Thursday, March 27, 2003

I give you my soul...

I give you my soul naked
like a statue - not even a scrap hides it.

Naked like the innocent flaunting
of a fruit, of a star or a flower;

of all those things that have the infinite
serenity of Eve before the fall.

All these things,
fruit, stars, and roses:

They don't feel ashamed of their unveiled sex,
And no one dares to sew them clothes.

Without veils, like the body of a serene goddess,
intensely lily-white!

Naked, and all open, wide open
from the desire to love!

Te doy mi alma...

Te doy mi alma desnuda,
Como estatua a la cual ningún cendal escuda.

Desnuda como el puro impudor
De un fruto, de una estrella o una flor;

De todas esas cosas que tienen la infinita
Serenidad de Eva antes de ser maldita.

De todas esas cosas,
Frutos, astros y rosas,

Que no sienten vergüenza del sexo sin celajes,
Y a quienes nadie osara fabricarles ropajes.

Sin velos, como el cuerpo de una diosa serena
que tuviera una intensa blancura de azucena!

Desnuda, y toda abierta de par en par
Por el ansia de amar!

-- 1919
Junk from the desk of...

I went and looked at these boxes of Juana de Ibarbourou's papers and they were pretty neat. No manuscripts of poems. Harvard has some of them.

There were photos of Juana, and of other writers who sent their pictures. There were about a hundred copies of that one photo of her with enough eyeliner to fuel a steam locomotive, and the ugly dress with puffy sleeves.

There were many letters from governments and diplomats and committees who were awarding her prizes. Some letters from other writers, which I would like to go back and read.

Also many fan letters from teenage girls. I particularly remember one from a Peruvian girl who must have been about 14, who said that she slept with Las lenguas de diamante under her pillow. I like to think of Juana de Ibarbourou laughing a little, but being touched and treasuring this letter for what it was worth, rather than rolling her eyes and saying something insulting about the sentimentality of adolescents.

The hour

Take me now while it's early
and because I have dahlia buds in my hands.

Take me now while my tumbling locks
are still shadow-black.

Now, while I have fragrant flesh
and clear eyes and skin like a rose.

Now, while I wear on my light feet
the living sandals of spring.

Now, while on my lips a smile chimes
like a bell struck suddenly.

Afterwards... Ah, I know
that what I have now, I won't have later!

That then your desire will be useless
as flowers on a tomb.

Take me now while it's early
and while I have plenty of lilies in my hands!

Today, not later. Before night falls
and the fresh petals wither.

Today, not tomorrow. Oh beloved, don't you see
that the morning-glory becomes the grave cypress?

-- from Las lenguas de diamante, 1919

¡Ay! That last line is driving me crazy! It's so not right! And I'm not even sure I have the meaning really right. Shelters? Nurtures? Harbors? Feeds? Nourishes? The idea I'm going for is that you might see the happy morning glory flowers, but under them is the cypress (tree they plant in cemeteries). But then it's not necessarily morning glories, but maybe some more sinister vine like kudzu or bindweed that covers everything with an appearance of vigorous growth, but that is temporary and will die off and become fertilizer for the cypress? Also, I think my Velazquez dictionary gave "convulvulus" for "enredadera", but I'm pretty sure most U.S.A.-ians don't know what a convulvulus is.

You can see how my mind works here. I have a lot of uncertainty, but in the long run, I just have to pick something - I have to choose a direction and run with the ball. I think even if I were perfectly fluent in Spanish, any poem has ambiguities or lines where the reader has to decide on the meaning.

Here, I could be just completely wrong. Long ago I decided not to let that stop me. Surely, if I am wrong, someone will eventually point it out to me, and I will feel very stupid for about 30 seconds, and then I will fix the error. Whenever I start to worry about looking stupid, I go and look at the "acknowledgements" section of some published book of translations, where the translator thanks about 2 pages worth of people who have helped.

And then I go look at this; and while it's fine, it definitely doesn't do her justice.

La hora

Tómame ahora que aun es temprano
Y que llevo dalias nuevas en la mano.

Tómame ahora que aun es sombría
Esta taciturna cabellera mía.

Ahora, que calza mi planta ligera
La sandalia viva de la primavera.

Ahora, que en mis labios repica la risa
Como una campana sacudida a prisa,

Después... ¡ah, yo sé
Que ya nada de eso más tarde tendré!

Que entonces inútil será tu deseo
Como ofrenda puesta sobre un mausoleo.

¡Tómame ahora que aun es temprano
Y que tengo reica de nardos la mano!

Hoy, y no más tarde. Antes que anochezca
Y se vuelva mustia la corola fresca.

Hoy, y no mañana. Oh amate, ¿no ves
Que la enredadera crecerá ciprés?

-- 1919
Naked wind

No sun, no rose, no sharp sword-grass,
no open door
in the deserted street.
The bold wind,
so alone.
The grey wind, naked
for sin or dream. in order to? Hmm.
The wind, cold and grim.
My lover or my master.

I shout:
"Don't touch me!"
And, roaring, it honors my cry.
Alas, my winter flowers!
Alas, the miserable nest,
untouched in the ailing
tree ravaged by cold!

Strong, rough, and naked,
the wind accompanies me,
Oh, bitter impure wind,
how you long to devour my insides!

My cruel naked wind!

Viento desnudo

Ni sol, ni rosa, ni espadaña aguda
ni puerta abierta
en la desierta calle.
Tan sólo el viento
El viento gris, desnudo
para un crimen o un sueño.
Mi amante o mi dueño.

Le grito:
- No me toques.
Y él respeta, rugiendo, mi alarido.
¡Ay, mis flores de invierno,
ay, el mísero nido
intacto, en el enfermo
árbol, que muerde el frío!

Fuerte, tosco y desnudo,
el viento me acompaña.
¡Oh viento amargo, impuro,
que quisiera comerme las entrañas!

Mi cruel viento desnudo...

From La pasajera 1967

Look up: espandaña. spear-grass? That makes me think too much of spearmint. I picture it as being like an iron plant.
Las olas

Si todas las gaviotas de esta orilla
Quisieran unir sus alas,
Y formar el avión o la barca
Que pudiesen llevarme hasta otras playas...

Bajo la noche enigmática y espesa
Viajaríamos rasando las aguas.
Con un grito de triunfo y de arribo
Mis gaviotas saludarían el alba.

De pie sobre la tierra desconocida
Yo tendería al nuevo sol las manos
Como si fueran dos alas recién nacidas.
¡Dos alas con las que habría de ascender
Hasta una nueva vida!

The waves

If they wanted to, all the gulls
on this beach could join their wings
to make an airplane - or a ship -
to carry me to some other shore...

Through the dense mystery of night
we'd venture, skittering over the water.
With a scream of triumph, my gull-ship
would alight on land and greet the dawn.

Walking on virgin soil
I'd hold out my hands to the rising sun
like two newborn wings.
Two wings, to lift me
to a new life!

From La Rosa de los vientos, 1930

I'm pretty pleased with this so far. The way I did the last two lines seems a bit bold, but I think I capture the spirit without having to say the same huge mouthful of syllables.

Speaking of syllables, I think each poem has its own rhythm, even when it's not in a formal meter. Rhythm can be a movement or a feeling and I don't think it has to be duplicated formally in order to get across a feeling. A rhythm in a Spanish line or sentence that seems grand, liquid and flowing, if duplicated exactly in English might just be wordy.

Besides, I'm not good at formal meter. So I'll do it my way, and the people who love to make a perfect sonnet can re-translate to their own satisfaction!
Words of a failed suicide to Death
-or how about- A failed suicide's letter to Death

For you I forsook plain bread, quiet milk,
the shadow-dog and the singing choir,
For you I forsook jasper and the sea-foam horse,
The wind's church-organ, the homely weed. [I dig those hyphenated made up words]

I forsook for you, more ochre than all misery,
my lightningflash of bees, flutes and fireflies,
and yet you, blind one, didn't want me in your valley
where your path leads each day.

To shut your dominion, stubborn and fierce,
to forbid me your apples, to break your bridges,
to see that I'm shipwrecked and to deny me your ship, **
to hear my bitter cry and not come to me!

To leave me like this, so eager and deluded,
without your amber arm hugging me to your shoulder,
while in the garden, this thunderstorm
breaks the flower stalks, makes singers hoarse.

To have a dry tongue, forked and burning
to answer the angelic prayers that you repulse,
and to become dark ice, when you could tell me,
in a dream, just one innocent word.

The sleep that still won't ripen in my nerves,
that won't lift its tranquil light to my brow,
that won't nestle its moon in my breast,
that won't show me the images of its blurry mirror. [this could be better]

You have left me lost, damned, mutilated, in disgrace,
with my sure step and full breath.
She of the rustling silks just doesn't want me now, [lively satin? spirited? hmm.]
and I don't have your sleeping lambs either. [huh? am I getting this wrong?]

Back in the dominion of the bitter sun, ['anew' sounds too archaic, 'again' is boring]
now I turn my back to you, and face the harsh plains,
face the badlands with their sterile salt grass,
their trampled reeds and useless summers. [or "useless harvests"]

**or To see that I'm homeless and deny me your haven,** [nave=ship or nave of church?]
She keeps switching from su to tu. Probably important but i didn't consider it. Must go back and re-consider everything. Death is female? Or no?

I think Juana would like my lush hyphenated made-up words. I see her use of language as daring and masterful (as I like to think I am - *blush* Oh, the arrogance comes out! ) And I just can't stand it when people translate some phrase from Spanish that has a lot of "X de Y" and they say "X of Y" when in English it would be so much more natural to say "Y X". Especially if the word combination is odd: imagistic or surreal, I end up hyphenating in a step towards neologism.

Then I had to say "church organ" (pipe organ?) because face it, in English if you just say the wind's organ, if you're dirty-minded like me, you start thinking of the wind with some sort of allegorical penis. Ew. NOT the right effect!

Palabras del frustrado suicida a la Muerte

Dejar por ti el pan claro, la leche sosegada,
El perro de la sombra y el corro de las voces;
Dejar por ti los jaspes y el caballo del agua,
Los órganos del viento, los vegetales roces.

Dejar por ti, más ocre que toda la miseria,
Mi fulgurar de abejas, de flautas y luciérnagas,
Y aún tú, la cegadora, no quererme en tu valle
Donde todos los días los caminos entregas.

Cerrarme tus dominios, arisca y enconada;
Vedarme tus manzanos, romper por mí tus puentes,
Ver que estoy desvalido y negarme tu nave.
Sentir mi acerbo grito y no hacerte presente.

Dejarme así anhelante y así alucinado,
Sin tu brazo de ámbar redondeándome el hombro,
Mientras en el jardín la tormenta del día
dobla los alhelíes y enronquece los coros.

Tener la seca lengua tajada y encendida
de contestar las voces del ángel que rechaza,
Y hacerte hielo oscuro, cuando puedes decirme
Para el sueño, la única, la inocente palabra.

El sueño que ya nunca en mis nervios madura
Ni levanta en mi frente su lucero tranquilo,
Ni acomoda en mi pec ho, recostada, su luna.
Ni me acerca su espejo de imágenes sin filo.

Me has dejado perdido, mutilado, en la mengua
De mi paso seguro y mi aliento completo.
La de los briosos rasos ya no me quiere ahora
Y no tengo tampoco tus dormidos corderos.

De nuevo en el dominio del sol amargo,
ya te vuelvo la espalda hacia los duros llanos,
Hacia las malas tierras de gramíneas estériles,
De juncos maltratados e inútiles veranos.

Juana de Ibarbourou, From "Perdida", 1950

I've been translating Juana de Ibarbourou for about a year and a half. I've got around 200 poems, some more or less done, but most "in progress".

My long term goal is to translate and publish her complete works, or at least a really big "selected works". I would like to see her manuscripts and read her personal letters too.

She seems to have gotten the short end of the stick from history, being left out of anthologies, not translated into English aside from about 6 or 7 poems in anthologies and magazines, and getting disparaged by critics in all the classic ways that Joanna Russ describes in How to Suppress Women's Writing.

Me, I just want to ride up on my white horse and fight that dragon for you, Juana.

I'll post my translations here, and maybe rough drafts with questions. Also notes from my readings on theories of translation.

I am hoping that readers will answer my questions on grammar or 'uruguayanismos' that I'm having trouble with! Also I'll confess right now that I am not fluent in Spanish at all. But I am a very good poet in English, and I think I have a soul congenial to Juana's, and the intuition necessary to understand the whole of a poem and of her work, and follow that understanding when I'm in doubt.

My dad has answered some questions for me, but what I need are some devoted readers and something like a thesis advisor.

I must note that I have no idea whether some of these are still under copyright. AGADU seems to own the rights or maybe they just act as a filter between the copyright owner and poor slobs like me. But I tried reading up on international copyright law and it seems like at least the older stuff from 1919-1930 should be public domain by now. It depends on whether you go by when it was first published, or by the death of the author. She died in 1979 so if it goes by death of author, I'll be dead myself before this work ever sees the light of day, because magazines want you to own the rights before they even consider your translations, and AGADU wants to squeeze hundreds of dollars per poem out of my gringa hide. And book publishers don't want to talk to me until I have some translations published in journals. Despite all this, I keep working on the translations because I love de Ibarbourou's poetry and think it's important that her voice be heard in English.

I'll add comments soon, but for now you can email me at lizzard@darkshire.org

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?