Translation: Four Short Poems by J.V. Foix -Translated by Susan Lantz
Translator's note: I translated these poems from Catalan starting with some rules meant to keep me from inserting myself into the poems: I had to translate each word as directly as possible, using only a Catalan-English dictionary (and the bit of high school Spanish I retained). I couldn't rewrite to make anything more elegant in English; the only changes I allowed myself to make were to change “the house of Susan” constructions into English-style possessives “Susan's house,” and to ignore articles, not always translating them into “the.”
These were fun to do—like opening a present a bit at a time. Originally I thought this would make an interesting dadaesque exercise, and I expected to end up with nonsense verse that would be poetic in its own right. But the translations came out making more grammatical sense than I'd expected. Definitely a Ouija board kind of effect.
I still had to do things like decide which English meaning to use when several were listed for a Catalan word and guess which conjugations went with which root verbs, since only root verbs were listed in the dictionary. So there was plenty of room for my subconcious to mess around with things.
Then I thought it would be fun to find English translations by credible translators and compare my results with theirs, but there don't seem to be any out there for the poems I chose. I might never know whether it's J. V. Foix or me who is obsessed not only with the passage of time, but also with meat and evisceration. That's a little unsettling.
1. Fossil? Or Fossils?
I don't know what's behind this door
The flautist has coffee with cinnamon and rum beneath a pine tree
Birds commence the song of charioteers
The red apron of the butcher
The Red Cross cures a faun
A gap is opened
3. Dim Chasms
Not brown channels in wet ash
4. For Joana Givanel de Ventallo, Today as Years Ago
So many cross over these peaks
Original poems: © 1997 by heirs of J.V.Foix © 1997 by Quaderns Crema, S.A
Susan Lantz is learning ropes and climbing them daily. The ropes are in Baltimore.
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