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BRINDIN PRESS - Poetry in Translation


By Brian Cole


This site is dedicated to all who translate poetry or enjoy poetry in languages in which they are not fluent. Brindin Press is a partnership - I am Brian Cole and my wife Anna is my partner. I retired from a life in business, during which I had two books of translation published - Neruda's The Captain's Verses and Anthracite by Bartolo Cattafi. This emboldened us to get more involved in poetry and translation, and we set up the website in October 2000. The translations come partly from published works, and most publishers are very happy to work with us, and partly from unpublished enthusiasts who in our view deserve to be published! We are very happy to consider submissions from any translator, from any language that uses English characters (including some variants, as in Serbo-Croat, if we can create the characters). It is our policy always to show poems bilingually.

We always had the intention to also create real books, and on 20 August 2001 published our first, Yesterday a Eucalyptus by Circe Maia, translated by myself. This translation was fortunate enough to receive two awards! (To read a selection of these translations of Circe Maia in this issue of The Drunken Boat). future we plan to produce one or two books a year.This site is dedicated to all who translate poetry or enjoy poetry in languages in which they are not fluent.

OUR OBJECTIVES:


- to make available a wide range of poems in the original and English translation, mainly from French, German, Italian and Spanish;

- to encourage exchanges between translators of poetry;

- to find poets to translate, and to publish;

- to publicise our books;

- to sell books of translation in the hope of covering our costs. Our first publication is Yesterday a Eucalyptus, poems by Circe Maia from Uruguay, translated by Brian Cole.

WHAT KIND OF TRANSLATION?

There is more than one way to translate a poem, and I suggest that three distinct types can be usefully distinguished.
The first I call an interpretation,and this example is from John Brough's introduction to his Poems from the Sanskrit - a light-hearted German verse by Joachim Ringelnatz, of which Brough's literal translation is: In Hamburg there lived two ants who made up their minds to travel to Australia. Then, on the pavement at Altona (just outside Hamburg) their feet hurt; and thereupon they sensibly gave up the last part of the journey.

In Hamburg lebten zwei Ameisen,Two ants who lived in London planned
Die wollten nach Australien reisen.To walk to Melbourne overland,
Bei Altona auf der Chaussee But, footsore in Southampton Row,
Da taten ihnen die Beinen weh, When there were still some miles to go,
Und da verzichteten sie weise They thought it wise not to extend
Dann auf den letzten Teil der Reise.The journey to the bitter end.

The geographical shift, with meaning, metre and rhyme matched, allow the English to make the same impression on an English reader as the original would on a German (though there is of course no way of allowing for different national senses of humour!). Much greater shifts occur in the second type, a version, as this example by Anna Cole after Goethe exemplifies. Country, century, transport, villains and plot are all changed, but the emotional storyline, and the rhyme and metre, remain. Give or take a bit of genius, the two versions would have a similar effect on the reader of its time and nation.


ERLKÖNIGDALEK
Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?They sent an ambulance to fetch the boy
Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind;and wrapped him round in blankets, where he lay
Er hat den Knaben wohl in den Arm,fragile and pale, holding his father's hand
Er fasst ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm.while they drove in darkness through the wind.
Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht?- Cheer up old chap, no need to look so scared.
Siehst, Vater, du den Erlkönig nicht?But daddy, there's a Dalek there! I heard
Den Erlenkönig mit Kron' und Schweif?it speak, I saw its eyes so red and bright.
Mein Sohn, es ist ein Nebelstreif.- Well son, I only saw a traffic light.
"Du liebes Kind, komm, geh mit mir!"Come child, your space adventure has begun,
Gar schöne Spielen spiel' ich mit dir,we'll show you galaxies unknown to man;
Manch bunte Blumen sind an dem Strand,the stars, like flowers scattered on the sea,
Meine Mutter hat manch gülden Gewand."are out there waiting for the brave to see."
Mein Vater, mein Vater, und hörest du nicht,Oh daddy, daddy, can't you hear it now?
Was Erlenkönig mir leise verspricht?- The Dalek calls but I don't want to go."
Sei ruhig, bleibe ruhig, mein Kind:"Hush now my son and try to rest a while -
In dürren Blätter säuselt der Wind.-the sound you hear is just the siren's wail."
"Willst, feiner Knabe, du mit mir gehn?"A clever boy like you could operate
Meine Töchter sollen dich warten schön;our giant robots - the most up-to-date
Meine Töchter führen den nächtlichen Reihnmachines you'll find. We have computers too:
Und wiegen und tanzen und singen dich ein."we'll programme them with super games for you."
Mein Vater, mein Vater, und siehst du nicht dortOh daddy, daddy, can't you see them still?
Erlkönigs Töchter am düstern Ort?-These big metallic robots come to kill!
Mein Sohn, mein Sohn, ich seh' es genau:I see exactly what it is my dear -
Es scheinen die alten Weiden so grau.-the shiny first-aid boxes hanging here.
"Ich liebe dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt;"You're just the sort of boy we're looking for:
Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch' ich Gewalt."-now you must come with us and leave this poor
Mein Vater, mein Vater, jetzt fasst er mich an!old planet Earth. There is no time to wait -
Erlkönig hat mir ein Leids getan!-those who are not with us we exterminate."
Dem Vater grauset's, er reitet geschwind, The father, shaken, held the boy's hand tight,
Er hält in Armen das ächzende Kind,the ambulance swerved and stopped before the light
Erreicht den Hof mit Mühe und Not;of open doors. He touched his small son's head,
In seinen Armen das Kind war tot. then shuddered - for he saw the boy was dead.

The version and the interpretation are perfectly valid forms, and both give scope for poetic input by the translator. These are not, however, the forms with which this site is mainly concerned. The third form I distinguish is the straightforward translation, which seeks to translate as literally as possible one poem into another. The translation should be visibly an offspring of the original, and the translator as midwife seeks to convey the poetry of another language as accurately as possible, while making the translation as good a poem as he can. The best will retain metre and rhyme, as well as meaning. One of my own translations that pleases me most is from Robert Eduard Prutz:


Hab ich geliebt? Hab ich das Glück empfunden, And have I loved? And did I know that bliss
Das wie ein Märchen durch den Sinn mir schwebt?That like a fairy tale makes all sense bright?
Hat Herz am Herzen glühend heiss gebebt, Did hearts like twin stars glow with pulsing light
In süssem Kuss sich Mund dem Mund verbunden? While mouth was joined to mouth in loving kiss?
Kaum weiss ich's mehr! Die Wonne jener StundenI am not sure! Ecstatic hours I've missed -
Wie ein Rakete sich gen Himmel hebt,Just as a rocket shoots up to the heights,
Einmal nur flammt, dann sich in Nacht begräbt,And bursts but once, is overcome by night,
So ist auch sie begraben und verschwunden.So is that rapture buried in the abyss.
Und dennoch, horch! Was flüstert mir im HerzenBut listen now! A whisper in my heart
Von der entschwundnen, selig süssen Pein,Of that now vanished sweetly happy pain,
Von meinem Glück, dem meinen und dem ihren?Of that joy that was once both mine and hers?
Ach! meine Lust ahn ich aus meinem Schmerzen!Ah! I can trace past joy from present smart!
So ganz verarmt, so elend ganz zu sein,To feel such misery makes it quite plain,
Musst' ich unsäglich grosses Glück verlieren.I must have lost a bliss beyond all words.


Why not visit Brindin Press - it shows nearly 700 poems in bilingual presentation, translated from 14 languages, and with over 200 books of translated poetry offers probably the largest selection on the web.