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Modern Poetry in Translation (Series 3 No.1) Introductions

Modern Poetry in Translation (Series 3 No.1) Introductions

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Contents include: Mahmoud Darwish: A State of Siege, translated by Sarah Maguire and Sabry Hafez; Boris Ryzhy, nine poems, translated by Sasha Dugdale; Giorgio Caproni, Ligurian Suite, translated by Robert Hahn.
Liam Ó Muirthile, five poems, translated by Bernard O’Donoghue.
Eunice Odio, Ode to the Hudson, translated by Keith Ekiss and Mauricio Espinoza. Luciano Erba, eleven poems, translated by Peter Robinson.
Philippe Jaccottet, from Green Notebook, translated by Helen and David Constantine.

Jorge Yglesias, two short essays and five poems, translated by Peter Bush.
Gerhard Falkner, seven poems, translated by Richard Dove.
The Traveller’– A Tribute to Michael Hamburger, by Charlie Louth.

Editorial by David and Helen Constantine.

Below is an extract from A State of Siege, by Mahmoud Darwish, translated by Sarah Maguire and Sabry Hafez

In a land preparing for its dawn,
in a while
the planets will sleep in the language of poetry.

In a while
we will bid this hard road farewell,
and ask: Where shall we begin?

In a while
we will warn the young mountain daffodils
their beauty will be eclipsed when our young women pass by.


I raise a glass
to those who share my vision
of a butterfly’s joyful iridescence
in this interminable tunnel of night.


I raise a glass
to the one who shares a glass with me
in the pitch black of this night,
a night so thick we’re both in the dark.
I raise a glass to my ghost.


Peace for the traveller on the other side
is to hear a traveller talking to himself.

Peace is the sound of a dove in flight
heard by two strangers standing together.


Peace is the longing of two enemies
to be left to themselves till they die of boredom.

Peace is two lovers
swimming in moonlight.


Peace is the apology of the strong
to the weak,
agreeing strength lies in vision.

Peace is the disarming of arms
before beauty —
iron turns to rust when left out in the dew.


Peace means a full and honest confession
of what was done to the ghost of the murdered.

Peace means returning to dig up the garden
to plan all the crops we will plant.


Peace is the anguish
in the music of Andalusia
weeping from the heart of a guitar.


Peace is an elegy said over a young man
whose heart’s been torn open
by neither bullet nor bomb,
but the beauty-spot of his beloved.


Peace sings of life —here, in the midst of life,
wind running free through fields ripe with wheat.

Ramallah, 2002.

A poem by Boris Ryzhy, translated by Sasha Dugdale

Best take the tram...

Best take the tram if you’re going back to the past
with its bell, the drunk bloke next to you,
the grimy school kid, the mad old girl,
and, of course, the poplar leaves drawn in its trail.
Five or six tramstops later
we ride into the nineteen-eighties –
factories to the left, works to the right,
no one cares, get out your fags, what’s wrong with you.
What’s that you’re mumbling, sceptical, something
like this is all lifted from Nabokov.
He was the barin’s son, you and I are the leftovers,
come on, smile, there are tears on your face.
This is our stop –
posters, banners, here and there,
blue sky, red neckties,
somebody’s funeral, musicians playing.
You play along to them on your whistle
and then float off to the beautiful sound,
leather jacket, hands in your pockets,
along that path of unending separation,
along that road of unending sadness
to the house where you were born, melting into sunset
solitude, sleep, the moulting of leaves,
come back as a dead soldier.

From ‘The Traveller: A Tribute to Michael Hamburger’, by Charlie Louth

Translation itself, obviously, derives from an impulse to connect, to join and extend outwards while at the same time gathering in. Hamburger’s translations and criticism can be seen as a sustained work of connection, bringing the elements of his life to bear on one another. Often, we can think of translation as a journey outward and back, an arc-like movement out to the foreign and back to somewhere close but not identical to the starting-point, a bringing home. In Michael Hamburger’s case, the journey is also an inward one, back to a language that was once his own and only one and is both familiar and foreign, recovering it into a language which however intimately mastered is not the one that was always there. Translation (from German into English) is thus a lot more complex than bringing something home, or going out to the other, it has an element of estrangement, and it inhabits a region where the native and the foreign cannot be distinguished.