Sappho reinterpretations

Something new – hear me reading. In other news, WordPress recommends “Life, poetry, makeup” as likely tags for my posts.

The text:

Not the bee’s makings,
Nor the mended-mended-mended hive, come-toward
And volleyed with repairs;
Not the white bank of melissa
Where the milkmaids go for pollen;
Nor the bee. Nor food nor home
Nor work nor man for me.

Don’t stir the pebbles
At the fog-gobbed San Francisco shore, if you
Feel sick. Rigs fume out there.
Stand arms folded; watch the tankers;
Don’t fuss with the stones and salads
At your feet. The sands fetch nothing
That you want to see.

In the sweet garden
Or the pond to whom Canadian geese go down,
Down from the glossy cold –
In the roses or the rushes,
Wind-speared reeds or southern blossoms,
Far from sea, there is an egg-
Not-egg. Aphrodite

Like all the others,
Grew a grown-up: rain, froth, May, a plait
Of all good things; bud, flower.
All potential, all fulfillment,
Water sweet, salt; hue pure, opal,
Many, single. Me,

Formless, jobless,
One and none, protesting weakly what I indicate
But not that which I am.
“Thou burnest us,” I snipe at Venus,
Not a crumb of flame amid me,
Though I’m red. Nor fruit nor flame
But red, like a Fall tree.

Full Rimbaud translation

I’ve completed my translation of the final portion of Le bateau ivre, so I’m presenting my entire translation below the cut. I’d never thought much of Rimbaud, but passing through the poem at translation-speed, and considering his intentions closely, I felt the whole awful trip the poem describes.

What I feel overwhelmingly is the poor boy’s youth. I feel it in his joy, his myopic despair, his complete lack of discipline, his innovation. It’s almost unbearable to think that the boy wrote this because he read and loved Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. A child.

Continue reading “Full Rimbaud translation”

Rimbaud translation, part 3

One more part to go after this. In a sort of Stockholm situation, I’m beginning to think that Rimbaud may genuinely be the genius people like to call him.

See part one of my translation here, and part two of my translation here.

Drunk Boat, part 3

Man, I’ve run up on incredible Floridas
Mixing up flowers with panthers’ eyes, panthers
In man-skins! And rainbows, extended like bridles
To the gray sea-herds beneath the horizon.

I’ve seen great swamplands fermenting, these creels
Of bulrushes where a Leviathan rots!
Out of fair air, waves collapsing like buildings
And distance, cataracting, lining the maw.

Glaciers, silver suns, embered skies and
Pearled seas! Hideous wrecks at brown gulfs’ floors
Where the great serpents slip, bitten by bedbugs,
In black perfumes from twisted trees!

I should like to show children these dorados
These blue waves, fish of gold, these singing fish.
Seafoams of flowers have rocked my digressions
And I’m suddenly winged by ineffable winds.

Sometimes – martyr, weary of poles and of zones –
The sea sobbed, in sobs rolled me sweetly, and lifted
Her flowers, yellow cups full of shadow, up to me
And I stayed on, like a woman kneeling …

Nearly an island now, my limits spattered
By quarrels and droppings of pale-eyed birds,
I wavered, and passing through my frail moor lines,
Drowned men sank backward and down into sleep! …

I, on the other hand, boat lost amidst bay hair,
Storm-tossed into aether without any bird
I who no Monitor, nor cog of the Baltic
Could ever fish out, corpse binge-drunk full of sea.



Rimbaud translation, part 2

Now – I’m really surprised at how cold and listless are the English translations of Rimbaud’s verse. In French his verse reads rabid, rushed, frequently jammed up at the top of the line as if he’s trying to say too much too quickly. In this translation I’m trying to suggest some of his urgency and elation. I reiterate – this is a fast translation, just a few hours’ work. Maybe I’ll come back and do a more serious job at another time.

Here’s the next part of my translation. Read part one here. Part three to follow later.

Drunk Boat, part 2

Dyeing bluenesses at a blow, delirium,
And slow rhythms, apparent in the day’s bolts.
Stronger than alcohol, vaster than lyres
The bitter rosaceas of love ferment!

I know the skies snapped by lighting, the waterspouts,
And eddies and currents: and I know the evening,
And white Dawn exalting like a townfull of doves,
And sometimes I’ve seen what men think they have seen!

I’ve seen the low sun, stained with mystical horrors,
Illuminating, with its great purple gum
– like actors in some old-old tragedy –
The waves, shaking like shutters and passing shakes down.

In the green night, I’ve dreamt of dazzling snows,
Of kissing deliberately up to the sea’s eyes,
And of the tree sap’s miraculous circuit,
And the blue, yellow rousings of singing phosphors!

Whole months I’ve gone through – the swells leaping on reefs
Like hysterical cows – without imagining
That Marys’ bright feet could struggle the muzzle
Onto the heaving and wind-knocked sea.