Friday, August 16, 2013

Transformational Poetry

So, in reading Up Jim River by Michael Flynn, I came across an interesting analogy for translation:
"What a tangled path when we find these Emrikii," Sofwari said. "We have to think in Gaelectic, our earwigs will render that in the loora nuxrjes'r. Watershank will translate that into the tanga cru'tye, and Skins will translate that to murgãglaiz. Any rabbit of thought that makes it through that bramble will surely be skinned by then."
That's how I feel sometimes when I'm moving my poetry through its transformation from English to Old Norse - I wonder how much of the rabbit will come through the bramble patch unscathed and how it will be changed.

The poem I'm publishing today is an example of this process. I am giving you the original poem which is about a far more cruel transformation, followed by the Old Norse transformation with the usual word-by-word and prose-order translations.

This poem is an extended metaphor. I leave it to the reader to puzzle it out.

On morning's light you'd go to let
the fish come jump into your net
and every one you could recall.
No matter be they large or small
You'd fish and each became a grain
to think upon when morn brought rain
to darken skies. You'd calmly set
your bait, your hooks, and then your net.

Your bait, your hooks, and then your net
in high noon's warmth you'd always set
to bring home more. And then compare
with those you caught from everywhere
and some you'd keep, still more you'd free
to go back to the loving sea -
For now the sea your net fills full
with fish, to think upon and mull.

With fish to think upon and mull
until they overflow the hull
of ship. And yet by night your seine
unravels and by day your mein
no longer pulls a net to give
you fish, but rather pulls a sieve.
And thus into the night you sail
but fish no more, your nets have failed.


And here it is after its transformation:

Old Norse Verses Word-by-Word Translation Prose Order Translation
Fald-dægi fiski róinn
fyrir laxar glóinn
ófut þín net þykku
fiskum grípa upp kvikku;
Hnykkjat bendu netja
bustar fengsæll bretja
aptr húgaðir hverjum
hafs alriðinn hirðum.
Day-break fisher rowing
for salmon glowing;
you wove your net thick
fish to catch quick.
You pulled cords of nets
hauling fish turn-upwards;
after remembered every
sea all-writhing herd.
Fisher at day-break rowing
for gleaming salmon;
you wove your tight net
to catch quick fish.
The nets' cords you pulled,
hauling fish turned-upwards;
After you recalled every
writhing sea-herd.

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