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Messages - maggie

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Periplum / Re: Fernando López Rodríguez
« on: March 19, 2011, 07:47:06 PM »

Cuarenta y tres años.
Por primera vez
un violín en mis brazos.

Age forty-three.
For the first time
a violin in my arms.

The fact that the violin is in his "arms" and not his "hands" suggests to me a world of difference. I think the violin could be a lover, responding to the poet's embrace like a finely tuned Stradivarius. If so, it's sad to think he had to wait 43 years for such a feeling. Better late than never? Or is the violin just a violin?

En el dedo que lo señaló
quedó eterno el meteoro
de la otra noche.

In the finger that pointed it out
the other night’s meteor
is eternal.

This one is mysterious to me. It vaguely reminds me of Carl Sagan proclaiming that we are made of stardust (remember that TV astronomy series, Cosmos?). Why and how is the meteor "eternal" in the finger of the poet or whoever did the pointing? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

La última gota
del rio cintila
en el ojo del pez.

The river’s last drop
in the fish’s eye.

Now and then in Fernando's book, his haiku echo Basho. This one reminds me of the image of a salted sea bream in a fish shop with Basho's focus zooming in to its cold gums. It also brings to mind my early morning visit to Tsukiji, the fish market in Tokyo, which inspired me to write, on the spot, "fish in plastic bags/ one/ still flapping." But the interesting thing about Fernando's haiku, to me, is the expression, "last drop" (última gota). Has the river dried up, leaving its last drop of moisture in the eye of a dying fish? Or is the poet using the word "last" in a different way? Could the drop of water in the fish's eye be the "last" remant of the river that it has been taken from? This poem, to me, is apocaplytic. Your impressions?

I thank you in advance for your thoughts. Hearing feedback on these translations-in-process should help a lot as I refine them.

What a treat to find this thread!  As someone who has a degree in translating poetry (Spanish and French), I love these kind of discussions.  And I also realize how painstaking translation from one language to another can be as you attempt to capture the nuances of the original's passion.  Your first translation definitely conveys the emotion of the original.  I'm wondering as I read the translations, though, if you've thought about alternate punctuation?  Since you're dealing with translating a living poet, you might run that idea by him.  It occurs to me that the first haiku might be more powerful if L1 did not end with a period, but, perhaps, a colon or em-dash, to connect the poet's amazement at the joy he feels in holding an instrument of music for the first time.  Just a thought . . .

Haiku 2:  I love that you made the choice of leaving the article "the" in this one.  I definitely think the ambiguity adds to the experience, which also has a surreal/metaphysical quality.

Haiku 3 seems more problematic to translate.  I like your choice for line 1, and, although I understand why Karen made her suggestion, "the last drop" seems a bit more prosaic than the poem's intention.  For me, the problem is more with "shines."  Not only does it make for a much shorter line, it also feels a little less powerful than say "shining," which gives the idea that the action of shine/life/river is still ongoing--a part of the fish even though it has been removed from the source of its life. Or, possibly, you might think of using "glimmering" instead of "shining," which, I think is closer to the original's intention . . . as "glimmer" gives more of an impression of something that has faded but still remains and, also, has that playful reference to the English expression a "glimmer in the/my eye."  So much to think about!  Here's one idea:

The river's last drop--
still glimmering
in the fish's eye.


The river's last drop--
a still glimmer
in the fish's eye.

Thanks for letting me play here.

Best, Maggie

In-Depth Haiku: Free Discussion Area / Re: Keywording
« on: February 16, 2011, 12:30:51 AM »
August cicadas
could I carry an ocean
in one suitcase

I love this poem.  I love its specificity.  The fact that these are "August cicadas" vs. May or June cicadas.  I live surrounded by the seasonal sound of cicadas, and the sound changes, grows in intensity as the season progresses, much as an ocean wave can grow into a roar. During the height of the heat, the cicadas too are at their most powerful, but, as anyone who is surrounded by that sound knows, it also signals the downfall and eminent death of the insects as colder weather approaches. And the sound comes in waves; maybe it's not precisely the sound of an ocean's waves, but still, the comparison conjures up so much . . . Without knowing anything about the poet, I would still appreciate the poem.  And I think that is testament to a good poem.  Because August is the end of, for many, the vacation season, the idea of trying to take the ocean's waves (and the cicada's sound) away as a souvenir of the season is incredibly poignant . . .  I often feel this way myself as I chart the progression of the insects and tree frogs I hear in spring and summer.  There is a certain winsomeness that comes with knowing that, soon, those sounds will have to be packed away until the following year.  And also a hope that you'll be around to hear them when they return. 

As far as knowing the poet's background, of course that adds other layers to possible interpretation.  But I believe in this case the haiku is rich enough to stand on its own.

slingshot stone flying
to Goliath's left temple
crashing to the ground

ground zero
my friend's story
about her friend


two friends
visit the graves
of the unknown


I'm glad to see the pros and cons of 5/7/5 ELH addressed here.  I'm a big fan of Richard Wright and what he can do with 5/7/5, and I think that sometimes we get too concerned with the current free-form trends and forget to look at the actual poem--does it work? has the poet conveyed the image/idea? does the language resonate?  That, to me, is the most important part of the haiku experience, regardless of syllable count.

I hope this forum will address two other ELH topics: rhyme, and metaphor/simile.

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