers and parsley.
But concealed within her
there is music – inside
she is Ophelia screaming.
In this hard edged mechanism of wire,
she croons and hums her melody
locked inside her catatonia
They try to calm her with hypnosis.
They tranquillize her,
calm her defiance, her psychosis.
Step into pension-free retirement!
Drop into its embroidered TV fakerie
and the pit of daily alcohol.
The gum-chewing politician
feeding his crap,
his explanations simple as a border fence;
his doctrines create a stupor.
They beggar remorse
with lofty arrogance.
This ‘Respected Parliament’,
this Gothic delirium-quarry,
this spell bound electorate of pawns.
The next poem really interested me because it was Chris who finally unpicked the connection between the craft of the nine carpenters and the ‘severered hands’ that stood for the breaking of families. Hands as craftsmen and hands as employees. Hands as the makers and shapers of things. Hands that can touch lovingly and hands that can strike, can curl into fists. I like the way the title draws attention to this, now
The green mountains of Budapest
smiled in the distance.
Hope had planted whispering trees
and the hands of my carpenter forefathers
raised from them the lofted roof
that covered the cradle of my emerging life.
Then rafters of the collapsing years
fell down to nodding daffodils
beside the garden steps
where I waited
for my ash-grey father
cloaked in his immortality.
Yes, on the green and muddy Danube
I couched beside a backwater
to gaze on sleeping dragons
and later on an ant hill circus.
I slowly forgot the last grasping tugs
of my severed family’s hands.
Thank you so much for these, Chris. I’ll wait until all three sets of interpretations/adaptations are posted and then try to draw some conclusions. Tomorrow’s post will feature Hilary Elfick. See you then