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My mother, I swallow the resin from the old trees
And it feels good flowing in my veins.

It is the destiny of my birth
Amongst ballads chanted round a bonfire.
You know how the sorrow is always new.
You know that, don’t you, mother?

Do you know it or not?
The burning mystery in the eyes of a man
You encountered one day on your way
As a barefoot young woman.

Do you know this or not, mother?
The resin from the old trees the spirits planted
Their virgin roots being salted by dead men’s curses,
And huge moons dying of anxiety,
The skins of the furious drums,
And giving the palm leaves
The incandescent shine of naked blades.

It is the taste of the spell, Mother,
Of our disenchanted ancestral enchantments
The ingenuous exorcism of your old wives´ tales
The marvellous melody of your songs
And the secret of your body when it is possessed
But of maternal blood inviolable Where my destiny was born.

The space of your black woman’s tomb,
Do you or don’t you know the truth.
Now, do you know this or not,
My mother?


Note: This poem comes from the website of Jason Preator Writing Finger



García : a Contemporary Asturian poet translated by Jason Preator

by Jason Preater

Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate 

You shut the door tight and barely hear
Much more at your back than the striking
Hard and dry of wood and iron.
You’re not going out, no, but in to the hearth
Where all that awaits you, if you’re lucky,
Is the electric groan of the fridge,
The tired turning of the washing machine,
The warm smell of the butane stove.
You drop some packages on the kitchen table
Hang your coat up neatly in the wardrobe;
You light a pipe, you empty a glass;
You try not to think about the pain you feel.
You lay out, in your room now, pen and paper.
You set yourself to write a new poem
– you start it off with some old verse –
And try to feel the pain you think,
And lie as best you can with the truth in your hands.


This is the opening poem of Cuartetu de la Criación (Trabe: Uviéu, 2010) p. 59, by Xosé Antonio García.  It is a short collection, first published in 1989 when the poet was 28 years old.  Starting with the quotation from Dante, threads of literary reference are shot through the fabric of the collection, which mediates on the process of writing through precisely drawn mataphors and symbols taken from the writer’s everyday surroundings.  The poets that García chooses to refer to are big names in “universal” literature: he reduces Eliot to TESRIP, which is cocky and self-assured as only a young poet can be!

The meta-poetical posturing could seem an artificial construct to show off his learning, but García is not a pseudo.  Even though  I tend to veer more towards Hardy and Housman than Pound I find these poems fascinating.  The poet never fails to make his ideas and images fresh and convincing and he is not threatened by the urbane, cosmopolitan weight of the greats he alludes to.

In this sense the Cuartetu is a valuable starting point for contemporary writing in Asturianu.  It shows that international and world culture can enter and invigorate poetry coming from Mieres.  Furthermore, beyond posturing and posing, he shows that for a poet being in Rome (or New York) is not so important.  It seems to me that Xuan Bello might have been thinking of this when he wrote Historia Universal de Paniceiros that curious little masterpiece, which refracts a world of learning through the particular and precise observation of a local environment.


rbd-fernandopessoaFernando Pessoa  : Philosophical Essays: A Critical Edition
Edition, Notes, & Introduction by Nuno Ribeiro    Afterword by Paulo Borges CMP Pessoa book sample (2)

Fernando Pessoa claimed to be inhabited by “thousands of philosophies,” all of which he intended to develop in his unfinished project of English-language Philosophical Essays. The resulting fragments were never published by Pessoa himself and almost the entirety of them are presented in this edition for the very first time in history.
This volume exhibits Pessoa’s musings and wild insights on the history of philosophy, the failures of subjectivity, and the structure of the universe to reveal an unexpectedly scholarly, facetious, and vigorous theoretical mind. Written under the pre-heteronyms of Charles Robert Anon and Alexander Search, these texts constitute the foundation for the fabrication of Pessoa’s future heteronyms. They are the testimony of a writer who referred to himself as a “poet animated by philosophy.”

Through editor Nuno Ribeiro’s careful critical efforts, a new and fundamental facet of the work of one of modernity’s most seminal geniuses has now been brought to light in a remarkably reliable and clear fashion.

Ferdinando Pessoa, Philosophical Essays: A Critical Edition (New York: Contra Mundum Press, 2012). ISBN 9780983697268. $20 USD, 15 GBP, 15 EU. Now available through local retailers and Amazon sites worldwide. Bookstores can order through Ingram and elsewhere. For a review, desk copy, or interview request, write to:


CMP Pessoa book sample (2)   To order from us, send your name, address, and number of copies desired. Once shipping charges are calculated, a secure payment can be made through paypal and we will ship your item. For orders to the Americas, we ship from the US; for orders within the EU, we ship from GB; for orders from Australia and its surroundings, we ship from AU.

I give the French first so that those who know the language can think how they would go about translating it. The English rendwering is at the bottom of the post.


scan0002Le goût  de l’héroïque et du passionnel
Qui flotte autour des corps, des sons, des foules vives,
Touche avec la brûlure et la saveur du sel
Mon cœur tumultueux et mon âme excessive.

Loin des simples travaux et des soucis amers,
J’aspire hardiment la chaude violence
Qui souffle avec le bruit et l’odeur de la mer,
Je suis l’air matinal d’où s’enfuit le silence ;

L’aurore qui renaît dans l’éblouissement,
La nature, le bois, les houles de la rue
M’emplissent de leurs cris et de leurs mouvements ;
Je suis comme une voile où la brise se rue.

Ah ! vivre ainsi les jours qui mènent au tombeau,
Avoir le cœur gonflé comme le fruit qu’on presse
Et qui laisse couler son arome et son eau,
Loger l’espoir fécond et la claire allégresse !

Serrer entre ses bras le monde et ses désirs
Comme un enfant qui tient une bête retorse,
Et qui mordu, saignant, est ivre du plaisir
De sentir contre soi sa chaleur et sa force.

Accoutumer ses yeux, son vouloir et ses mains
À tenter le bonheur que le risque accompagne ;
Habiter le sommet des sentiments humains
Où l’air est âpre et vif comme sur la montagne.

Être ainsi que la lune et soleil levant
Les hôtes du jour d’or et de la nuit limpide ;
Être le bois touffu qui lutte dans le vent
Et les flots écumeux que l’ouragon dévide !

La joie et la douleur sont de grands compagnons,
Mon âme qui contient leurs battements farouches
Est comme une pelouse où marchent des lions…
J’ai le goût de l’azur et du vent dans la bouche.

Et c’est aussi l’extase et la pleine vigueur
Que de mourir un soir, vivace, inassouvie,
Lorsque le désir est plus large que le cœur
Et le plaisir plus rude et plus fort que la vie…

Anna de Noailles


Notes : This poem impresses by its controlled passion : the authoress is not ‘making literature’, she is giving her all. Yet the form is tight, the diction   elegant.
The challenge for the translator is to render the violence of feeling while retaining the surface neatness. The latter requirement made it imperative to imitate the regular metre and rhyme scheme, which in turn meant the translation could not possibly be literal. I had to keep asking myself, “What would Anna de Noailles have written had she been English?”
When, for technical reasons, I found I had to depart from the French, I retained the message and the rhythm (as far as I could) . I had no scruples rendering

« J’ai le goût de l’azur et du vent dans la bouche »

by the free but ‘equivalent’

“Upon my lips there is the taste of honey and of gall”

However, I pulled back from embellishing or trying to improve on the original — a continual temptation for a translator.  I could not resist rendering the title Exaltation as “Life-force”, but, on the whole, I think this is defensible since ‘exaltation’ sounds rather peculiar in English and Anna de Nolailles’ epoch was that of the philosopher Henri Bergson who made ‘élan vital’ the cornerstone of his philosophy and certainly she exemplified it. But when, at one point, I was tempted to translate

    « Mon âme…est comme une pelouse où marchent des lions » 

by             « I am an emerald lawn where mating lions roam »

but finally settled for
« I am an emerald lawn where mating lions roam »

This is preferable, I think,  to the more literal

“My soul is a great lawn where lions roam”    (which needs an extra couple of syllables anyway.

Above all I wanted to impart to the translation the insistent forward drive of the original : the poem moves to a crescendo in the penultimate verse and then dies away with the quiet but dignified and truly final ending.



I have the taste for what is ardent and intense,
Delirious crowds and bodies, a heroic role
In life, such bitter, acrid smells are like incense
To my tumultuous heart and my excessive soul.

From mundane tasks and cares I languish to be free,
Oh to be living now amidst the pent-up might
Of storm and spray, inhale the odour of the sea,
And breathe the morning air that silences the night.

Dawn breaks, the dazzled world returns to life again,
Birds sing, a clamour rises from the street below,
A thousand bustling noises fill my waking brain,
I am a canvas sail the wind swings to and fro.

To fill like this the days that lead towards the tomb,
Bearing a heart that’s swollen like a mellow fruit,
And leaves its juice and scent to beautify the room,
The mark of one who was in pleasure resolute.

To see spread out before me all that life can yield,
And clasp it to me fiercely like an infant boy
Hugging an unknown beast discovered in a field,
Who, ev’n when bitten, bloodstained, still is mad with joy.

To steel oneself for happiness, hand, will and eye,
Scaling the heights and depths of what the heart can bear,
To risk one’s all and the assaults of time defy,
To breathe the sparse and heady Himalayan air ;

To strive to emulate the wheeling sun and moon,
Monarch of golden day and night-time’s silvery queen,
To live like spumes of spray whipped up by a typhoon
Or like the unyielding thorn upon a wind-lashed green.

Sorrow and joy are lifelong comrades travelling home,
My heart yields always to their joint pulsating call,
I am an emerald lawn where pairs of lions roam,
Upon my lips there is the taste of honey and of gall.

And finally I celebrate that ecstasy
Of dying in full strength within the midst of  strife,
Because desire exceeds my frame’s capacity,
And what I hold inside me bursts the bonds of life.

Translated by Sebastian Hayes


First of all, I draw the attention of readers to a coming event when Robert Chandler will be talking about Velimir Khlebnikov the Russian futurist and reading from his translations of his work (to be included in a forthcoming Penguin anthology of Russian poetry).

The Poetry of Velimir Khlebnikov Wed 12 December 2012 – 7.30pm
Pushkin House, 5a Bloomsbury Square, London WC1A  Tickets: £7, conc. £5

Robert Chandler writes :
“Alongside Mayakovsky, Khlebnikov was the most important of the Russian Futurists. He has much in common with his contemporary, Guillaume Apollinaire. Both were provincials, feted as geniuses when they moved to their country’s capital. Both were close to the most important visual artists of their time. Apollinaire was close to Picasso, Khlebnikov to both Pavel Filonov and Vladimir Tatlin. And both Apollinaire and Khlebnikov wrote apparently simpler, yet still more startling work in their last years; their early technical experimentation is linked to a willingness to follow thoughts and feelings of all kinds wherever they may lead.”
At the same time I draw attention to two new books by the indefatiguable Robert Chandler who seems to be turning out translations from the Russian at the rate Dickens wrote novels.

Platonov1. a new expanded edition of Andrey Platonov’s HAPPY MOSCOW (NYRB Classics).  This includes not only a revised translation of the novel but also four closely related shorter works: an essay, a film script & two stories.

“Moscow Chestnova is a bold and glamorous girl, a beautiful parachutist who grew up with the Revolution. As an orphan, she knew tough times—but things are changing now. Comrade Stalin has proclaimed that “Life has become better! Life has become merrier!” and Moscow herself is poised to join the Soviet elite. But her ambitions are thwarted when a freak accident propels her flaming from the sky. A new, stranger life begins. Moscow drifts from man to man, through dance halls, all-night diners, and laboratories in which the secret of immortality is actively being investigated, exploring the endless avenues and vacant spaces of the great city whose name she bears, looking for happiness, somewhere, still.
Unpublishable during Platonov’s lifetime, Happy Moscow first appeared in Russian only in 1991. This new edition contains not only a revised translation of Happy Moscow but several related works: a screenplay, a prescient essay about ecological catastrophe, and two short stories in which same characters reappear and the reader sees the mind of an extraordinary writer at work.”

2. RUSSIAN MAGIC TALES FROM PUSHKIN TO PLATONOV (Penguin Classics, Dec. 2012).  This is divided equally between oral folk tales, collected by Afanasyev and many other folklorists, and literary versions of folktales by four great writers: Pushkin, Teffi, Bazhov and Platonov.


While I am about it I might as well let you know about another reading on   Wednesday 5th December, 8pm onwards

South Bank Poetry Issue 14 launch readings at the Poetry Cafe

Admission is £5.50/£4.50 including a copy of SBP14 worth £3.50, plus refreshements.  Those who have already purchased a copy
pay £2/£1 – bring your copy with you as contributors will be reading their poems in the magazine, plus others. Subscribers get free entry.

“Many of the contributors will be reading, including: Claire Booker, Ruth O’Callaghan, Stuart McKenzie, Bernard Battley, Sarah Lawson,
Rosemary Drescher, Christian Ward, Chris Hardy, Gillie Robic, Michael Wyndham, Kate Wakeling, Susannah Hart, Jim Alderson, Angela
Croft, Will Burns, Laura Hume, Hannah Langworth, Sarah Rookledge and Peter Ebsworth.

Hosted by Peter Ebsworth and Katherine Lockton

Please encourage as many friends as possible to come. Contributors get free entry, but their guests have to pay, although, of course, they also get a copy of the magazine. Also copies of back issues will be on sale.

We look forward to seeing you on what should be a great evening.”

“Tell me not here, it needs not saying,
What tune the enchantress plays,
In aftermaths of soft September
Or under blanching Mays,
For she and I were long acquainted
And I knew all her ways”

The end of soft September is  upon us and I have not yet drafted my monthly Newsletter. There will be more to come, but at least I can signal the appearance of two notable works of translation.

Firstly, a new version of Gilgamesh, sometimes hailed as the world’s first major literary text and a proto-novel that antedates the Odyssey by well over a thousand years. Stuart Kendall has given us a very readable translation, hailed by Jerome Rothenberg as “the examplary version of our time”  with a very thought-provoking, scholarly and imaginative Introduction that is needful for such a strange work. As Stuart Kendall says, Gilgamesh is a sort of time-capsule, coming to us from a society and culture more perplexing and different than the societies that gave us the Bible or the Greek myths, while influencing both. I have asked someone more competent than myself to do a review of this important work
The New York publisher Contra Mundum havs given us a beautifully designed book and is to be complimented for this undertaking.

Secondly, I signal the long awaited publication by Black Widow Press of the Shapiro translation of a selection of poems by Anna de Noailles, the great French poet of the Belle Epoque whom I have myself translated. I enclose a letter written to the publishers by Roger Hunt Carroll of Hague Press (who incidentally published The Trace I wish to Leave & other poems English translations from the French of Anna de Noailles by Sebastian Hayes)..

Dear Joe Phillips:
I want to let you know how much delight I find in the volume of Noailles translations Black Widow has produced. It is a triumph in every respect and well worth waiting such a long time to see.  The rich, variegated world of Anna de Noailles’ poetry is no longer sequestered only among those who can read her original French; but now, through the stunning translations by Norman Shapiro, it’s as though the poet has started all over again with a whole new world in front of her. 

A de N wrote poetry with such an unbreakable footing in the human condition; it is no wonder that the greatest chronicler of humanity’s kaleidoscope, Marcel Proust, fell at her feet, so to speak: it ‘took one to know one’. Like Rilke’s supreme poet voice, Noailles is not contained only in her French in the way he cannot be contained only in his German (or his own French for that matter). In the hands of a master translator like Shapiro, Noailles’ verse can be appreciated for the Voice Universal it really is. Black Widow Press has done literature a very great good deed in making it possible for English readers to experience what a powerful creation of the beautiful and true the poetry of Anna de Noailles presents.
Many thanks and best wishes to you and to your Widow!
Roger Hunt Carroll
The Hague Press, Norfolk 

Note :  Roger Hunt Carroll  is himself a translator and poet of distinction :  an appreciation of his work “Roger Hunt Carroll : Puritan Aesthete” can be found on the website     S.H. 30/9/12 

Self-Shadowing Prey just brought out by Contra Mundum is one of the final texts by Ghérasin Luca, a poet and surrealist thinker I had not heard of before receiving this book. He was born in Bucharest in 1913, and spoke a number of languages including German, French and Romanian. In 1952 he was forced to leave Bucharest for Paris where he had connections in Surrealist circles. He committed suicide in 1994 by throwing himself into the Seine, having been evicted from his home apparently for “hygiene reasons.”
As well as being a poet he worked on collages and drawings also performing his works in many countries. I mention this, because it also gives some clues about the text. The book itself has been stylishly produced. It has an elegant cover in a black and white design, with a hint of red on the lettering and has been translated from French into English by Mary Ann Caws, who has previously done translations of French surrealist, and surrealist influenced poets including Paul Eluard, René Char and the “pope of surrealism” himself, André Breton.
The presentation also has significance with regard to the text. Whilst none of the poems in Self-Shadowing Prey are concrete poems as such, there is considerable play with the layout of lines words and stanzas. Even empty pages are used to convey pauses and silences. This may also account for the fact that the English translation and the French original do not appear side by side. They are set out sequentially, which may create some difficulties cross referencing the two, but does give both versions the full flavour of Luca’s layout. This especially applies to a section titled GENERAL sTRIKE which stretches  an almost haiku-like poem over several pages with empty ones breaking the words up further:  “GENERAL/ sTRIKE/ without end/ or beginning/ POETRY/ WITHOUT TONGUE/ REVOLUTION/ WITHOUT ANYONE/ LOVE/ END/ LESS.”
This short section/poem is about the nearest we get to a direct expression of what the work is about. As Caws explains in her introduction this text centres round the problems of language and what it can express. There is also a very strong surrealist flavour. Surrealist poetry can use strange juxtapositions of words and ideas requiring readers to make associative leaps in the imagination- and there are plenty of these here. Yet there is also a degree of narrative line in the sequence if the poems. The first, title poem begins as follows:

at the edge of a forest
whose trees are slender ideas
and each a thought at bay
the vegetal reveals to us
the damned depths of an animal sect”

Immediately, there are questions. What ideas? What thoughts? What are the “damned depths of an animal sect?” These are not directly answered. But I can’t help hearing echoes of Dante wandering into the forest at the start of The Divine Comedy, suggesting the reader is meant to make their own journey into an underworld of unconscious elements that underpin all languages. The “damned depths” suggest this, and the journey leads to what Luca describes as:

 “all these yes and nos that
outside outside of time
of space and weight”

One other point of comment here is also the repetition of outside. Luca is coining a verb “to outside” and the act outside of time.

There is not sufficient space to examine all the twists and turns that this sequence of poems takes. A difficulty that Surrealist poetry can create is that its lines are difficult to parse. But this of course is be deliberate. Some poets relay heavily on the sounds of words as much as their meaning. There certainly is a Joycean relish in the words sounds, repetitions, puns, the creation of neologisms, and homophonous words on display here, and even of parts of words, that are described on the back of the book as “stupors.”
Interestingly, there some examples of Luca reading his work on the web, including a film of the final poem, Uninitialed Crimes. The performance resembles an avant-garde composition. There is huge exuberance in the way Luca reads and even stammers out some of his work which comes through in this text which the translator describes as “linguistically joyous.” The words themselves are largely names of real and fictional ideologies and artistic movements until a turn twelve pages later when the poem concludes with a statement that all these words are “are synonyms” and “homophones.”
Yet before we reach this conclusion Luca has taken the reader on the journey hinted at in the first poem. The poems in this book follow a sequence, from the forest into what Luca calls the Restless Whirlwind, telling us:

“What passes us perfectly immobile
pushes what seems strangely mobile
to pretend it’s fixed and unmoving”

We are in a world of flux, of self-reflecting mirrors and shadows which is what the title has already hinted at. In a number of other poems he describes a woman, perhaps his lover, mentioning movements of her foot and arm. Yet capturing her presence eludes him, as he concludes in a poem titled Madeleine:

without arm or face
                                      arm in arm
                                Madeleine hides Madeleine

In other poems he alludes to whatever lies beyond words heading in a direction Towards the Non-Mental. In a visionary section titled  The Key, Luca moves through visionary experiences that include what he calls “the range of self,” “movements of atoms,” “exploding planets” and his vocation as a poet stating:

                “and you don’t get out of the absurd
                 except through the absurd itself”

The next poem, Ox Nerve moves into the cortex of the brain, explaining  “The Ox Nerve is at the  origin of the information/ which has recently circulated/ as to the polls/ taken by the brain/ from certain torso nerves.” In this phrase again we note self-shadowing words being distorted and perhaps inadequate to experience.
So where are we left at the end of all this strange, playful work? In some ways, it remains baffling and bewildering. There are no answers. Yet like when reading some of the most difficult poems of Paul Celan (who Luca associated with) I keep returning to the pages of this book ponder on the phrases and images in the work, to try an make a sense of what its convoluted and experimental phraseology . Something deep in my psyche has been moved . If that is a problem for readers, it should not be laid at the door of the translator, who confesses in her introduction to a fascination with “the obvious impossibility” translating this work. It is the difficulties of the original that have been brilliantly brought into English here.
Self-Shadowing Prey is a linguistic experiment. English readers might see parallels with Finnegans Wake, another “impossible” work on which the impossible has been done recently when it was translated into Romanian. The difficulties of Luca’s French are perhaps not as extreme as in that work by James Joyce. It is the leaps of imagination that Luca demand of his reader here. Both works confront the impossibility of language, how it can both reflect and distort experience. Whether this experiment succeeds or fails I leave for readers. I suspect any confusions it generates are what we are meant to feel to  inspire further reflection as we move though its paradoxes and distortions. If it does this, it has succeeded.
Self-Shadowing Prey is a book to live with and ponder on. In a while, its secrets may yield, or maybe the real secret is in living with the possibility that the real nature of things always remains hidden.                            Graham Mummery

Graham Mummery lives in Sevenoaks, Kent. His poems have appeared in various UK magazines and he is currently working towards his first full collection. His own pamphlet, The Gods Have Become Diseases appeared in 2006. He also has translated poems from French (by René Char, Yves Bonnefoy and Paul Eluard), from German (Goethe and Rilke) and Norwegian (André Bjerke). Some of these have also appeared in magazines and the anthology of translations from French and German Over the Water (Hearing Eye Press). He collaborated in translating from Romanian into English Deepening the Mystery (EdituraSemene)  by Christiana Maria Purdescu.

New Publications:   The New York based publisher Contra Mundum is bringing out some interesting new books, notably a bi-lingual (French/English) edition of Self-Shadowing Prey by the surrealist Romanian poet Ghérasim Luca (to be reviewed in these pages), a new translation fo Gilgamesh, also a “long out of print study on Keats Negative Capability :the Intuitive Approach in Keats by W. J. Bate.  See

Internet and Language :  Debate rages as to whether the Internet will have or has already had a net good or bad effect on the English language.  Alexa Russel who writes for an English website has sent in the following article: .

The Profound Effect the Internet Has Had on the English Language   by Alexa Russell

Spelling errors abound on the Internet, where individuals can publish any amount of content without using an editor or spell-check software. This concerns many who feel that we already have too much difficulty discerning “too,” “two” and “to” or “their” from “they’re.” For others, however, the Internet is proving that the rules of the English language are almost secondary to its usage and can be simplified for effective communication. This debate will only intensify as shortened forms of communication through digital means become more ubiquitous.
Some have found that the development of Internet-based communication has only served to cause greater confusion when trying to communicate through those avenues. A personal piece printed by the Hamilton Spectator in June 2012 discusses the author’s attempts to follow the seemingly ever-changing rules of Internet communication. “Now,” Jeff Mahoney writes, “for the first time in my experience, I’m getting corrected on my emoticons.”
One of the problems with looser grammatical rules for Internet communication is the lack of a formal set of rules. Without realizing it, an individual can look unhip by adding a nose to her emoticon or using the wrong acronym to indicate a personal state. This can add to the anxiety of trying to draft a message to others.
Others argue that lax spelling standards should be embraced as they don’t hinder actual communication; rather, they make communication more efficient. In January 2012, Wired Magazine announced that it was “Tyme to Let Luce” in a feature article on the effects of autocorrect on texting. The piece argues that attempts to improve writing with autocorrect software hampers the ability to communicate more than improper spelling.
“Autocorrect and spellcheckers are wrongheaded because they reinforce a traditional spelling standard,” writes Anne Trubeck for Wired. Although consistent spelling was necessary in the traditional print era, where publishing was consolidated to a small amount of companies and individuals, spelling rules today get in the way of digital communication between any two parties.
Advocates of lax restrictions on spelling believe that letting individuals figure out how to spell certain words while in active communication is a much more organic form of language development than commitment to archaic grammar rules. Instead of autocorrect, language-recognition software programs like Siri are the future of clarity in communication to them.
Still, the development of casual forms of communication has created a gap between the technically illiterate and chronic texters. In some cases, special classes are used to close this communication gap, which is most prevalent between young adults and the elderly. In 2010 the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand sponsored a texting workshop aimed at informing elderly individuals about the different rules of communication used in texting and other digital forms. The workshop was exalted for promoting improvement of mental health and wellbeing for entire communities by improving communication.
Language rules which were impenetrable for centuries are now different from generation to generation. This often requires more work to communicate across different age groups, which may respect entirely different sets of grammatical rules. However, the efficiencies created when both parties are familiar with the spelling rules used can make casual communication a highly efficient method of sharing information.

(Alexa Russell writes for an English website that discusses how these and other issues are being taught at English colleges and universities around the globe.)

Queries for a Practising Translator :   John Dewey and Graham Mummery have already sent in completed ‘questionnaires’ for which many thanks (see previous posts). But maybe I ought to add to this by answering my own questions :

Q1. Do you only ever translate from a language you  know well? (If “No” Do you get help from a native speaker? )  Yes. Even for this language (French) I consult native speakers as well.  

Q2.  Do you prefer to read other translations of the piece you are translating?  (a) Before starting  (b) After making a first draft (c) Never  ?      (b) Only to check what someone else has made of an obscure passage.

 Q3.  Do you use a dictionary?  If “Yes”, do you use a foreign language/English dictionary or a dictionary in the source language itself?  Both. I recently resolved only to use the Robert French/French dictionary but I soon found I had to compromise on this.

 Q4. Do you show your translation to anyone before sending it off?  Prose, yes; poetry, no, as a rule.

 Q5. Do you ever translate books or poems you don’t like?  If “Yes”, does this bother you when translating? Only time I did this was a disaster : the publisher to be got a lousy translation and I was lucky to get paid anything at all.  

Q6.  Do you work regular hours or in spurts ‘when you feel like it’?  Regular spurts aided by Bacchus.

Q7. Do you use stimulants (e.g. coffee, alcohol, drugs) to ‘get started’?   Red wine is essential for lyric poetry and poetic prose. When my doctor banned alcohol completely I stopped translating or writing poetry and have not gone back to it (transalting poetry I mean).  A study conducted by the New Scientist came to the conclusion that alcohol “does not make you more creative but can make you feel more creative”. But ‘feeling’ more creative is often what you need : it unlocks the word-hoard.

Q8. Could you give examples of particular difficulties in translating poems or prose from a specific language ? Have you any tips about how to get round these difficulties? Chief difficulty with French is when you have a highly stylized author such as Jouhandeau whom I am currently translating : does one imitate the somewhat old-fashioned diction or modernize for comprehensibility? Scott Moncrieff’s (already ancient) translation of Proust is much less stylized than the original mainly because Proust makes copious use of the subjunctive, though Scott does imitate Proust’s rec0rd-breaking long sentences.

Q9.  Do you see yourself as a ‘literal’ translator or a ‘free’ one?  Free. Prefer to ‘get the spirit’.

Q10. When translating rhymed poetry, do you try to imitate the rhyme scheme and metre?  (a) always; (b) sometimes; (c) never ?  (b) If the rhyme/stamza form seems important as in the case, say, of a sonnet, I always try to keep to the form though I allow myself to make slight changes in the rhyme scheme if necessary. Also, curiously, I find a twelve syllable line comes more naturally to me than the usual English ten-syllable line so this helps when translating French poetry in (twelve syllable) alexandrines.

Sebastian Hayes is the author of Rimbaud Revisited & Une Saison en Enfer A New Translation (Brimstone 2010) and of The Trace I Wish to Leave translations from the French of Anna de Naoilles and Six Poems from the French of Catherine Pozzi (Hague Press Limited Edition).  S.H. 11/08/12

1. Do you only ever translate from a language you know well? (If “No” Do you get help from a native speaker? )
No. Yes in such cases I prefer help of a native speaker.

2. Do you prefer to read other translations of the piece you are translating?  (a) Before starting  (b) After making a first draft  (c) Never ?      (b) If available.

3. Do you use a dictionary?  If “Yes”, do you use a foreign language/English dictionary or a dictionary in the source language itself?     Yes, both.

 4. Do you show your translation to anyone before sending it off ? Yes.

 5. Do you ever translate books or poems you don’t like?  If “Yes”, does this bother you when translating?             No.

 6. Do you work regular hours or in spurts ‘when you feel like it’?
More often in spurts.

 7. Do you use stimulants (e.g. coffee, alcohol, drugs) to ‘get started’?  No.

8. Could you give examples of particular difficulties in translating poems or prose from a specific language ? Have you any tips about how to get round these difficulties?
The most difficult thing, I have found is reproducing vernacular phrases and local folklore. In a poem by Rene Char I came across a phrase about the “ sun who fell in with the liar.” I discovered that this referred to a local folktale about the sun being an honest worker who was seduced away for his labours by a liar. I got this from the notes of a French language selection I was using to obtain originals. This was luck. Other ways are to read around, if necessary look at guidebooks, maps where the poet came from, and ask native speakers. The only real answer is to research. Even academics can have problems with this.

 The other is as a poet I wish to respect the grammar of English as much as that of the originals. For example, German has secondary verbs in at the end of a sentence. This is nonsensical in English. It plays havoc with reproducing rhymes etc, but it is silly to reproduce word order, unless there is a good reason for doing so.  Usually, I have to find an English equivalent. Sometimes this is easy. E.g when translating sonnets in the English sonnet there are ten syllables to a line, in Italian eleven, in French nine. In such cases, I don’t regard it as a violation of the original to translate a nine syllable sonnet line into a ten syllable English one, or to turn the poem into a free verse sonnet like one of Lowells but I will try to keep the turn after the shift from the first two quatrains into the final sestet.

9.  Do you see yourself as a ‘literal’ translator or a ‘free’ one?
More often a free translator. In translating poetry, my aim is to capture the poetry, not just to mirror the words, though these are still important to capture the styles of the original.

10. When translating rhymed poetry, do you try to imitate the rhyme scheme and metre? (a) always; (b) sometimes; (c) never ?
(b). It is not always possible to reproduce rhyme and meter, in such cases there are usually other motors such as imagery that carry the poem into English. So if I can’t reproduce the rhyme etc, I’m not too worried.      Graham Mummery 7/08/12

Note:    Graham Mummery lives in Sevenoaks, Kent. For a time he worked in investment banking and is now training to become a psychotherapist. His poems have appeared in various magazines and he is currently working on his first full collection. Other publications his poems appeared in include Gobby Deegans Riposte (Donut Press) as well as websites such as,uk. His pamphlet, The Gods Have Become Diseases appeared in 2006.  He also has translated poems from French, German and Norwegian (Bokmal). Some of these have also appeared in magazines and the anthology of translations Over the Water (Hearing Eye Press). He collaborated in translating, from Romanian into English, Deepening the Mystery (EdituraSemene)  by Christiana Maria Purdescu, and presented some of Marin Sorescu’s poems at Poetry in Translation. His own poems have been translated into Romanian and broadcast on Radio Romania Culture as part of the poetry pRO project, others into German as part of the sister project Poetry tREnD. He was one of the British poets who attended the W-orte Festival at Ludwig-Maximillian University, Munich in 2010.  S.H.



Journey to Montevideo  

From the deck of the ship I could see
The hills of Spain
Fading away in the golden twilight
As the dark brown earth seemed to hide under the green
Something like a melody:
Lonely virgin of an unknown scene,
Something like a melody
In blue, a viola still quavering on the shore at the foot of the hills …
The azure evening was fading away on the sea
And from time to time slow wings would glide across
The golden stillness in a glimmer of azure …
Faraway and dyed several colours
By the farthest silences
Golden birds crossed over in the azure evening: the ship
Blind already crossing over beating against darkness
In tune with our shipwrecked hearts
As azure wings beat against darkness at sea.
But one day
They boarded, the stately matronas of Spain
Their eyes turbid and angelic
Their breasts gravid with vertigo. When
In the deep bay of an equatorial island
In a bay far deeper and quieter than the nocturnal sky
There rose before our eyes in spellbound light
A sleeping city shimmering white
At the foot of the lofty peaks of idle volcanoes
In the turbid breath of the equator: until
After much shouting and many shadows of an unknown land,
After much creaking of chains and much fervid activity
We left the equatorial city
For the troubled nocturnal sea.
And we sailed and we sailed, for days and days, as ships
Heavy with sails softened by the warm breezes slowly crossed our route:
So close on a quarterdeck like a bronze apparition we saw
A young girl from the New World
Shining eyes and wind-whipped dress! And suddenly, wild,
Appearing at the end of a day
The wild shore over there above the boundless main:
And I saw the dunes
Like vertiginous mares wildly loosened
Onto the boundless prairie
Bereft of human houses
And as we veered and fled the dunes we sighted
On a sea yellow with the river’s miraculous bounty
The seaport capital of the new continent.
Limpid cool and electric the evening light
Shone on the tall houses that seemed deserted
On the pirate’s sea far down
In the forsaken town
Between the yellow sea and the dunes.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

 Dino Campana       Translated by Cristina Viti
About Dino Campana :

Probably the least understood, and at the same time one of the most enduring, of Italian poets, Dino Campana (1885-1932) spent a third of his years in an asylum, only publishing in his lifetime one ground-breaking collection of poems (Orphic Songs, 1914), which sought to reconnect Italian poetry to its classical roots while opening it out to the vital new energies & art forms of early twentieth century.
This translation was first published in Selected Works Of Dino Campana, ed. Cristina Viti, Survivors’ Press 2006. A new edition of the Orphic Songs is forthcoming with Waterloo Press 2014.   (Cristina Viti)

Cristina Viti’s published translations include Selected Works of Dino Campana (Survivors’ Press 2006), Stephen Watts’s Mountain Language/Lingua di montagna  & Journey Across Breath/Viaggio nel respiro (Hearing Eye 2008  & 2011), Ziba Karbassi’s Poesie (Mille Gru 2010), Dome Bulfaro’s Ossa Carne (Le voci della luna 2012). Other work also published in MPT, Shearsman Magazine, Wasafiri, L’Immaginazione, Scarf Magazine, VLAK. Current work includes a version of Tahar Lamri’s stories I sessanta nomi dell’amore & (with Stephen Watts) of Tonino Guerra’s Il libro delle chiese abbandonate. Forthcoming with MacLehose Press, a translation of Mariapia Veladiano’s award-winning novel A Life Apart.