On Translation With an Example

Elsewhere  I promised to discuss my philosophy of translations.    First and foremost, my goal has always been to produce a satisfactory poem in English that represents to the best of my ability the meanings, nuances and rhythms of the original poem.   If the original poem has an underlying rhyme scheme, I attempt to produce that as well.  A secondary, but very important factor, is my affinity for the poet him or herself.   I have, in my time, tried my hand at translating three important nineteenth century French poets – Mallarme, Rimbaud, and Baudelaire.  My Mallarme translations all remain unfinished; I have one satisfactory Rimbaud translation, which I may choose to share at some point.   Almost all my translations are of Charles Baudelaire, and I have begun to reflect on what my affinity for his work says about me.

Baudelaire’s imagery is overripe; mine sometimes verges on the nonexistent.   Baudelaire was frank about what he called his nostalgia for the gutter; I have tended to suppress and hide my scarier emotions.   As I begin to work with the techniques I have learned from my friend and business partner Cathy Wild , who specializes in helping writers and other artists to bring out their full creative powers, I have come to realize that I have ripeness inside me, and that my scarier emotions can be turned into art,   We shall see in the months to come.

Oh, yes, and here is another example from Les Fleurs du Mal:

A Little Chat

The sky is pink and clear – a perfect day,
But sadness sadness rises in me like a tide,
Which then flows out, and when it’s gone away,
–The stinging taste of bitterness inside.

You stroke in vain my swooning breast,
You search, sweet friend, for a hollow core,
Woman has sunk her claws into my chest,
My hear is eaten; search no more.

My heart’s a palace for crowds to wreck.
They drink and pillage, sack and kill.
–A perfume swims about your neck.

Oh, Beauty, scourge of souls, oh, work your will,
With your eyes of fire, shining like a torch.
The mob has left some scraps for you to scorch.

Story Poem 2 Perhaps Surprise Would Please Her More

I distinguished between story poems and autobiographical poems here.  The small sonnet that follows is from 1969.


Perhaps Surprise Would Please Her More

The house is old, and grey, and tall.
Her room is on the upper floor.
He starts to ring, but, after all,
Perhaps surprise would please her more.
His feet raise little clouds of dust,
As he ascends to where she lives.
That pleasant aching must be just
The satisfaction drama gives.

He starts to knock, but then, before,
He listens closely to the door.
Laughter. Voices unaware.
The crispy creaking of a bed.
Softly, he descends the stair,
And for a moment, turns his head.

Another Anti-War Poem

Some time ago, I blogged about the cinquain  and what I called the semicinquain.   This little verse, from 2003, is written in yet another variation of the cinquain, which might be called the hypercinquain, or cinquain on steroids.   The syllabic scheme is 2/2/4/6/8/2  as opposed to the cinquain, which is 2/4/6/8/2.   Dilemma is explained here.



Why, that’s
No choice
At All.  To choose
A war or Sadaam. Why,
Iraqis must be grateful for
Their choice.

Is at the bar,
On trial before the World.
Outside, a lynch mob menaces
Its folk.

They say:
We must destroy
Iraq in order that
A new Iraq be built, or so
They say.

I say:
No war
But for defense.
No blood without a cause.
Why can’t the cowboys hear us say:
No war!

Variation On a Children’s Poem

Some time ago, I wrote my first post on the concept of poetic variations.  The following is a variation on a famous children’s poem from two hundred years ago.

Variation on the Spider to the Fly

“Won’t you come into my parlor?”, said the spider to the fly.
“I have practiced misdirection, and on you I’d like to try
Seduction and Deception.  Oh, won’t you come in, my dear?”
“I’m the gentlest of deceivers, you have not a thing to fear.”

“I would have to be, Sir Spider, at the very lowest ebb
Of intelligence to step among the tangles of your web,
If I stepped into your parlor, I am sure that I would die.”
“Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it,” said the spider to the fly.



Poems inspired by Songs – 1 Little Alfy

In an earlier post (here), I said that I was going  to post, at some point,  some of the verses I wrote that were inspired by popular songwriters.  This first one (I think it’s obvious, but I’ll say it anyway) was inspired by the Beatles.

Little Alfy

Little Alfy, my boy, went down, don’t you know
To paint picture-shows in the sand.
Oh my.  Oh, my, my. Ain’t it grand, don’t you know
To paint picture-shows in the sand.

Little Alfy, my boy, went down, don’t you know
To paddle about and to play.
Oh my.  Oh, my, my. Ain’t it grand, don’t you know
To paddle about and to play.

Little Alfy, my boy, went down, in the sand, down to play.
Little Mary her picture to paint..
Oh my. Oh, my, my. Ain’t it grand, grand to play
To play about something you ain’t.

Little Alfy and Mary together did play
What a picture those sand dunes did see!
Oh my. Oh, my, my. Ain’t it grand, grand to play,
And paddle about in the sea.



My First Guest Post


It’s about Climate Change Politics..