Transference Vol. 5, Fall 2017
Transference Vol. 5, Fall 2017
Part of the Classical Literature
Comparative Literature Commons
East Asian Languages
Area Studies Commons
Modern Languages Commons
Modern Literature Commons
Near Eastern Languages
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ISSN (print): 973-2325-5072
ISSN (online): 2325-5099
© Transference 2017
Cover: “Mask” by John Running-Johnson (www.johnrunning-johnson.com; ) Globe image © Don Hammond/Design Pics/Corbis
An Annual Publication of the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Western Michigan University
Volume V 2017
Stopping the Boat Near Xiling Bridge
by Tan Yuanchun
Reciting Alone by Tan Yuanchun
Leaving Jiufeng Mountain by Night
by Tan Yuanchun
Roger Greenwald Poor Rutebeuf by Rutebeuf/Leo Ferré
William Ruleman Gina by Georg Heym
Steamers on the Havel by Georg Heym
I made my landing on an island where…
by Georg Heym
Both day and evening now began to seep
by Georg Heym
Carol Hayes and Rina Kikuchi Untitled Nonsense by Yoshihara Sachiko She by Yoshihara Sachiko Contradictions by Yoshihara Sachiko
Houssem Ben Lazreg In Jerusalem by Tamim Al-Barghouti
To Fabullus (Invitation) by Catullus
Notes on Contributors
“Because of all this,” writes Nina Youkhanna in her translation
of Suzanne Alaywan, “the rain creates—in the space between
one drop and the next—this colossal echo.”
To a certain extent, the notion of an echo in the space
between one drop of rain and the next can be seen as a
metaphorical representation of poetic translation in and of itself.
An echo depends entirely on the original sound, but it also
carries a certain distortion and mystery, both of which add to its
arresting appeal when our own call bounces back towards us
from a mountainside. It would be risky to push the metaphor
too far, but it is certainly true that poetic translation occurs in
a space between: a space between the original poem’s
meaning and language on the one hand, and the translator’s reading
of the poem paired with the linguistic toolbox afforded by the
target language on the other. In this sense, a collection of
translated poems can be said to resemble overlapping echoes created
by multiple voices, each of which is calling out from a distinct
point of perspective on the human experience.
The voices in this year’s issue speak of fragmentation,
loss, yearning, truth, spirituality, injustice, love and desire—
all serious subjects—but at the same time there are touches of
lightness and even humor. Ronsard abandons the repeated long
climbs up the palace stairs to see the object of his affections in
Ann Lauinger’s translation of “I’d mind less, if you only took
account”; in Gregory Divers’s translation of Yaak Karsunke’s
“mystery and crime,” we contemplate the pragmatics of stealing
a Ferris Wheel; and in Ranald Barnicot’s translation of
Catullus’s “To Fabullus (Invitation),” his guest is invited to bring his
This issue also includes some carefully distilled
reflections on the passing and ceasing of life and time, and in the last
stanza of William Ruleman’s translation of Georg Heym’s “Both
day and evening began to seep…,” we see a dreamlike vision of
And near and far now blended in one field, One wall or scene of equal radiance. The moon’s path spanned the ice’s wide expanse With muted gleam, as on an ancient shield.
Interestingly, this image of a muted gleam on an ancient
shield finds an echo in the observation that Ann Cefola makes in
her commentary about the enigmatic poetry of Hélène
Heightened by multiple individual voices, it is studded
with jewel-like imagery such as grains of sand or dust, a
bird’s beak, or snow falling on snow.
Each voice in this volume expresses its own particular
truth about the human condition, and some make
reverberations that harmonize in surprising ways with the others. We
hope that you enjoy the rich variety of sound, topic, and texture
that they offer.
Molly Lynde-Recchia, Editor-in-Chief
Excerpts from The Clutter of Words
Who has broken the moon’s lantern?
What rain is this that
Extinguishes the stars with its shoe?
Where is my window, O walls?
Who has made the willow cry on the shore of my soul?
And you, my hand,
Wherefrom did you get all this fearlessness?
2. Pdf page 9
a. Paragraph 2, line
b. Paragraph 3, line
Because the morning has lost its yearning.
Because I have outrun my desire 3. Pdf page 39
and emptied speech of all its clutter. Poem title:
Because I am without friends. Standing
My heart, a shadow rose.
My body, an absence tree.
Because ink is not blood.
Because my photographs do not resemble me 4. Pdf page 42
and the moon that hangs in the closet is not suitable to clothe Pmoyesmoult.itle:
Because I loved with a worthless sincerity The Ninth Floor Ag
and only when I was broken The Military Hospit
did I realize the magnitude of the tragedy.
Because this city reminds me
of a woman’s voice whose defeat I cannot forget.
Because God is singular and death is innumerable 5. Pdf page 44
And because we no longer exchange letters. a. Paragraph 1, line
Because of all this,
the rain creates—
in the space between one drop and the next—
this colossal echo.
b. Paragraph 1, line
(ﺔﺘﺴﻟا مﺎﯾﻷا ﺪﯿ
Clowns with their powders, without features.
Angels dead in the arcades.
The cafe of the past.
Cement squares and benches.
Music that leans towards the cry of the window.
A season of birds.
Disease. Hospital. Recurrent scenes of suffering every time.
Our bitter tears on the doorknobs.
A school uniform suspended by its shredded wings.
Prostitutes embracing their umbrellas
In the frost of dawn
on distant sidewalks.
Overcoat wet like a handkerchief.
The woman whose hair used to laugh with the willows
and with the stars.
Her unknown place is in a cemetery somewhere.
Tattered posters on the remnants of walls.
The desolate city.
With its wrecked houses
and its children charred in the refugee camps.
Water and metal—that impossible equation.
Rain: the hammer and the nails,
our shattered mirrors.
Arabic Script Corrections – Transfe
ing, she also paints and has previously published her artwork
i1n.,Padnfdpaasgpea7rt of, her poetry collections. She currently resides
iPnoBemeirtuittl.eS:he has a personal we2b.sPitdefwphaegree 9she publishes her
The three translated poems appear in her 2006
collectمiﻼoﻜnﻟاtﺐitlﯿeﻛdاﺮTﻛhe Clutter of Words (مﻼﻜﻟا ﺐﯿﻛاﺮﻛ ), which, appearing
as one long poem, consists of short segments. There are several
reoccurring images in the long pbo.emParthagartalpinhk3t,hleinseh3o:rter ones
t2o.gPedthfepr,agsuec9h as the heavy rain that provides the soundtrack
to Alaywan’s words.2:However, aknadraakseetbhe(ﺐtiﯿtﻛlاeﺮﻛi)n,dicates, this
a. Paragraph 2, line
collection is made up of words—scattered, incoherent,
reverberating, pregnant. They appear together in (often peculiar yet
organﺐicﯿ)ﻛاﺮsuﻛccession, and attempt to transmit profound
tions, unencumbered by syntax and grammatical regulations.
b. ParaPgerarhpahp3s, iltinise t3h:is “clutter”3t.hPadtfpproavgeed3t9he most difficult
to translate into English. The APraobeimc wtitolred: Alaywan employs,
kkaarraakkeeeebb (ﺐﯿﻛاﺮﻛ), refers to an aSrtraanydionfg old, worthlesفsﻮhﻗoﻮuﻟاsمeﺎﻘﻣ
items such as furniture—what is referred to in English as “junk.”
However, I have opted for “clutter” instead because, in its
implications of untidiness, it perfectly represents the chain of
p3o.ePtdicf ipmaaggee3s9that permeate thi4s. cPodllfecptaiogne.4A2laywan
emphasPiozeesmt htietlesi:multaneous power anPdoiemmptoittleen:ce of words, which,
mStuacnhdilnikge our feelingsف,cﻮaﻗﻮnﻟا bمﺎeﻘﻣcTohneveNyiendthinFlfooorrceAfuglaiwna:ys, yet
somehow remain ineffable.
The MilimtayryaHbiolistpyi,tatlo remain
I have attempted, to the best of
as true as possible to the text in my translation. Alaywan’s use
of free verse enables her to construct disarrayed verses
outs4i.dPedtfhepargesetr4i2ctions of rhyme and meter, and it was certainly
aPochemallteintlgee: to imitate that same 5st.rPudctfuprea gine E44nglish because it
oTfhteenNbiencthomFelososrtrAangagiena:nd unintae.llPigairbalger.aIpnhth1e,sliencea1se:s, I h aًادvﺪeﺠﻣ ﻊﺳﺎﺘﻟا
pTrhiveilMegielidtamryeHanoisnpgitoavler composition because, I believe, thatيiﺮsﻜﺴﻌﻟا ﻰﻔﺸ
the essence of Alaywan’s writing(.دﻼFﺒoﻟاrﺮeﻋxﺎaﺷm), ple, for the second
poem I separated the last three lines and add a final “Because of
b. Paragraph 1, line 6:
all this” in order to indicate to the reader that all the previous
“Because’s” were intended to lead to the final image of the rain
drops’ echo. Most of the punctuation was also added for the
purpose of rendering, as closely as possible, the flow of the
My immeasurable love for Arabic poetry proved at times
to be a frustrating obstacle in my search for the perfect
rendition of Alaywan’s bewitching words. Nevertheless, the process
was delightful in its own right because I had the support and
guidance of my inspiring sister Nahrin, and my father Atalla
whose love of poetry has nurtured my soul since birth.
Alaywan, Suzanne. The Clutter of Words. Beirut, 2006, pp. 3, 8-9, 18-19.
Four Sonnets from Ronsard
Pierre de Ronsard
Sonnets pour Hélène
Whoever reads me, fool for love or wise
Whoever reads me, fool for love or wise,
and sees my grizzled head ought not to wonder
I write of love. Old firewood that lies
half-burnt hides yet a spark in the gray cinder.
Green wood, blown on, is hardly coaxed to light;
with no coaxing, the dry will always burn.
The Moon was wooed and won with fleece of white;
her old Tithonus was not despised by Dawn.
Reader, I don’t aspire to Plato’s school
(to preach us virtue, but the practice shun)
nor to the lethal daring of the utter fool,
stubborn Icarus or clumsy Phaethon.
Yet without playing charioteer or high-flier,
I burn and drown myself in my own desire.
These long winter nights, when round its circuit II. 42
These long winter nights, when round its circuit,
the idle moon so slowly turns her car,
when the cock heralds break of day so late,
and to care-filled minds a night feels like a year,
I’d die of grief, but for your doubtful form,
which lightens my love’s burden through a cheat
and, settling wholly naked in my arms,
misleads me with a lying joy so sweet.
The real you is savage, proudly cruel.
In private, I enjoy the seeming you,
and, pleasured by your counterfeit in full,
I drowse at peace beside your shade. It’s true,
kind sleep’s deceit abuses my lover’s pain:
such loving self-abuse, I count as gain.
I do not wish my heart’s jailer dead
I do not wish my heart’s jailer dead.
However, Love, if only to avenge
the six years of my weeping, do this: change
her, seed thickly with snowy hairs that head.
If you wish it, vengeance is near at hand;
you shorten years, you can linger them out.
Don’t suffer her, in your own camp, to flout
your old brawler. Age her, heed my demand.
She glories in her curls, her youth’s fresh green,
the thousand darts she harbors in her keen
eyes that, glancing, launch them in every breast.
Helen, why do you pride yourself on something,
beauty, which is no more than wind, a nothing?
Beauty’s roses scarcely the day outlast.
I’d mind less, if you only took account
I’d mind less, if you only took account
of my pains, the stairs I count and re-count often,
the sum to the palace summit I must mount
to reach your rooms: Olympus was not so lofty!
At each visit, sweat courses down my face;
my pulse races; breathless, I puff and pant,
and all to hear your refusal, in a voice
full of disdain and cold pride—a torment.
Goddess-like, you’re throned in the most high;
I can’t ascend your heaven: I’m no god.
I’ll send my devout heart up to your sky,
lamenting as usual, but from the yard.
To Jove in heaven, that’s how we men pray,
keeping firmly on earth our feet of clay.
In translating Ronsard’s Sonnets pour Hélène I hoped not so
much to reproduce the exact structure and rhyme-scheme as to
capture the astonishing variety of tone Ronsard achieves even
in a single sonnet. This variety is all the more remarkable, since
Ronsard’s style in these sonnets is limpid and straightforward,
with lines that are syntactically simple and end-stopped more
often than not.
Ronsard’s sonnets are written in alexandrines and are
Petrarchan in form: an octave rhyming abba abba, a sestet
more freely organized around two or three new end-rhymes.
My translation substitutes iambic pentameter and the
familiar Shakespearean three quatrains and couplet—for
Englishlanguage readers the prototype of the love sonnet—and employs
occasional half-rhymes. Practically speaking, the stress patterns
of English make hexameter lines feel much heavier in English
than in French; and the relative poverty of rhymes in English,
compared to the romance languages, makes the Petrarchan
octave on only two rhymes more constraining in English.
However, I hope the half-rhymes I’ve used are not just an evasion
of constraint but help to recreate the nimble, even colloquial,
voice of Ronsard.
Whoever reads me, fool for love or wise
The story of how Pan seduced the Moon by luring her into the
woods with a white fleece (disguising himself as a ram?) is found
in Vergil’s Third Georgic:
Munere sic niveo lanae, si credere dignum est,
Pan deus Arcadiae captam te, Luna, fefellit,
In nemora alta vocans; nec tu aspernata vocantem. (391-3)
[Thus with a prize of snow-white wool, if the story is worth
believing, Pan, the god of Arcadia, tricked and caught you, Luna,
calling from the deep woods; nor did you spurn him when he
This witty and self-mocking sonnet is directly indebted to one
of the best-known of Ovid’s Amores, “Aestus erat, mediamque
dies exegerat horam” [ “It was hot, and deep mid-afternoon”] (I.
5), in which the speaker’s summer afternoon nap is
deliciously interrupted by the unexpected appearance of Corinna, and
all proceeds just as he could have wished it. Ronsard jokingly
reverses Ovid’s poem in several ways. Here, the setting is not
summer but winter, not day but night, and the speaker is
insomniac. Where Ovid’s poem balances beautifully our uncertainty as
to whether the experience was real, Ronsard clearly depicts an
erotic dream. The speaker falls for the fake Hélène, and so the
sonnet is self-mockery—or rather, mock self-mockery, since, as
Ovid everywhere maintains, fake is good. Lie to me, Ovid begs
(Amores I. 4 and III. 14), and he promises to collude in the lies
his lover will tell to cover up her infidelities. In this sonnet too,
Ronsard collaborates happily in his self-deceit and enjoys its
fruits. The play on the word “abuse” in the final couplet of the
translation renders the double-entendre of Ronsard’s last two
lines: “…abuse par le faux…/ S’abuser en amour…”). This
translation doesn’t fully capture the mimetic skill of Ronsard’s first
two lines, with their repetitions of sound and meaning creating
the slow passage of the night (“Ces longues nuicts d’hyver, où la
Lune ocieuse / Tourne si lentement son char tout à l’entour”).
I do not wish my heart's jailer dead
I have followed the envelope structure of Ronsard’s octave but
allowed myself four rhymes, not two.
“Your old brawler” (8) is an attempt to render the
pejorative sense of soudart: a career soldier—thus, a ruffian or
desperado, according to Renaissance popular opinion (an opinion
not without empirical basis at the time). Ovid’s Amores is the
source of the military metaphor for Cupid and the lover.
The trope of the stand-offish beloved getting her or his
comeuppance with age is familiar, most notably perhaps in
Horace’s Odes (see I. 25, IV. 10, IV. 13), and is often paired with the
exhortation to seize the day, as in the most famous of the
nets for Hélène, “Quand vous serez bien vieille” (II. 43). Here,
however, les roses are the sonnet’s final words; left unplucked,
they stand simply as an emblem of the brevity of mortal beauty
and a rebuke to vanity.
I'd mind less, if you only took account
A jokey sonnet, whose ironic wit targets both the lady and the
poet-lover. Hélène’s goddess-like elevation is actually a palace
apartment up many flights of stairs, and the poet’s ascent to her
hyperbolically Olympian abode is a catalog of his corporeal ills:
a fine romance!
The first two lines of the original (“…si tu contois ma
peine,/ De conter tes degrez recontez tant de fois”) pun
multiply on the repeated verb, which can mean to enumerate, to take
account of, and to recount or narrate; and at the root of which
lurks a bawdy pun. I’ve tried in the first three lines of the
translation to recreate Ronsard’s sound repetitions and
suggestiveness by additional repetitions and the exploitation of a different
pun, based on his sommet (summit) in line 3. The last two lines
of this sonnet are densely linked in the French by diction and
sound: “Ainsi les hommes font à Jupiter priere:/ Les hommes
sont en terre, et Jupiter aux cieux.” My free translation
eliminates the repeated phrases but adds “feet of clay” to convey the
mocking self-deprecation of the original.
N.B. French quotations above follow the source text I’ve used, in which some
words lack their modern accents: Ronsard, Pierre de. Oeuvres Complètes.
Edited by Gustave Cohen, vol. 1, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade-Editions
Gallimard, 1950, pp. 243, 259, 241, 268–69.
title of “Untitled Nonsense.” The original Japanese uses the
kanji term mu-dai (無題) which translates directly as "no-title,"
with the superscript furigana nansensu (ナンセンス) written
above the kanji. Because nansensu is a foreign loan word
coming from the English word “nonsense,” katakana script is used.
We aimed to capture these two layers in our translated title.
Another interesting title translation issue is in the poem,
“She.” In the original Japanese, the title of this poem is ano hito
(あのひと) which translates directly as “that person.”
However, this is a poem dedicated to her ailing mother, and the “that
person” is the poet’s mother. In Japanese, the expression ano
hito does not carry the same sense of distance as “that person”
in English. Thus, we have chosen to use “she” as it conveys a
more immediate and personal feeling which we feel the original
Yoshihara intentionally uses single or double spaces
between her words and phrases in the original poems, although
Japanese sentences do not usually include any such spaces. We
have used ten English spaces for each single Japanese space to
reflect this structure.
Finally, when we translate we often find ourselves
discussing the smaller grammatical elements in the original
Japanese and deciding whether or not to include them in the English,
as they sometimes add too much emphasis to a particular word,
over and beyond the original. For example, in “Contradictions,”
Yoshihara uses no ni (のに) which is a conjunction that
carries a number of meanings, such as “although,” “in spite of,” or
“regardless.” In this poem, we argue that the meaning is
“regardless” and not “although,” and that if we included it, the
translation of Line 4 in both stanzas would become, “Regardless
of the fact that I will soon go to my death.” This we feel is too
explanatory and places too much emphasis on the
interconnection between Lines 4 and 5. As a result we have chosen to
leave it to the reader to make that connection.
Translators’ Notes: She
Chasing rabbits: This is the beginning of the well-known Japanese song,
“Furusato” (ふるさ), which means “home country.”
–––. むじゅん ("Contradictions"). Yoshihara Sachiko Zenshi, vol. 3,
Shichosha, 2012, pp. 350–51.
Houssem Ben Lazreg
We passed by the home of the beloved
but the enemy’s laws and wall turned us away
I said to myself, “Maybe, that is a blessing”
What will you see in Jerusalem when you visit?
You will see all that you can’t stand
when her houses become visible from all sides
When meeting her beloved, not every soul rejoices
Nor does every absence harm
If they are delighted when meeting before departure
such joy cannot remain kindled
For once your eyes have seen Jerusalem
You will only see her, wherever you look.
In Jerusalem, a greengrocer from Georgia,
annoyed with his wife,
thinks of going on vacation or painting his house
In Jerusalem, a middle-aged man from Upper Manhattan
holds a Torah and teaches Polish boys its commandments
In Jerusalem, an Ethiopian policeman
seals off a street in the marketplace,
A machine gun hangs from the shoulder of a teenage settler,
A person wearing a yarmulke1
bows at the Wailing Wall,2
Blonde European tourists who don’t see Jerusalem at all
but spend most of the time taking pictures of each other
1 A skullcap worn in public by Orthodox Jewish men or during prayer by
other Jewish men.
2 A place of prayer and pilgrimage sacred to the Jewish people.
And History turned to me and smiled:
“Have you really thought that you would overlook them
and see others?
Here they are in front of you;
They are the text while you are the footnote and margin
O son, have you thought that your visit would remove, from the city’s face,
the thick veil of her present, so that you may see what you desire?
In Jerusalem, everyone is there but you.
Jerusalem is the wandering deer
As fate sentenced it to departure
You still chase her since she bid you farewell
O son, calm down for a while, I see that you began to faint”
In Jerusalem, everyone is there but you.
O historian, wait,
The city has two timelines:
One foreign, serene, with steady steps as if it is walking asleep
The other wears a mask and walks secretly with caution
And Jerusalem knows herself,
Ask the people there, everyone will guide you
Everything in the city
has a tongue which, when you ask, will reply
In Jerusalem, the crescent becomes more curved like an embryo
Bending towards other crescents over the domes
And over the years, their relation developed to be like a father to a son
In Jerusalem, the stones of the buildings are quoted from the Bible and the
In Jerusalem, beauty is octagonal and blue
On top of it, lies a golden dome3
that looks like, I think, a convex mirror
Reflecting the face of the heavens
Playing with it, drawing it near
Distributing the sky, like aid in a siege for those in need
If people appeal to God after Friday sermon
In Jerusalem, the sky is shared by everyone,
We protect it and it protects us
And we carry it on our shoulders
If time oppresses its moons.
In Jerusalem, the marble columns are dark
as though their veins were smoke
Windows, high in mosques and churches,
took dawn by hand, showing him how to paint with colors
He says, “like this”
but the windows reply, “no, like this”
And after long debate, they compromise
as the dawn is free when outside the threshold
But if he wants to enter through God’s Windows
He has to abide by their rules
In Jerusalem there’s a school built by a Mameluke4 who came from beyond
was sold at a slave market in Isfahan
3 The most famous Islamic site in Jerusalem is the Dome of the Rock
(Qubbat as-Sakhrah). A beautiful edifice, the Dome of the Rock can be seen from
all over Jerusalem.
4 A member of a military class, originally composed of slaves, that seized
control of the Egyptian sultanate in 1250, ruled until 1517, and remained
powerful until crushed by Egyptian ruler Muhammad Ali in 1811.
to a merchant from Baghdad, who traveled to Aleppo,
and gave the Mameluke to Aleppo’s Prince
Fearing the blueness in the Mameluke’s left eye,
the Prince gave him to a caravan heading for Egypt
where soon, he became the vanquisher of the Moguls and the Sovereign Sultan
In Jerusalem, contradictions get along, and wonders cannot be denied
People check them out like pieces of old and new fabric
and miracles there are tangible.
In Jerusalem, if you shake hands with an old man or touch a building
you will find, engraved on your palm, my friend, a poem or two
In Jerusalem, despite successive calamities
a breeze of innocence and childhood fills the air
And you can see doves fly high
announcing, between two shots, the birth of an independent state
In Jerusalem, the rows of graves
are the lines of the city’s history while the book is the soil
Everyone has passed through
For Jerusalem welcomes all visitors, whether disbelievers or believers
5 Khan el Zeit is the busiest, most colorful shopping street in the Old City of
Jerusalem. It has a popular market where spices, dried fruit, herbs, coffee,
and pastries are sold.
Walk through, and read the headstones in all languages
You will find the Africans, the Europeans, the Kipchaks, the Slavs, the Bosniaks,
the Tatars, the Turks, the believers, the disbelievers,
the poor and the rich, the hermits, and the miscreants
Here lie all sorts of people that ever walked the earth
They were the footnotes of the book, now they are the main text before us.
Is it just for us that the city has become too small?
Oh chronicler! What made you exclude us?
Re-write and think again, for I see that you made a grave mistake
Tamim Al-Barghouti is a famous Palestinian poet, columnist
and political scientist. He is one the most widely read poets in
the Arab World. In 2011, Barghouti won the prize “Prince of
Poets” in a TV competition. Tamim’s charisma, literary
virtuosity, and political engagement captured the imagination of a
wide Arab audience. He was a visiting professor of politics at
Georgetown University in Washington DC from 2008 till 2011,
and is currently a Consultant to the United Nations
Economic and Social Committee for West Asia. He has published six
poetry collections in both colloquial and classical Arabic,
AlManzar (The Scene), 2000, Maqam Iraq (The Iraqi Ode), 2005,
Fil Quds (In Jersualem), 2008, and Ya Masr Hanet (Oh Egypt,
It’s Close), 2012, and two academic books on Arab politics and
history (Benign Nationalism: Nation State Building Under
Occupation, the Case of Egypt; and The Umma and the Dawla:
The Nation State and the Arab Middle East).
This poem is a diary of Tamim’s last visit to the
occupied capital of his homeland. It is marked by a sad atmosphere
through the allusions to the occupation soldiers, the illegal
settlers, and the apartheid walls. It is a literary reportage from
Jerusalem, broadcasted according to what the poet’s eyes
witnessed. Nevertheless, the poem ends with a cheerful and
optimistic tone. Thematically, the first part of the poem provides a
realistic picture of Jerusalem, in which the poet highlights the
different segments of the occupation forces such as the
vegetable seller, the religious people, the Ethiopian policeman
(Flasha Jews), and the armed settlers. However, in that same city,
Muslims are prevented from praying in the Al-Aqsa Mosque,
so they pray on the ground. The poem moves to another theme
using wonderful rhetorical expressions and the poet
converses with the history that was written with an impartial stance.
This dialogue is characterized by a long description of
Jerusalem, in which the poet describes the multiple identity of the
city (Islamic, Christian and Jewish facets), and ends with an
inclusive portrayal of all the nations and peoples that settled
This poem posits some challenges when translating it to
English, notably on the stylistic and cultural level. On the
stylistic level, the poet uses a hybrid poetic style that mixes Arabic
classical prosody and free verse. In translating, I rendered the
whole poem in free verse for two reasons: on the one hand, I
would like to put the emphasis on the narrative aspect of the
poem and the main theme (the visit to Jerusalem). On the other
hand, I found it extremely challenging to preserve the rhymes of
the source text as this poem is meant to be performed.
On the cultural level, there are many references that are
culture-specific, such as the yarmulke, the Wailing Wall, the
Golden Dome, Mameluke, and Khan El Zeit. I added footnotes
that would help a non-Arab audience to grasp the meaning and
connotation of these references. Some of them are religious and
are linked to the Jewish tradition (the yarmulke and the
Wailing Wall), others are Islamic such as the Golden Dome.
Mameluke, as a historical reference, means literally slave soldier, a
member of one of the armies of slaves that controlled politically
and militarily several Muslim states during the middle Ages.
Under the Ayyubid sultanate, Mameluke generals used their
power to establish a dynasty that ruled Egypt and Syria from
1250 to 1517. They managed to win the Battle of Ain Jalut, thus
preventing the Mongols from occupying more lands.
Overall, my translation is marked by both processes of
domestication on the stylistic level, and foreignization on the
The source text may be found at: http://www.adab.com/modules.php?nam
Fabullus, you’ll dine well within a
Week chez moi, gods willing,
But make sure you bring a dinner
Ample, tasty, filling.
Also you’ll need to contribute
Laughs (the lot!), salt wit and wine,
A girl – mind! – radiantly cute.
Bring these, my charmer, and you’ll dine
Well, I say, because yours truly
Has a purse that’s cobweb-packed,
But you’ll be requited duly:
Pure love’s my part in this compact,
Or what’s even more becoming:
For I’ll present you with a perfume
Of a power suave and cunning,
My sweet girl’s gift from love-gods, whom
(Venuses, Cupids, such as those)
You’ll petition to metamorphose
You into nothing else but nose.
According to St Jerome (mid fourth century to early fifth
century CE) Gaius Valerius Catullus was born in Verona in 87 BCE
and died at the age of 30 in 58–7 BCE. However, given internal
evidence in the poems, this end-date cannot be right, so many
scholars have brought the birth-year forward by three years and
made it 84 BCE. At any rate, it is the tradition that Catullus
died as a relatively young man. His father appears to have been
on friendly terms with Julius Caesar, whom, however, Catullus
was to lampoon in a number of poems, together with Pompey
and their associates. Plutarch tells us that they were reconciled
just before Catullus’s death, and this is borne out by Catullus’s
reference to Caesar’s conquests in Poem XI.
Catullus was a poet of great wit, power and range (both
in theme and in meter). He wrote poems celebrating friendship,
mourning his brother, attacking enemies quite viciously and
scabrously, recounting Greek legends and expressing his love,
at first tender, later bitter and tormented, for his faithless lover,
Lesbia, who was probably—though this also is disputed—Clodia
Metelli, the wife and later widow of the soldier and politician
Poem XIII is both an expression of warm, relaxed,
lighthearted affection for a friend, and also, it seems, a love-poem to
Lesbia, who is not mentioned by name. Another attractive
feature is the poet’s ability to laugh at himself (whether we should
accept his protestations of penury at face value has been
debated). The verse is also elegant and with its several slick elisions
—the slurring of final syllables of words that end with a vowel
or an –m before a following word that begins with a vowel—
moves quickly and smoothly towards its conclusion. One has to
be careful with this conclusion. Catullus’s invitation to Fabullus
to imagine himself as nothing but a huge nose may come across
as comic and grotesque—see below for the possible sexual
interpretation—but I also tried to convey the lyricism. (Also, here’s a
slight departure from the original. In this Fabullus will make his
prayer to the gods in general; in my version he prays to the
lovegods who had donated the perfume, although that was no doubt
the implication Catullus intended.) Moreover, please note that
“Venuses and Cupids” are to be conceived as a plurality of
spirits, emanations from those two deities. There are parallels in
some of his other poems such as III and LXXXVIII.
Latin verse is based on quantity (length of syllable) rather
than syllable-stress as in English. The verse form in the original
is the hendecasyllable, which employs a combination of trochees
(long – short), spondees (long – long), with the second foot being
a dactyl (long – short – short). To use the same meter in
English seemed unnatural and ineffective, so I decided to use short
rhyming lines (four quatrains with a concluding tercet),
stressbased, rather traditional in style but I hope not archaic. The
meters I use are a combination of iambic and trochaic, with two
or three dactyls (depending on how line 17 is analysed) thrown in.
The number of feet per line varies between three and four. Some
lines are catalectic, i.e. with an extra syllable tagged on to the end.
This approach may strike some as technical inconsistency, even
ineptitude, but I feel it lends my verse a certain
unpredictability, which I find attractive. Anyway, in a world drowning in free
verse, why should one worry about some slight metrical
inconsistency, which at least offsets the rigidity of the rhyme scheme?
This is as follows: ABAB CDCD EFEF GHGH III. It
should, hopefully, read like an extended Shakespearian sonnet,
though with shorter lines. I like the concluding three rhymes,
though some might find them clunky. It is all a matter of ear.
Line 18 was inserted to make clear which gods were to be
petitioned (see above). “Contribute,” ending line 5, may, according
to the dictionary, receive its main stress either on the
penultimate or ante-penultimate syllable. The latter, with a secondary
stress on the final syllable, gives a smoother rhyme with “cute,”
and that’s what I intended.
As to the structure and interpretation of Catullus XIII,
Helm (1981) finds it an example of humour para prosdokian
(Greek), or “contrary to expectation.” There are three jokes:
Catullus invites Fabullus to dinner ... but Fabullus must provide
the dinner; Catullus’s purse is full ... of cobwebs; the exquisite
perfume that Lesbia will provide will, if Fabullus’s prayers are
granted, turn him into ... a huge nose!
Is this invitation poem really a bona fide invitation or
just a parody of a common classical sub-genre? Many scholars
are confident in proposing the latter, e.g.:
“It can be seen that the poem is only nominally addressed
to Fabullus; in reality its central purpose is to compliment
Lesbia” (Vessey, 1971).
I am not so sure of this. The affectionate tone (and in
many poems Catullus shows great affection to his friends)
half-persuades me that Catullus is truly addressing him. The
situation described is also not that far-fetched. As a modern
analogy, I can imagine the modern equivalent of one friend
inviting another round for a meal providing he/she stops off at
a Chinese takeaway on the way. It happens!
Next, I want to deal with the “revisionist” (term employed
by Witke, 1980) sexual interpretation of this poem. Is the nose
in fact a penis? Martin (1992) suggests this:
“That transformation is explicitly an erotic one; part of
the reason why the poem is so funny is that we recognize in the
concentration of Fabullus’s sensuality into a single, enlarged
organ, an erection of the nose.”
Going along with this interpretation, if we may, for the
time being, what excites the erection? Here is Littman’s (1977)
“I suggest that ‘unguentum’ refers to Lesbia’s vaginal
secretions which sexual excitement causes to flow.”
“The air of innocence now fades, and the poem becomes
concrete, earthy and sensual, like many of Catullus’s other poems.”
“Whether or not the invitation to dinner is real, Catullus
offers Fabullus Lesbia’s genitals to smell. This suggests that
since Catullus offers her genitals, he offers the girl, ....”
I find it quite easy to accept the association of nose
with penis; it occurs in many cultures. Did Catullus intend it?
Certainly, it may account for the discomfort we may feel, and
Fabullus may have felt, although to be turned into a nose would
in itself be sufficiently grotesque! It is, I think, a deniable
interpretation. If questioned, Catullus might have said in response:
“Oh, I just meant a nose, nothing else!” Nevertheless, whether
we are Freudian or not, sex is a place our minds often go, and
Catullus was clearly a highly-sexed young man.
With regard to Littman’s thesis, it seems much less
plausible. Witke advances several arguments against it. The most
cogent of them is psychological: given the extremely jealous
and possessive attitude Catullus shows towards Lesbia in other
poems, Catullus is unlikely to have “offered” her to any of his
friends. Another is cultural: the Romans found bodily effusions
and secretions disgusting. Nevertheless, his mind may have
gone there, whether as writer or as reader of his own poems. My
use of the adjective “cunning” to describe the perfume’s power
to insinuate itself insidiously into the brain may also have
subconsciously reflected this association even before I had read of
it. Think of the archaic obscenity “cunny” or the modern one
that has replaced it.
However, I do not wish to foist this rather Freudian
reading onto you without mentioning that there are other
interpretations. For example, Vessey (1977) proposes that the
unguentum is both a physical perfume-ointment, a
conventional contribution to Roman dinner-parties, and the ointment
of Aphrodite, which confers kallos (beauty). Quinn (1973) says
something similar, quoting Propertius 2.29.15–18:
“a reference to the idea that a lovely woman, like a
goddess, emitted a special characteristic fragrance, which was her
In all events, the reader must beware of claiming to know
Catullus’s mind. It is to some extent a mystery to us, as it may
have been to him. It is quite possible that the poem is
susceptible to different interpretations, equally valid if apparently
contradictory. Catullus has loosed the perfume and the nose onto
the world, and their significance is now beyond his control!
Finally, let me express my own attitude to poetic
translation as applied to this poem. Of course, the translator needs to
engage with the original and wrestle meaning from the source
poet’s words and phrases. But I think that there is a margin,
narrow or broad, within which the translator can operate and
express his or her creativity. This accounts for my deliberate
mistranslation of paucis ... diebus (in a few days) as “within a
/ week,” which maintains the alliterated w’s and is not too far
from the original. Also, the greater length of my translation, 19
lines as against 14. This is due partly to the looser structure of
English compared to the highly compressed Latin, and partly to
a certain joie de vivre, if I may say so, which reflects Catullus’s
The relationship between translator and source poet is
like that between dog and owner, out for a walk together: at
times, the dog will pad along at the owner’s side; at other times,
it will be off exploring on its own account until the owner calls it
or pulls on the leash. This tension is in itself creative. The worst
mistranslation is the one which may be faithful to the original
but is bald, prosy and boring.
Quinn, Kenneth. Catullus: The Poems. Edited with Introduction, Revised
Text and Commentary. 2nd ed., Saint Martin's Press, Macmillan Education
Ltd. 1973, text of Catullus XIII p. 9, commentary on XIII p. 135.
Helm, James J. “Poetic Structure and Humor: Catullus 13.” The Classical
World 74. No. 4. Dec 1980 – Jan 1981, pp. 213–17. http://www.
Littman, Robert J. “The Unguent of Venus: Catullus 13.” Latomus, T. 36,
Fasc.1 JANVIER – MARS 1977, Societé d’Études Latines de Bruxelles,
pp. 123–28, http://www.jstor.org./stable/41530251
Martin, Charles. Catullus. Hermes Books, Yale University Press, 1992, p. 135.
Vessey, D.W.T.C. “Thoughts on Two Poems by Catullus: 13 and 30.
Latomus, T.30.” Fasc.1 JANVIER – MARS 1971, Societé d’Études Latines de
Bruxelles, pp. 45–55. http://www.jstor.org./stable/41527854
Witke, Charles. “Catullus 13: A reexamination.” Classical Philology, vol. 75,
no. 4, 1980, pp. 325–31. http://www.journals.chicago.uchicago.edu
Ranald Barnicot lives in Watford, near London, England. He
has a B.A. in Classics from Balliol College, Oxford University, and
an M.A. in Applied Linguistics from Birkbeck College, London.
He retired from a career as EFL/ESL teacher a year ago. He had
worked in Spain, Portugal, Italy and the UK. He has published,
or is due to publish in the near future, translations from Latin
(Catullus, Horace), French (Verlaine, Mallarmé) and Portuguese
(Soror Violante do Céu), together with original poems, in the
following journals: Priapus, Acumen, Brooklyn Rail In Translation,
The Rotary Dial, Sentinel, Ezra, Metamorphoses, The French
Literary Review, Poetry Salzburg and Stand. Apart from the
three languages mentioned above, he has also translated from
the following: Ancient Greek, Spanish and Italian.
In addition to Hence this cradle (Seismicity Editions, 2007),
Ann Cefola’s translations of Hélène Sanguinetti’s work have
appeared in journals such as eleven eleven, Exchanges, and
Inventory. She has won a Witter Bynner Poetry Translation
Residency and the Robert Penn Warren Award judged by John
Ashbery. Her latest work is Free Ferry (Upper Hand Press,
2017). For more on Ann, visit www.anncefola.com.
Gregory Divers is Professor Emeritus of German at Saint
Patrick Donnelly is the author of four books of poetry: The
Charge (Ausable Press, 2003, since 2009 part of Copper
Canyon Press), Nocturnes of the Brothel of Ruin (Four Way Books,
2012), a 2013 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, Jesus
Said (a chapbook from Orison Books, 2017), and Little-Known
Operas, forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2019. He is
director of the Poetry Seminar at The Frost Place, Robert Frost’s
old homestead in Franconia, NH, now a center for poetry and
the arts. He is also a current associate editor of Poetry
International, and teaches at Smith College. His poetry has appeared
or is forthcoming in many journals, including The Kenyon
Review Online, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The
Yale Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. His awards
include a U.S./Japan Creative Artists Program Award, an Artist
Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the
Margaret Bridgman Fellowship in Poetry from the Bread Loaf
Writers’ Conference, and a 2018 Amy Clampitt Residency Award.
Hager Ben Driss is Assistant Professor at the University of
Tunis. She teaches Anglophone literature and her research
addresses mainly gender and postcolonial studies. She is
director of the research group Gender Studies (Laboratory of
Philosophy, University of Tunis). She has published several articles on
Tunisian and Arab literature as well as Anglophone literature.
She is keen on working on the work of the late Tunisian poet
Sghaier Ouled Ahmed and has published an article on his life
and work in The Literary Encyclopedia. Ben Driss is the editor
of Knowledge: Trans/Formations (Sahar, 2013) and Women,
Violence, and Resistance (Arabesque, 2017).
Roger Greenwald attended The City College of New York
and the Poetry Project workshop at St. Mark’s Church
In-theBowery, then completed graduate degrees at the University of
Toronto. He has won two CBC (Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation) Literary Awards (poetry and travel literature) and has
published two books of poems: Connecting Flight and Slow
Mountain Train. He has collaborated on translations from
French and Italian, but most of his solo translations have been
of Scandinavian poetry. North in the World: Selected Poems
of Rolf Jacobsen won the Lewis Galantière Award (American
Translators Association); Through Naked Branches: Selected
Poems of Tarjei Vesaas was a finalist for the PEN Award for
Poetry in Translation; and Guarding the Air: Selected Poems of
Gunnar Harding won the Harold Morton Landon Translation
Award (Academy of American Poets). He has also translated the
novel A Story about Mr. Silberstein, by the well-known actor
and writer Erland Josephson.
Andrew Gudgel received a B.A. in Chinese from The Ohio
State University and an M.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s
College, Annapolis. He spent a decade-plus working for the U.S.
government, mostly in U.S. embassies overseas, before
becoming a freelance writer and translator. He is currently a graduate
student at Johns Hopkins University.
Carol Hayes is an ANU Distinguished Educator and an
Associate Professor in Japanese language and Japanese studies and
Associate Dean of Student Experience in the College of Asia and
the Pacific at the Australian National University, Australia. She
has a Ph.D. in modern Japanese literature from the University of
Sydney. Her research focuses on modern and contemporary
Japanese cultural studies, literature and film. Her current research
focuses on Japanese women’s poetry, poetry of pilgrimage and
Japan/Australia cultural relations over the last 100 years.
Rina Kikuchi is an associate professor at Shiga University,
Japan. She has a Ph.D. in contemporary Irish poetry from
Chiba University, for which her study included a year of research at
Trinity College, Dublin. At present, she is a visiting fellow at the
Australian National University and University of Canberra,
undertaking her research on modern and contemporary Japanese
women’s poetry. Her bilingual anthology, Poet to Poet:
Contemporary Women Poets from Japan was published in September
2017 by Recent Work Press (co-edited with poet Jen Crawford).
She hosted a bilingual poetry reading at Poe
try on the Move
in Canberra with a focus on Japanese women poets.
Ann Lauinger’s two books of poetry are Against Butterflies
(Little Red Tree Publishing, 2013) and Persuasions of Fall
(University of Utah Press, 2004), winner of the Agha Shahid
Ali Prize in Poetry. Her poems have appeared in anthologies, in
journals including Angle, The Cumberland River Review, The
Georgia Review, Parnassus, and The Southern Poetry Review,
and on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. A member of the
literature faculty at Sarah Lawrence College and of the Slapering Hol
Press Advisory Committee, she lives in Ossining, NY.
Houssem Ben Lazreg is currently a Ph.D. candidate, a
translator, and a teaching assistant of French in the Department
of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University
of Alberta in Canada. He was a Fulbright Foreign Language
Teaching Assistant of Arabic at Michigan State University from
2010–2011. He holds a Master of TESOL (Teaching English
to Speakers of Other Languages) from Nazareth College of
Rochester. He has also taught Arabic and French at different
American institutions such as West Virginia University and
Indiana University in Bloomington. His latest publication is
the English translation of two poems by the famous
Tunisian poet Mohamed Sghaïer Ouled Ahmed. His research
interests include politics and translation, Middle Eastern graphic
novels, and Islamist militant movements.
Stephen D. Miller, associate professor of Japanese language
and literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is
author of The Wind from Vulture Peak: The Buddhification of
Japanese Waka in the Heian Period (Cornell East Asia Series,
2013), which includes co-translations of Japanese Buddhist
poems with Patrick Donnelly. The Vulture Peak translations
were awarded the 2015-2016 Japan-U.S. Friendship
Commission Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature, from the
Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia
University. Miller is translator of A Pilgrim’s Guide to Forty-Six
Temples (Weatherhill Inc., 1990), and editor of Partings at
Dawn: An Anthology of Japanese Gay Literature (Gay
Sunshine Press, 1996). Miller lived in Japan for nine years between
1980 and 1999, in part as the recipient of two Japan Foundation
fellowships for research abroad.
William Ruleman is Professor of English at Tennessee
Wesleyan University. His most recent books include his translations of
Hermann Hesse’s Early Poems (Cedar Springs Books, 2017) and
of Stefan Zweig’s unfinished novel Clarissa (Ariadne Press, 2017).
Nina Youkhanna is an independent scholar who recently
acquired her M.A. from the Centre for Comparative Literature
at the University of Toronto. She is a novice translator and a
longtime lover of modern and post-modern Arabic poetry. Her
academic interests are largely focused on Syrian theatre,
particularly the satirical plays of Mohammad al-Maghut. She hopes
to continue her academic career by pursuing a Ph.D. in the near
future. This is her first published poetic translation.
© Transference 2017
Cover: “Mask” by John Running-Johnson (www.johnrunning-johnson.com; ) Globe image © Don Hammond/Design Pics/Corbis
Department of World Languages and Literatures
College of Arts and Sciences
Western Michigan University
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