Transference Vol. 1, Summer 2013
Transference Vol. 1, Summer 2013
Part of the Classical Literature
Comparative Literature Commons
East Asian Languages
Modern Languages Commons
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An Annual Publication of the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Western Michigan University
Volume I 2013
After the War BY ARSENY TARKOVSKY
TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN BY PHILIP METRES AND DIMITRI
TRANSLATED FROM THE CHINESE BY ANDREW GUDGEL…….………….………..6
TRANSLATED FROM THE CHINESE BY ANDREW GUDGEL…………………….……6
A Vase of Plum Flowers BY TAN YUANCHUN
The Green Wutong Tree BY ZHU HELING
Mapao Spring BY SONG WAN
Mountain Temple BY YAO NAI
TRANSLATED FROM THE CHINESE BY ANDREW GUDGEL…………………….……7
TRANSLATED FROM THE CHINESE BY ANDREW GUDGEL……………………..…..7
The Picket Fence BY CHRISTIAN MORGENSTERN
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY JOHN PERRY……………………………….10
Tumult BY PIERRE REVERDY
Islands BY BLAISE CENDRARS
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY DAN BELLM………….………………..…….12
Ballade III BY CHRISTINE DE PIZAN
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY MARYANN CORBETT….………………….16
Condoleezza Rice’s Piano BY SA‘DĪ YŪSUF
TRANSLATED FROM THE ARABIC BY LEVI THOMPSON…….………………….….19
Flower on a Grave BY DOI BANSUI
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE BY NICHOLAS ALBERTSON………….…….21
Beneath the Moss BY FUJIWARA SHUNZEI
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE BY ROSELEE BUNDY…….……………..…..23
Direction BY YOSHIRO ISHIHARA
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE BY GORO TAKANO……………………....….29
Funeral Train BY YOSHIRO ISHIHARA
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE BY GORO TAKANO……………………….….30
Pain BY YOSHIRO ISHIHARA
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE BY GORO TAKANO…………………….…….31
When the World Perishes BY YOSHIRO ISHIHARA
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE BY GORO TAKANO…………………………..32
Banned BY BORIS VIAN
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY JENNIFER CARR….………………………..35
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY JENNIFER CARR…….……………………..36
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY REBEKAH WILSON……………………….39
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY REBEKAH WILSON……………………….40
Indecent Sonnet BY BORIS VIAN
At the End of Time BY ROSE AUSLÄNDER
To Say Dark Things BY INGEBORG BACHMANN
If Only I Knew BY NELLY SACHS
Geta BY TAKAMURA KŌTARŌ
My House BY TAKAMURA KŌTARŌ
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY REBEKAH WILSON…………….………....41
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE BY LEANNE OGASAWARA………………….44
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE BY LEANNE OGASAWARA………………....45
Bowing Low (The Promulgation of the Constitution) BY TAKAMURA KŌTARŌ
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE BY LEANNE OGASAWARA………...……….46
A Nomad’s Progression to the Settled Life BY YURI VAELLA
TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN BY CLAUDE CLAYTON SMITH AND
A Woman BY HEINRICH HEINE
The Cat BY CHARLES BAUDELAIRE
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BY SUSAN MCLEAN…………………………..52
TRANSLATED FROM THE LATIN BY SUSAN MCLEAN……………………………...54
TRANSLATED FROM THE LATIN BY SUSAN MCLEAN…………………………..….54
Cat BY YAMANOKUCHI BAKU
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE BY DARYL MAUDE…………………………..58
Heads BY YAMANOKUCHI BAKU
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE BY DARYL MAUDE……………………….….58
It Takes All Sorts BY YAMANOKUCHI BAKU
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE BY DARYL MAUDE...…………………….….59
Okinawan Scene BY YAMANOKUCHI BAKU
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE BY DARYL MAUDE ….……………………...60
Untitled (2 October 1910) BY NATSUME SŌSEKI
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE BY ERIK LOFGREN……………………….….65
Untitled (6 October 1910) BY NATSUME SŌSEKI
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE BY ERIK LOFGREN…………….…………….65
Untitled (7 October 1910) BY NATSUME SŌSEKI
TRANSLATED FROM THE JAPANESE BY ERIK LOFGREN…………………………..65
Adjuration BY ALEXANDER PUSHKIN
TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN BY J. M. MCBIRNIE………………………..68
Pétanque BY EMMANUEL VEROT
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY RANDY SCHWARTZ……………………...70
Notes on Contributors………………………..…………………………………………………...73
“A major difficulty in translation is that a word in one language seldom has a
precise equivalent in another one.”
“Poetic translation is the transmigration of poetic souls from one language into
Some might say that a translated poem is an impossibility—metaphors,
cultural references, and the play of sound and sense do not transfer from one
language system to another the way a set of instructions can. So why propose a
journal of literary translation called Transference? Both “translation” and
“transference” derive from the Latin verb transferre, which literally means “to
carry across.” “Translation” refers to something that has already been brought
across passively and in a completed state, while “transference” is the act of
someone bringing something or someone else across always in a state of
incompletion. “Transference,” therefore, reflects more closely what literary
translation is: the bridge between cultures and centuries that is ever changing and, by
necessity, never perfect, never complete. This bridge, however, remains
essential if we wish to continue to see beyond our own horizons into other
perspectives on the human condition.
Each of the poems and the commentaries gathered in this volume posits
an interpretation of various experiences common to all people, among them
grief, joy, desire, and wonder. It is our hope that as an ensemble, the pieces
form a single, kaleidoscopic work bringing these discrete intersections together
into a unified representation of the language work and play that makes us
It is in our nature to desire to communicate with others in order to
understand and to be understood. All of the contributors to this volume have
attempted communication, both with the poets of the original texts and the
readers of our journal. This act of transference is distinctly different from how
the term is used in psychology—whereas a patient unconsciously redirects
feelings from one person to another, a translator consciously takes the feelings of
another and tries to experience them, and therefore have an audience
experience them, through the means of a different language. We encourage our
readers to seek out the original poems in the original languages, as well as other
translations of the poems, to continue this mode of communication, both with
our contributors’ translations and their personal commentaries.
So maybe a translated poem is a paradox, but the impossibility of a
“pure” translation presents its own advantages. In the attempt to reproduce the
poetic experience of the original poem’s reader in a different idiom, new poems
come into being. Layered with form and content resulting from this transfer
across language boundaries, the new poems offer an opportunity to engage in
the inherent playfulness of language. It is a serious game, an undertaking that is
fraught with challenges, but, as is the case with confronting most paradoxes,
well worth the travail, and necessary.
David Kutzko and Molly Lynde-Recchia, editors-in-chief
Philip Metres and Dimitri Psurtsev After the War
Like a tree on top of forest grass
Spreads its leafy hands through the leaves
And, leaning on a shrub, propagates
Its branches sideways, widthwise—
So I shot up gradually. My muscles
Swelled, my rib cage expanded. From the blue
Goblet with prickly alcohol, my lungs
Filled to the smallest alveoli, and my heart
Took blood from the veins and veins
Returned the blood, and took the blood again
And it was like a transfiguration
Of simple happiness and simple grief
In a prelude and fugue for organ.
I would be sufficient for all living things,
Both plants and people,
Who’d been dying somewhere near
And somewhere at the other end of the earth
In unimaginable suffering, like Marsyas,
Who was flayed alive. If I’d given them my life,
I would not become any poorer
In life, in myself, in my blood.
But I myself became like Marsyas. I’d long lived
Among the living, and became like Marsyas.
Sometimes, when you lie in the summer heat
And look at the sky, and the hot air
Rocks like a cradle above you, you
Find a strange angle of senses:
There is a gap in the crib, and through it
An outer cold penetrates, as if
Some icy needle...
Like a tree splashes the earth
Above itself, collapses from a steep
Undermined by water, its roots in the air,
The rapids plucking at its branches,
So my double on the other rapids
Travels from the future to the past.
From a height, I follow myself with my eyes
And clutch at my heart.
Who gave me
Trembling branches, a powerful trunk
And weak, helpless roots?
Death is vile, but life is worse,
And there’s no bridling its tyranny.
Are you leaving, Lazarus? Well, go away!
Behind you, half the sky still blazes.
Nothing holds us together. Sleep
Vivacious one, fold your hands
On your chest, and sleep.
Come by, take this, I don’t need anything,
What I love I’ll give away, and what I don’t
I’ll give away. I want to replace you,
But if I say that I’m going to turn into you,
Don’t believe me, poor child, I’m lying…
O these hands with fingers like vines,
Open and wet eyes,
And the shells of small ears,
Like saucers full of a love song,
And wings, curved sharply by the wind.
Don’t believe me, poor child, I lie,
I’ll try to break away like one condemned to die,
But I cannot transgress this strangeness
Can’t flap your wings or touch your eyes
With your little finger, or look
With your eyes. You’re one
Hundred times stronger than me, you are
A song about yourself, and I’m
A deputy of the tree and God,
And by your judgment, sentenced for my song.
Arseny Tarkovsky (1907–1989) spent most of his life as a well-known
translator of Turkmen, Georgian, Armenian, Arabic, and other languages.
During the Second World War, he worked as a war correspondent until he was
wounded in a German attack, which would cost him his leg. His first book of
poems had been accepted for publication in 1946, but in the wake of Zhdanov’s
attack on Anna Akhmatova and Mikhail Zoschenko, the book was never
released. Tarkovsky’s first published volume, Before the Snow, was published
in 1962, at the age of 55, to the acclaim of Akhmatova, who called his work “both
contemporary and eternal.”
In a time when official Russian poetry was anything but independent,
Tarkovsky’s verse maintained its resolute allegiance to a poetic sound and vision
that hearkened back to the masters of Russian poetry. Akhmatova called
Tarkovsky the one “real poet” in the Soviet Union. In her words, “of all
contemporary poets Tarkovsky alone is completely his own self, completely
independent. He possesses the most important feature of a poet which I’d call the
birthright.” In his spiritual and poetic independence, he outlasted the dross of
Vividly musical, rich in Biblical and folk echoes, Tarkovsky’s poems
exude a poignant gratitude for living on earth, and a childlike wonder in nature,
even though they are often set in the backdrop of terrible heartbreak of one of
the most miserable centuries in Russian history.
The most difficult aspect of translating Russian poetry is carrying across
the richness of its music—the diversity of meters, rhythms, and rhyme:
Tarkovsky’s poetry is, in the end, a poetry that lives through its music. Any simple
literal translation misses the collision of sound and meaning that makes poetry
poetry. In “After the War,” Tarkovsky often employs unrhymed blank verse;
unrhymed poetry remains unusual in Russian poetry. As importantly,
Tarkovsky alludes to the mythical satyr Marsyas, whose arrogant challenge of Apollo to
a musical contest led to his being flayed to death.
Dima Psurtsev and I began working together in 1992, when I lived in
Moscow on a Watson Fellowship, studying contemporary Russian poetry. Dima
suggested that I read Tarkovsky, and we did some basic translations of a
handful of his most well-known poems. In 2009, back in Russia, I proposed that we
might formalize our collaboration and translate a full-length collection of
Tarkovsky in English translation, since none had been published. Often, the
process involved either my sending Dima a first draft, after which he would
provide an annotation which would point out translation errors or particularly
complex and allusive phrases, for future revision. We'd trade the poem back
and forth until both of us were at peace that we had created something alive
enough to let it into the world. The present translation was a product of this
Andrew Gudgel A Vase of Plum Flowers
In the vase for ten days already,
My worries fall away when, fortunately, they open late.
No need to borrow the east wind to force them,
Or bully them with nighttime rain.
Their fragrance comes in silence,
Their charm in quiet hours.
More beautiful even than the trees on the mountains,
For tourists know nothing of these.
Andrew Gudgel The Green Wutong Tree
The shade of the green wutong hides my study,
Branches a hundred feet high would entice even a phoenix.
The new jade leaves float like a curtain of green,
Luxuriant shadows, deep cover and a smell like incense.
The cool that comes feels like a basket of early Autumn,
The leaves drop in a silver bed that sparkles with dew.
Though the eastern courtyard catches the morning sun,
Down by the roots it's dark, like standing beside a
Andrew Gudgel Mapao Spring
Twisting, turning Qinting Road,
I stop my cart—A pleasant trip!
Getting out, I discover the autumn rain is clearing.
I sit and fall in love with the spring flowing over the rocks.
Pruned willows fill the deep banks,
Barren cattails reach the far fields.
I will beg to retire and go dig myself a cave to live in,
And float about on fishing boats by moonlight.
Andrew Gudgel Mountain Temple
The surrounding mountains are alive with autumn sounds,
The high forest is dark with evening falling,
Clouds wrap around the cold hazel trees.
A curtain of darkness descends over the front wall.
The wind whistles at the temple gate,
Flying leaves fill the gathered cliffs.
Isles of bamboo in a stream of darkness,
Murmuring bird-calls from arching rocks.
I wanted to see beyond the mouth of the valley,
The distant peaks are blue in the setting sun.
Within the twisting mist,
The myriad gullies clasp ridges and cracks.
Is there no wise man or hermit
With whom I can stay?
The crescent moon's light is already gone,
And I wistfully leave off writing.
Rather than the more well-known (and more often translated) poets of
the Tang Dynasty, I picked one lesser-known poet each from the Ming (Tan
Yuanchun) and Qing (Yao Nai) Dynasties as well as two (Zhu Heling and Song
Wan) whose lives began in one Dynasty and ended in the next. For both Zhu
and Song, the midpoint of their lives saw collapse, chaos and war, followed by
the establishment and consolidation of a new dynasty.
Classical Chinese is very terse—often omitting pronouns and
prepositions—and its grammar is very flexible, so a single line (and sometimes entire
poems) can be both ambiguous in meaning and have multiple translations.
There is also a rich tradition of allusions and of borrowing turns of phrase from
earlier poets which suffuses additional, unwritten yet implied meanings into
lines and poems.
With each piece, I read through it several times; first silently, then out
loud—Chinese poetry is meant to be recited—and finally jotted down notes on
the “feeling” it gave me. Was it joyous or wistful? Were there deeper meanings
and if so, what were they? Take, for example, the poem “A Vase of Plum
Flowers.” Plum trees flower in late winter in China and large numbers of people
would (and still do) go out to view the blossoms. At the same time,
connoisseurship was considered one of the marks of a scholar in late-Ming times and it was
common practice to keep cut flowers in one's study. So by putting a plum
branch in a vase to enjoy privately, Tan Yuanchun implies both his scholarly
refinement and his purposeful separation from the public sphere.
Only when I thought I had a good “feeling” for the poems did I begin
rough-drafting the translations. The finished rough drafts were left to sit for a
week, then re-checked for accuracy. Another week was spent smoothing the
drafts before they were shown to an English-speaking Chinese friend for
Each poem presented a unique challenge and each had at least one line
that I puzzled over for anywhere from an hour to an entire day. In the
abovementioned “A Vase of Plum Flowers” it was a short sentence that, when
translated into English, contained consecutive ambiguous adverbs. In “Mountain
Temple,” it was a line that read: 於兹衣蘿薜—literally, “with grass-mat clothes (or
‘to wear’) tree-moss climbing-fig.” (The last two characters, if inverted, become
a literary allusion to another work that predates Yao Nai's by approximately
enteen centuries.) Yet in the context of the poem, this list of items implies
staying with a hermit.
Despite the challenges, however, each poem also brought moments of
sudden, joyful revelation and translation's sweetest reward—the feeling of
touching another mind separated by both time and space.
pentameter. But dactylic meter is rare in English, and hexameters tend to drag,
so I have written the whole poem in iambic pentameter, which better fits the
rhythms of English and sounds natural and conversational.
Daryl Maude Cat
Daryl Maude Heads
Someone I’d just met,
While having a drink
Cocked their head and said
Are you Baku-san, the poet?
I am surprised
The Baku-san I see in your poems
Is nothing like the gentleman I see before me.
I shrugged without thinking
And then raised my head and said
Of the old Baku you see in the poems and
The gentleman Baku you see here—
Who is the real Baku, I wonder?
At which the person looked up
And said Well, I’m not sure
And—maybe because something was wrong with their neck—
Cocked their head again
Daryl Maude It Takes All Sorts
People eat rice
And my namesake
the monster called the baku
Eats dreams, they say
Sheep will eat paper
And bedbugs come to suck blood
And there are people
Who come in to eat people, and people who go out to eat people
And, thinking about it, in my homeland of Ryukyu
There is a tree called the umumā
For a tree it looks ugly, but it is like a poet:
Standing in graveyards,
Growing on the tears and sad voices of
The people who come and cry.
A strange tree, the umumā.
Daryl Maude Okinawan Scene
There in the gardens, always
The tauchī fighting cocks are thirsty for blood
In his own mībārā,* but
All of them squaring their shoulders
So much confidence
Growing tired of waiting for the fight day
Each morning at the Akamine house, Tanmē-grandpa
Carrying a tobacco tray
Comes out onto the veranda and sits
Enquires after the health of the tauchī in the garden
This morning Tanmē was on the veranda but
Maybe his pipe was blocked?
And at the tap-tap of him hitting it
The tauchī, to a bird,
Suddenly stretched their necks
*A cage for raising chickens
Yamanokuchi Baku (山之口貘, 1903–1963) was an Okinawan poet and
writer of fiction and essays. As a young man, he left his homeland in the
southern Ryukyuan archipelago, which had been annexed by Japan and renamed as
Okinawa in 1879, and moved to Tokyo, the metropolitan centre of the Japanese
Empire. Yamanokuchi Baku, whose real name was Yamaguchi Jūsaburō, took
his pen-name, Baku—by which he is known to Japanese readers—from the
mythical beast which was supposed to feed on nightmares.
Baku's work avoids complex imagery and flowery expressions and
instead uses stark, simple language. His subject matter ranges from everyday
encounters with people in bars, or conversations with his wife about money, to
descriptions of his Okinawan homeland or meditations on his own identity as
Okinawan. In metropolitan Tokyo, Okinawans were the subject of much
prejudice, being seen as exotic and primitive. Baku, like many others, had to endure
the problem of worrying about how best to explain himself and his origins to
other people. In his most well-known poem, “A Conversation” (“Kaiwa”), he
describes being asked by a woman “Where are you from?” He imagines
describing his homeland, with its sub-tropical plants and different customs, and
the inevitable stereotypes of a land of “indigo seas” and “everlasting summer”
that will arise in the woman's mind. The poem, like much of Baku's work, is
wryly humorous, but has a dark, serious core—unwilling to tell her directly that
he is Okinawan, the poet is forced to become increasingly circuitous about how
he presents his identity. Another example of Baku’s dark humor can be seen in
“It Takes All Sorts,” in which he likens poets to the legendary umumā tree,
which feasts on people's sadness, at once poking fun at himself and also
questioning the ethics of his art.
Translation of Baku’s poetry is challenging due to this wry humor
injected into many of the lines, and also due to the simplicity and strong sense of
rhythm of his writing has. Japanese often leaves out the subject of a sentence
when it is thought to be known to all parties, and so when translating poems I
have tried to replicate the clipped, concise effect of the original as much as
possible, while still rendering the poems intelligible for English speakers by
inserting pronouns, or naming the speaker of a particular line. While I never had
to worry about translating complicated sentences or rendering obscure
metaphors in intelligible English, trying to replicate Baku’s short sentences and also
deal with his sparse use of punctuation—which I have tried to follow as much as
possible—was a challenge. When I showed my translations to two Okinawan
friends, they tried to retranslate the works from English back into Japanese in a
sparing, funny, Baku-esque fashion. “No, no,” one would say to the other.
“Simpler! Say it like Baku-san would!”
The title of the poem “Heads” is “Kubi” in the original Japanese, a word
which can refer to either the head or the neck, depending on its context. Some
people may find the use of “their” jarring as a third-person singular pronoun,
but in the original the gender of the other speaker is unspecified, and could
equally be female or male. I decided to retain this ambiguity. Another problem
in translating his poetry is Baku’s use of Uchināguchi, or Okinawan language, as
in “Okinawan Scene.” Inserted in the Japanese text, the Okinawan words are
sometimes in katakana, the script often used for loanwords in Japanese, and
sometimes in kanji, or Chinese characters. Baku’s kanji, while readily readable
to a Japanese-speaking audience, are glossed with nonstandard, Okinawan
pronunciations above them in katakana, making them sound different. When
translating the poem into English, I have tried to keep the Uchināguchi words
intact, adding on English words afterwards with hyphens to try to replicate the
experience of reading a familiar word along with an unfamiliar one. I have also
kept the asterisk footnote in which Baku explains what a mībārā is.
Ghada Mourad A Life
He was, more or less, wasting time
he drew a vase
he drew a flower in the vase
and fragrance emanated from the paper.
He drew a cup of water
took a sip
and watered the flower.
He drew a room
placed a bed in the room
and fell asleep
…and when he woke up
he drew a sea
a deep sea
Wadih Saadeh (1948–) is a Lebanese poet who left his native country
during the Civil War to reside in Australia with his family. His poetry is marked
by a sense of loss and exile. His poem, “A Life,” articulates the condition of exile
in which the poet (and as a matter of fact, any human being) suffers. The art
(and the world) a poet creates serves as a dwelling that ultimately doubles his
alienation from the outside world. “A Life” conveys beautifully the doubling of
the artist’s exilic condition. Its sound devices in Arabic conveying the depth of
the artist’s exile through the deep sound of the letter ق recurring in the words ى
ةقرو , قرغ , قيمع are reincarnated in English as the consonance in “deep” and
“asleep” on one hand, and the “w” and “d” sounds in “deep,” “drew,” and
“drowned” on the other hand, highlighting the fact that the artist is both victim
and agent of his exile.
In dream, I wander the cosmos; a profoundly silent dew-fall glistens.
At midnight, my body and its shadow in the flame’s pathetic gloom.
Ill in this inn with Shuzenji temple nearby—
Through the curtained window, its faintly sounding bell; long, now, into autumn.
Erik Lofgren Untitled (6 October 1910)
The world is ever uncertain,
And ever are we at the mercy of its winds.
Under a clear autumn sky, we lament our greying sidelocks;
Our disease-ravaged bodies dream the flush face of youth.
I see the birds off across the limitless sky
And watch the clouds on their endless paths.
I am but bones, yet precious they are,
And careful I’ll be not to grind them down.
Erik Lofgren Untitled (7 October 1910)
How melancholy the arrival of autumn!
Vomiting blood, yet still this body lives.
How long ere I might arise from my sickbed?
The village, aglow in the setting sun.
Natsume Sōseki [SZ 12:408]
Natsume Sōseki [SZ 12:408]
All three poems here are taken from Sōseki zenshū (1967) and represent
Natsume Sōseki’s (1867–1916) return, after a ten-year hiatus, to kanshi (poems
in the classical Chinese style). They date from a time when Sōseki, perhaps
Japan’s most famous early-modern author, was recovering from a near-fatal
illness brought on by a journey undertaken to recuperate from an earlier serious
illness. Consequently, the twin themes of life’s ephemerality and man’s relation
to his world define these poems. The degree of lachrymose pathos is, perhaps,
overwrought; however, the poems do offer a refraction of the mind of a
convalescent and, as such, join a long history of writing that crosses many national
and periodization boundaries. Through recourse to this neglected part of
Sōseki’s oeuvre we gain another view of a complex and highly influential
One of the primary difficulties facing the translator of kanshi—or,
indeed, classical Chinese poetry on which kanshi are putatively modeled—is the
frustration of plenitude that lies at the confluence of concision, evocative power,
and a vibrant intertextuality. This plenitude may be addressed in numerous
ways: explanatory footnotes, descriptive text inserted in the poem proper,
through a discursive essay, or the translator may choose to let the poem stand
on its own. It is this last that I have chosen, for the possibility of deeper
awareness inheres, however tentatively, in the shared context of the three poems.
Nobody familiar with classical Chinese poetry will be surprised to learn
that extensive commentary has grown up around the fertile ground of Sōseki’s
kanshi. What is, perhaps, troubling for the translator is how much of this
commentary seeks to rewrite the poems in the image of the putatively real. For
example, in the first poem (2 October 1910), Iida Rigyō (Shin’yaku Sōseki shishū
[Tokyo: Kashiwa shobō, 1994]: 153–54) has drawn upon Sōseki’s use of the
temple Shuzenji, plus Sōseki’s contemporaneous writings, to expand upon the
poem. He observes that the bell should actually be thought of as “drum” for two
reasons. The first is because Shuzenji did not construct a bell until the Taishō
era (1912–26) so there was no bell tower on the premises at the time Sōseki was
writing. Second, Sōseki described the evening in question in Omoidasu koto
nado (Recollections, 1910) saying, “At that moment, the drum of Shuzenji
sounded.” Yet, to accept this attribution of intention, however accurate the facts
upon which it is based might be, is to deny the poem and its poet the freedom of
creative fancy, and the power of image. The fact is that Sōseki chose to use
“bell” instead of “drum” and in the poem, there is no indication that a reader
was to understand the choice in any other way. Note that I am not suggesting
the poem must remain true to the author’s intention; rather, that in the absence
of any evidence in the poem to the contrary, changing the text to match an
assumed knowledge of the reality surrounding the poem’s construction, as many
of the commentators feel obliged to do, beggars the immanent power of the
Once the determination was made to present the poems as free from
this biographical armature as possible, the other decisions facing the translator
fell into place. While neither foot nor meter, as they are understood in Western
poetry, play a significant role, kanshi is governed by a strict syllable count (each
character representing one syllable) and rhyme scheme. In most published
English translations of kanshi, these have both been ignored, generally to the
benefit of the translation. I have followed the lead of others translating kanshi
and have set aside the strict rhyme scheme present in the originals as too
disruptive of a natural flow to warrant strict adherence.
J.M. McBirnie Adjuration
If it be true in nightly haze
When all the living lay in repose
And from the heavens lunar rays
Slither among the graves and their stones,
If it be true that one would say
That the quiet tombs have been unmade—
I call Leila; I await that shade:
To me, my friend, this way, this way!
Appear once more, shade whom I adore,
Like the day you left and were all the while
Wan and cold as the winter you wore
When all those terminal woes warped your smile.
Come, like a distant star far away,
Like a soft sound or exhaled emission—
Or like a terrible apparition.
Any way at all: this way, this way!…
I call you not so that you might
Upbraid those men whose malicious ways
Took the life of my friend that night,
Or to learn the secrets of these graves,
Or for the times when I would lay
All racked with doubt…Rather, I have pined
Wishing to say that I love in kind,
For I'm all yours: this way, this way!
I felt that finding the proper refrain for this poem proved to be the
hardest and most crucial aspect of a proper translation. Despite its deceptively
simple quality, its nuances support the main crux of the poem: the speaker’s
coming “hither” represents not only his invocation of his lost beloved, but also
his approaching of the addressee in space and in form.
I also strove to preserve the rhyme and a syllabic meter. The poem
does, however, diverge from the eight- and nine-syllable line schema in the
second stanza. The change in meter, in addition to the alliteration of a distinctly
non-Russian sound, disconnected the stanza from the rest of the poem just
enough to support the scholarly speculation concerning its apocryphal nature.
Perhaps the most remarkable sonic feature of the Russian pertains to
the assonance of the u sound (e.g. лунные лучи, line 3 and сюда, сюда, line 8).
While replicating the exact sound might unnecessarily bridle the poem, I opted
for the similarly melancholic repetition of the ei sound, scattered throughout
the translation (e.g. “haze,” “way,” and “shade”).
Though the use of the colon and dash in the English translation was
unconventional, I felt the need to preserve them, as the colon seemed to signal
the speaker’s direct speech while the dash served as a prolonged pause. Rather
than rely upon quotation marks and commas to fulfill those roles, I felt that the
dashes, colons, ellipses, and exclamations offered a particular visual
importance, reinforcing the concept of bodies in repose, atop one another, among
graves, and standing erect, respectively.
I did divert from using the any of the previous translations of the title,
such as “Invocation” or “Incantation.” Though one sense of the term, “invocation,” does
apply to the poem, I felt that some of its more immediate connotations do not.
Furthermore, although there is certainly a kind of conjuring at work, the use of
“incantation” might have limited the poem’s interpretation in a single direction.
Therefore, after considering Russian and English etymologies and uses of the
term, I settled upon “adjuration” for its ability to speak to both the fantastical
and temporal elements within the poem.
Randy Schwartz Pétanque
Khenifra, Morocco, July 2002
A clay-red town, its skies crisscrossed by storks.
The sandlot is barely lit by the flickering streetlights.
We approach, they play on;
one of them goes to find us some chairs,
another gives us some tea…
They play well; I didn’t dare join.
And then the muezzin broke into his piercing lament
of hope and mercy;
a big rug was quickly spread out,
and from a water bottle the hands and faces were purified.
I turned and I saw them, these players,
lined up in prayer, in the offering of their game,
in the communion of their lives.
I joined my hands together and cried.
Emmanuel Verot Pétanque
Emmanuel Verot is a high school mathematics teacher in Béziers,
southern France. He writes poems from time to time as the occasion arises, but
has never tried to publish his work. He was raised in Casablanca, Morocco,
where he was born in 1952 to a family of French Huguenot heritage; his father
was a music teacher from near Bordeaux, and his mother was from Pau. Verot
grew up speaking both French and Arabic.
A small challenge in this translation was to clarify points that might
puzzle an English reader unfamiliar with Morocco. For instance, I used
“clayred town” to translate Verot’s ville rouge (red town), a reference to the color of
traditional dwellings in towns such as Khenifra that are “dug into” the
redmountain portion of the Middle Atlas.
Pétanque is a lawn-bowling game of southern France that was
introduced to Morocco by French colonials. The game is familiar to many outside of
France and Morocco, partly because it was immortalized in the stories of Marcel
Pagnol; I decided to leave the title in French. For American readers, “sandlot”
works well for terrain vague, literally “waste lot”; in Khenifra there is no grass,
and the game is played instead on fields of bare dirt. I chose to echo the word
“join,” which appears in the last line of each stanza and makes a point of
contrast: as an outsider, the poet dares not join the game he sees being played
before him, yet he feels an overpowering emotional tie to the men as they halt
their game in prayer.
Notes on Contributors
Nicholas Albertson recently completed his dissertation on Japanese Romantic
poetry of the Meiji period (1868–1912) at the University of Chicago. While in
graduate school, he conducted research on Doi Bansui (1871–1952) at Tōhoku
University in Sendai. In fall 2013, he will take up a teaching post at Smith
College, in his hometown of Northampton, MA.
Dan Bellm is a poet and translator living in Berkeley, California, and the
recipient of a 2013 Literature Fellowship in Translation from the National
Endowment for the Arts. He has also published three books of poetry, most
recently Practice (Sixteen Rivers Press), winner of a 2009 California Book
Award. He teaches literary translation at Antioch University Los Angeles and at
New York University.
Roselee Bundy is Professor of Japanese Language and Literature at Kalamazoo
College. She has published a number of studies on the poet Fujiwara Teika and
the poetry of the Shinkokin period, including “Solo Poetry Contest as Poetic Self
Portrait: The One-Hundred-Rounds of Lord Teika’s Own Poems,” in
Monumenta Nipponica (2006). More recently, she has turned to issues of gender in
Heian utaawase and other texts and has published several pieces related to this
topic in the U.S. Japan Women’s Journal (2007, 2009), Japanese Language
and Literature (2012), and Monumenta Nipponica (2012).
Jennifer Carr is from Washington, DC, and has lived variously in Cannes,
Berkeley, and Paris. She has a BA in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley
and an MA in Cultural Translation from the American University of Paris,
where she focused on twentieth century French literature and translating the
work of the Oulipo. She will start a French PhD program at Yale in the fall.
Maryann Corbett is the author of Breath Control (David Robert Books) and
Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter (Able Muse Press). Her poems, essays,
and translations have been published widely in journals in print and online and
in a number of anthologies. She holds a doctorate in English Language and
Literature from the University of Minnesota and works for the Minnesota
Andrew Gudgel received his B.A. in Chinese from the Ohio State University in
1989. He spent the next decade-plus working for the US Government, mostly
in US embassies overseas, before becoming a freelance writer. He and his wife
currently live in Beijing, China.
Victoria Le is a poet, translator, and Michigan native. She was educated at the
University of Michigan and received her Master of Fine Arts at Brown
University. She currently lives in Arkansas.
Erik R. Lofgren is associate professor of East Asian Studies at Bucknell
University where he teaches Japanese language, literature, and film. Although
his early research was in identity construction in the war-related
literature of Ōoka Shōhei and Umezaki Haruo occasioned by Japan’s defeat in
the Second World War, he is now working on a project exploring the
representation of sexual desire in Japanese film. The translations here are an
expression of his long-standing interest in classical Chinese and the
nineteenthcentury Japanese literati’s use of form as a vehicle for poetic expression that
differed substantially from the indigenous poetic forms.
Daryl Maude studies Okinawan and Japanese modern literature, and is
interested in questions of identity, nationality, and colonialism. He studied
Japanese at the University of Leeds and completed an MA in Japanese Literature at
SOAS, University of London, before spending two years at Waseda University,
Tokyo, as a research student. He currently lives and works in the UK.
J. M. McBirnie is a poet and translator currently enrolled in the University of
Texas at El Paso's MFA Program in Bilingual Creative Writing. He received a
BA in Theology and Russian from the University of Notre Dame and studied at
the KORA Center for Russian Language in Vladimir, Russia.
Susan McLean is a professor of English at Southwest Minnesota State
University in Marshall, Minnesota, where she has taught since 1988. Her
translations from Latin, French, and German have appeared in Arion, The
Classical Outlook, Literary Imagination, Moreana, Blue Unicorn, and
elsewhere. Her translations of about 500 Latin poems by Martial, Selected
Epigrams, will be published by the University of Wisconsin Press. A collection
of her own poems, The Best Disguise, won the 2009 Richard Wilbur Award and
was published by the University of Evansville Press.
Philip Metres has written a number of books, including A Concordance of
Leaves (2013), abu ghraib arias (2011), Ode to Oil (2011), and To See the
Earth (Cleveland State 2008). His writing–which has appeared widely,
including in Best American Poetry–has garnered two NEA fellowships, the Thomas J.
Watson Fellowship, four Ohio Arts Council Grants, the Beatrice Hawley Award
(for the forthcoming Sand Opera), the Anne Halley Prize, the Arab American
Book Award, and the Cleveland Arts Prize. He is a professor of English at John
Carroll University in Cleveland.
Ghada Mourad is a PhD candidate in the department of Comparative Literature
and a Schaeffer fellow in literary translation at the International Center of
Writing and Translation at the University of California, Irvine. Ghada's translations
have appeared in the e-zine Jadaliyya, in A Gathering of the Tribes, in a
volume of essays and poetry titled Now that We have Tasted Hope: Voices from
the Arab Spring, published by McSweeney's, and in Shahadat, a project by
Leanne Ogasawara is a freelance Japanese translator and writer who lived in
Japan for twenty years. Her translation work includes academic translations for
publication in philosophy, documentary film translations, and strategy reports
for the Japanese government as well as literary translations. She is also a
contributing editor for the award-winning Japan-based literary magazine Kyoto
Journal, and has published in the Hong Kong arts magazine Arts of Asia. She is
currently completing a manuscript of new translations of Takamura Kōtarō’s Chieko
Poems, to be published by Word Palace Press.
John Perry was born in Britain and graduated from Cambridge with a PhD in
Arabic and Persian studies. In 1972 he boarded an Atlantic liner and emigrated
to America, where for the next thirty-five years he taught languages and
assorted literature and culture courses at the University of Chicago. His
publications include book-length translations from Arabic, Persian, and Tajik (and
some of his English-language books and articles have been published in
Persian, Kurdish, and Turkish versions). He likes to keep in touch with
European languages by translating humorous and satirical verse.
Dimitri Psurtsev, a Russian poet and translator of British and American
authors, teaches at Moscow State Linguistic University. His two books of
poetry, Ex Roma Tertia and Tengiz Notepad, were published in 2001. He lives
Randy Schwartz is a writer and educator based in Ann Arbor, MI. He was
raised in northern Virginia and is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the
University of Michigan. Travels and longer stays in France, Spain, Morocco, and
Tunisia have stimulated his writing and his translations from French and
Arabic. He has published poems in such publications as Blueline, The MacGuffin,
The Jerusalem Times, California Quarterly, and Edge, which nominated him
for a Pushcart Prize in 2011. Schwartz’s essay “Unity in Multiplicity: Lessons
from the Alhambra,” an argument for multiculturalism in higher education,
won the National Education Association’s “Democracy in Higher Education
Award” in 2000.
Claude Clayton Smith is professor emeritus of English at Ohio Northern
University. He is the author of seven books and co-editor/translator of an eighth. He
holds a BA from Wesleyan, an MAT from Yale, an MFA in fiction from the
Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa, and a DA from Carnegie Mellon. His
latest books are Ohio Outback: Learning to Love the Great Black Swamp (Kent
State University Press, 2010) and, with Alexander Vaschenko, The Way of
Kinship: An Anthology of Native Siberian Literature (University of Minnesota,
Born in the city of Hiroshima, Goro Takano (高野吾朗) is an assistant professor
in the Faculty of Medicine at Saga University, Japan, where he teaches English
and Japanese/Western literatures. He obtained his M.A. from the University of
Tokyo (American Literature), and his Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii at
Manoa (English/Creative Writing). His first novel, With One More Step Ahead,
was published in the US by BlazeVOX in 2009, and his first poetry collection,
titled Responsibilities of the Obsessed, was published in the US by BlazeVOX in
Levi Thompson studies Arabic literature at the University of California, Los
Angeles. He is currently exploring the development of modernism in Arabic.
His other academic interests include pre-modern Arabic and Persian literature,
translation, and literary criticism. Levi has a Masters in Arabic and Islamic
Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and was a 2010–2011 Fellow at the
Center for Arabic Study Abroad in Cairo.
Alexander Vaschenko was chair of comparative studies in literature and culture
at Moscow State University. He held doctorates from the Gorky Institute of
World Literature and Moscow State University. He was the author of America
Against America, Ethnic Literatures of the United States, Historical Epic
Folklore of the North American Indians, and The Judgement of Paris (all written in
Russian), and, with Claude Clayton Smith, co-editor/translator of The Way of
Kinship: An Anthology of Native Siberian Literature (University of Minnesota,
2010). He passed away in June 2013.
Rebekah Wilson is a freelance translator in Oxford, UK, and translates from
French, German and Dutch. She recently completed an MA in Literary
Translation at the University of East Anglia. In 2011–2012, she was chosen to
participate in the British Centre for Literary Translation’s Mentorship Programme
(Dutch to English), and was mentored by David Colmer. In 2011, she was
chosen to participate in the first Emerging Translators Programme run by New
Books in German.
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contact the editors.
ISSN (print): 973-2325-5072
ISSN (online): 2325-5099
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Department of World Languages and Literatures
College of Arts and Sciences