Thursday, 28 May 2009

Alphabet from Miroslav Holub

Once again, a poem translated from the German translation of the original Czech.


Ten million years
from Miocene
to the school in the Gerstengasse.

We know everything
from A to Z.

Though sometimes the finger
is on the place between A and B,
empty as the prairie by night.

Between G and H,
deep as the Carpathian Lakes

between M and N,
long as the history of Man,

sometimes it is
on the Galactic cool spot
after the letter Z,
on the beginning and the end,
and it shakes slightly
like a strange bird.

Not from hopelessness.

It's simply so.

gw 2009


  1. Two lots of translations? Does this alter the original meaning too much? I don't know but I always feel that a translation - particularly of poetry - must take something out of it. What do you think?
    Thank you for taking the time to mull over my poem and send me yet another crit - I do appreciate it. I have made the changes you suggested and removed some of my adjectives on Dominic's advice (I am always too adjectival!)and it is looking much better - shall now sit on it for a few days and see what finally commits itself to paper.

  2. I think a translated poem is a different poem. A twice translated poem must be even more different.
    Thomas Bernhard said he wasn't interested in translations out of German of his books. On the other hand some poets such as Brodsky liked to translate their own poems.
    I don't think it matters. It's not so important. Just a question of bringing a flavour of foreign poetry to a wider audience. I have two books that I enjoy - tranlations from Polish and Lithuanian. How else could I read them?!
    I think adjectives are wonderful things when used with care. Dylan Thomas writes of heron-priested shores and so on. I must do a poem crammed with every adjective I can think of and let Dominic have a red-letter jamboree drum banging jelly and cake filled field day.

  3. Shall make sure he reads your comments here!
    The word verification is spawki - such a good word I shall try to use it in a poem!!

  4. "I think adjectives are wonderful things when used with care." Quite right (I enjoy DT too). However, I do I like the sound of a "a red-letter jamboree drum banging jelly and cake filled field day", so bring it on! :)


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