05 August 2013

our lost jungle poetry form challenge: challenge #1 - loose translations

Welcome to the first challenge of the 2013 OLJ Poetry Form Challenge! As stated in the introductory post, this year’s challenge is all about stepping out of comfort zones and learning to play with poetry. Good luck with these fun and funky forms! (For more on what the OLJ Poetry Form Challenge is all about, check out this post.)
The OLJ Poetry Form Challenge #1: Loose Translations

challenge 1: loose translations

Today’s challenge is to do a “loose translation” of a poem in a foreign language.

A “loose translation” poem is simply a “form” designed to help poets liberate their minds from the need for logic or sense. So often, we as poets never let our work travel from our heads to the page simply because we spend too much time “thinking it through.” We think we have to find the perfect word, the perfect lines, the perfect stanzas, before we can commit anything to writing. The fact of the matter is, so much of the work of poetry is really about serendipity: letting words guide you rather than you trying to guide the words. The loose translation form asks us to forget form, forget sense, and just let our “sixth sense”—that part of us that is drawn to particular sounds, and our instinct for play—take over.

To write a loose translation poem takes so much pressure off, because the initial form of the poem is already set for us. We don’t have to worry about lines or finding the perfect word because the line structures and original words are already there … even if we don’t understand them.

jump in

Today, track down a poem in a foreign language—try to pick one that you don't know and have never studied—and translate it based on what you “see” in the foreign words and sounds. (Also try to avoid languages that might “feel” familiar despite the fact you’ve never studied it; i.e. if you’re familiar with Spanish, avoid Italian poems, too.) If you want to really have fun, translate a poem from Arabic or Armenian or Japanese (languages with characters that bear little resemblance to our familiar letters). Don’t think too hard about what you’re writing; just look at what’s on the page and jot down the first things that come to mind. The line “Icin I” might become “ice in eyes” or “icing, eyes” or “I sing myself” or “icing myself” or “I sin, I…” etc.

You can find a ton of poems to loose-translate at http://www.poetrytranslation.org/. Have fun, and don’t forget to share your efforts in the comments below (or email them to ourlostjungle@kharahouse.com); remember, each week there will be a “challenge winner” (or winners!) whose poem(s) will appear in a special post on Fridays!

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33 comments:

  1. Original by Yao Feng

    我的身後,總跟著一個陰影
    包裹著我的檔案
    我不知道誰在填寫我的檔案
    也不知道寫了些什麼
    從我搖擺不定的前程推測
    我在檔案中是一個病句
    被蒙面人反復修改
    直到我向陰影開了一槍

    My translation:

    “Little Bird”

    We built our home to comfort our little birds.
    A trellis of poems to drink with our tea
    Bread rises in the oven A pond awaits your
    warm limbs Sunfish to nibble your toes.
    Hum sweet child when I wake you in the early hours
    One delight after another is just outside your window
    Take your sisters to the market Buy a silk cloth
    Joy is waiting for you My little bird.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooooo. "A trellis of poems to drink with our tea"
      SO beautiful. Pour me in, please.

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    2. I've read this over and over loving the words and images!

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  2. Mine is here:
    http://whimsygizmo.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/chai-your-joy/

    Love these. Thanks, Khara. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I used a poor format before, so am reposting.


    Viajantes, by Conceição Lima

    Traziam poentes e estradas
    A sede do horizonte os chamava.

    - A quem pertences tu?
    Quem são os da tua casa?

    Assim estendia nossa avó
    A caneca de água ao viajante.

    (http://www.poetrytranslation.org/poems/330/Travellers for English translation)

    Offering

    Traces of potent promises
    Seeds of champing possibility

    You pretend it doesn’t matter?
    You say now it’s too late?

    I extend my hand, my heart
    Meet me halfway, take a chance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh neat!! I chose the same one! I love your translation!

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    2. I like how you present your offering in words first and then in gestures.

      Delete
  4. Link didn't work, so here's the poor thing

    Look at Aunt Juanita 1938

    Look at Auntie (digging) giving up knees and city ass
    jawing, long, untamed cunning jive talk
    foolishness, man-you-bunnykins palaver
    palaver might young auntie men put back
    put low far away
    palaver hid up young auntie me regret
    her recent passing and how
    she joked about chameleon leprechauns
    goggle-eyed in the photobooth
    put this sappy look on tacky wearing young
    the girl-next door, put on allure that shouted
    Look at Auntie giving up (digging) the sappy right here
    a young comealong bare-kneed
    disappeared doll memory gone

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am sooo outta my league here at OLJ BUT I am learning from you amazing poets! Thank you for allowing me to play along with you. Here is my offering after seeing how a loose translation really works.

    Violence

    Tries... I am pointing at efforts
    I seize the horizon of chance

    requiem of pretenses?
    funeral song of the two sides?

    Ask him if tender nostrum aid
    arcane echoes of argue and violence.

    Viajantes, by Conceição Lima

    Traziam poentes e estradas
    A sede do horizonte os chamava.

    - A quem pertences tu?
    Quem são os da tua casa?

    Assim estendia nossa avó
    A caneca de água ao viajante.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Debi! There's no such thing as "out of your league," especially with this challenge ... just as there's no right or wrong way of doing a loose translation! Some folks "translate" word for word, some by what they see, some by how the original language text makes them feel ... Some latch on to one thing that seems familiar in the foreign tongue and "translate" that familiarity! :)

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  6. This sounds fun! Thank you for the inspiration once again, Khara!!
    xo

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  7. Hi!! I'm a day late...need to adjust my notifications so that I get you instantly!

    Thank you for the challenge...it was definitely mind stretching! :)

    http://wordrustling.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/via-jauntlets/

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    Replies
    1. I like the poem we chose also. It was perfect for this challenge which is new to me. It's so cool to see how the words triggered such different responses. Very nice work, Hannah.

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  8. Great translations so far, everyone! Remember: There's no right or wrong way to do this, just follow your gut! As the challenge goes on, some forms will be a little more structured, but that doesn't mean you'll have to adhere to their every rule and structural guideline to do it right. Just do it write ... your write, your rules! Cheers!

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  9. This was so much fun! I have made up my own rules as I tried to translate the thought that came as a result of reading his lines. jacquelinecaseypoetry.com/2013/08/08

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  10. Gave my thoughts on the exercise in the blog post. Thanks, Khara!

    http://mapoetpoems.blogspot.com/2013/08/loose-translations.html

    ReplyDelete
  11. Okay, I am not going to lie. I found this amazingly difficult. I wanted to think of words that were very closely related in English and probably over-analyzed the whole thing more than I should have. BUT... I did it, and I don't even care if it stinks because I completed the task.

    Here is the original poem.

    La figlia delle cavallette by Ribka Sibhatu

    Cavallette, cielo oscurato,
    terra flagellata. Una madre
    si affanna sul letto.
    Un tetro mese settembre,
    mancano verde e verdure!

    «Ileleleleleleleleleleleleleil...!
    Ileleleleleleleleleleleleleil...!
    Ileleleleleleleleleleleleleil...!»

    Appena arrivata al mondo
    cominciò col suo pianto!

    Liberata dalla sofferenza,
    si cominciò la ricerca del latte
    bussando le varie porte.

    Bestiame stecchito e senza latte,
    come calmare l'ospite?
    Come dissetare la partoriente?
    Se non fossero clementi le caprette!

    In quel momento desolato
    divorò il latte appena munto
    e riprese il suo pianto.

    «La buffa piange ancora?!»

    «Sì quella bozzai,
    come se mancassero altri guai!».
    «Povera cocca mia...sboccia
    al caos e alla carestia!»


    Here is my (fake) "translation".

    Mrs. Cavellette Speaks

    Mrs. Cavellette plays the cello,
    bow oscillating on strings, terribly hard, flagitious,
    a mad chainsaw. The nurses let her screech
    emotions, affrettando, since September
    when her ability to verbalize words slipped away.

    Ieeeeeekeeeeeeeieeeek!
    Ieeeeeekeeeeeeeieeeek!
    Ieeeeeekeeeeeeeieeeek!
     
    This appalling audial communication, commencing
    for only a few minutes, lets screams form,
     
    helps dull suffering, liberates her sorrow.
    She then reaches for her morning latte,
    nibbles on the variety of breakfast cakes,
     
    pours a second cup of latte which she places
    to the right of hers, despite the fact she knows
    he is no longer there to drink it, no longer
     
    there to wake her with the sweet song of slow,
    sliding movements on his cello, the musical
    morning kiss that made her want to rise each day.



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OMG! Linda, I ADORE this!!! Seriously! "Mad chainsaw." Brilliant!

      Delete
    2. Thank you, Hat. The similarity between the Italian words and English guided me through it. I probably never would have written this piece, never even had this story idea. I always find it interested how prompts take you beyond your own creative mind and throw you into another artistic dimension.

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    3. can I make a change to stanza three? I wanted to add two words so it reads "lets screams form and escape".

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    4. I am thinking of retitling this Mrs. Cavelletti's Morning Routine. What do you think? Is that better? Or not?

      Delete
  12. Here is another. This time around it was much easier. I am not sure if that is because I used a shorter poem or if I've just got the hang of it now.

    Viajantes, by Conceição Lima

    Traziam poentes e estradas
    A sede do horizonte os chamava.

    - A quem pertences tu?
    Quem são os da tua casa?

    Assim estendia nossa avó
    A caneca de água ao viajante.


    Trapeze artist extraordinaire, poised
    on a string of horizontal challenge,
    how can you perform on the equator
    separating earth and the after-life
    without extending a net below you?
    Be agile. You walk not across a viaduct.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the link for the original poem is here:

      (http://www.poetrytranslation.org/poems/330/Travellers for English translation)

      Delete
    2. Linda, I like both your poems but the first one is heart-breakingly lovely. Wonderful "translations".

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  13. Oh boy - some great poems here - Hat loved the Mrs in her own write... Will be back later to post and comment :). THANKS KHARA GREAT FUN

    ReplyDelete
  14. Do Polski
    צו ּפוילן
    א
    דו עלטערע שוועסטער ֿפון הײמערד ֿפון מַײנער!
    עס ווָאגלט אויף ס'נַײ דַײן ֿפַארבענקטער ציגַײנער.
    אויף ס'נַײ איבער דַײנע ֿפַארלָאשענע וועגן
    און זוך דעם גערוך ֿפון געוועזענעם רעגן.
    די ֿפַארבן ֿפַארקלעּפט און ֿפַארלעבט אין מַײן חלום,
    דַײן הימל, ווָאס איך הָאב געטרונקען ַא מָאל אים
    צוזַאמען מיט ֿפײגל-געזַאנג און לעגענדע.
    אין ּפוילן איך זוך דיך. נָאר ווָאס איז געשען דָא?
    דו ענטֿפערסט מיר ניט אויף דַײן שּפרַאך, ווָאס געזויגן
    הָאב איך ווי דעם בליַאסק ֿפון בַאֿפליגלטע אויגן
    אין ערשטן ֿפַארליבשַאֿפט. מיצקעוויטשעס לשון
    בַאגעגנט מיך שטויביק. זַײן גלַאנץ איז ניטָא שוין.
    ס'איז ניט ווי ַא מָאל, ווען געקלונגען הָאט גרויס עס
    צוזַאמען מיט ייִדיש. – קרישטָאלענע ּכוסות
    ווָאס קלַאּפן זיך צו אײנס דעם צווײטן לחײם.
    כָאטש ליב הָאב איך דַײנע ּפָאעטן עד היום
    און וויֿפל עס זָאל מיך ניט ווַארגן דער יאוש –
    דערֿפרישט מיך דער זוניקער קווַאל ּפַאן טַאדעוש.
    די וועלדער אין הײמישן בָאדן ֿפַארקערנט,
    z tomu Jidisze gas, New York 1948, s. 157.
    1.
    O, ziemi ojczystej mej siostro rodzona,
    As I sit here gazing at the stars
    Twój Cygan znów tęsknie wyciąga ramiona,
    A duet of cygnets float as coalesced flakes
    Wędrując pustymi, wygasłymi drogi
    Whirling the misted air falls in flaked
    I deszczów szukając sprzed czasu pożogi.
    And I, desperate for succor, crazed in voided pathos
    Barw wiernie zaklętych, zaszytych w śnie miłym
    Implore the sympathetic heart, the heart only for a moment
    I nieba, z którego onegdaj wypiłem
    I beg for this single solitary instant
    Ze śpiewem ptaszyny legendę prastarą.
    As we were, walking our story through
    Dziś w Polsce Cię szukam – lecz co się tu stało?
    Denny and Pola lovers entwined – were we not?
    Już nie odpowiadasz mi w swoim języku,
    Falling together as matched flakes
    Co zmysły wypełniał serdeczną muzyką
    Floating on the cold winter air of love


    whoops see that my idea of bolding my "translation" is not going to "translate here" will disentangle and repost.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay I tried to take myself as far away from the original as I could ... this is one stanza of a Yiddish poem translated into Polish....

      Dear Pola

      As I sit here gazing at the stars
      A duet of cygnets float as coalesced flakes
      Whirling the misted air falls in flaked
      And I, desperate for succor, crazed in voided pathos
      Implore the sympathetic heart, the heart only for a moment
      I beg for this single solitary instant
      As we were, walking our story through
      Denny and Pola lovers entwined – were we not?
      Falling together as matched flakes
      Floating on the cold winter air of love





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