Saturday, September 02, 2006



El vaso fuera de la fiesta
los libros en el oído
lo cotidiano en la sangre
El loco con el puño sucio
sale de la mina mostrando
la flor.

My translation:


The glass beyond the fiesta
the books within the eardrum
the quotidian in the blood --
and the madman with his dirty fist
comes out of the mineshaft
waving a flower

This one is from Francisco's book Viendo y volviendo, and will be included in the upcoming Undressing the Night bilingual edition that will be coming out, hopefully, soon. The poem was easy to translate, due to the striking juxtapostions and a certain parallel musicality in English.

Flor has so many implications in Spanish: it can mean praise, as in decir (echar) flores a una "saying/pouring out flowers at one" is to pay pretty compliments to a girl, flirt; there is an expression de flor "of flower"(common in Cuba, Peru, Venezuela) that means "very good, splendid", and then hijos como una flor "children like a flower" -- lovely children. Then there's en la flor de la edad -- in the flower of one's life -- and en la flor de la vida, in the prime of one's life. You get the idea. Hence FS can get away with the generality "sale de la mina mostrando la flor" -- literally "comes out of the mine showing the flower" -- because flor is so rich in connotations in his language. I made the madman wave the flower, making up for the comparitive paucity of connotation in English with a more vivid image (perhaps -- yeah, I think so). Seemed a good idea. (Actually the choice was quite instinctive. And frankly, I didn't know how rich flor was in Spanish until after doing the translation. But I stick by it, after a careful examination of the dictionary.)

Vaso by the way can be translated variously as glass, tumbler, vessel, container, vase, urn, glassful, blood vessel, even ship (unlikely, yes, but...) So much choice -- and in Spanish, all these meanings are possible. I chose glass I suppose mainly because soundwise it plays off fiesta, and then, it just seems more vivid and party-like than vessel. Also, blood is used in the next line, so that puts blood vessel out -- but who would want blood vessel there? An interesting suggestion or two -- but yuck.

I won't go into reasons why I feel this is a marvellous little construction of ultra-rapid associations. Literary analysis -- the whole effort of translating the experience of poetry into plodding (or even dashing) prose -- is not really my thing. But over the next while I'll be posting some of these translations and talking about the translation choices. To me that's fascinating.

-- from Out of the Woodwork, Apr 8 2005


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