The Iceberg

It’s been a while since I last published a mistranslation, so here’s The Iceberg, mistranslated from the poem by the late great Brazilian poet Paulo Leminski. It’s not the first of his I’ve egregiously mishandled. Regular readers may recall this travesty from earlier this year.

Having now done damage to his work twice, I will release Leminski from the clutches of this project and seek other subjects elsewhere. You, however, are advised to go and read as much of his poetry as possible.

Paulo is not impressed with my mistranslating.

The Iceberg

An Arctic poetry

of course, is what I wish for.

A bleached-out practice,

three verses of ice.

An icecap of words

where speaking of life

is no longer possible.

Words? No, none.

A silent lyre

reduced to absolute zero,

a blink of the spirit,

the only, only thing.

But it’s all cock. And in speaking I provoke

swarms of misunderstanding

(or swarms of monologues?)

Yes, winter. We’re still alive.

The Little Ministry

It’s just over 33 years now since the great Brazilian avant-garde poet Paulo Leminski was untimely taken from us. Perhaps it seemed at the time that he was a lightning flash in the sky, a sudden illumination swiftly darkened. After all, his entire published career lasted barely more than a decade before his death from cirrhosis in June 1989.

And yet that flash continues to live on the optic nerve of Lusophone lovers of poetry everywhere, burned into the collective psyche. This latest (mis)translation is one of so many of his poems which like the man himself, seem to maintain a presence long after their encounter.

The Little Ministry

(mis)translation of Adminimistério by Paulo Leminski

When the mystery comes

you will find me sleeping,

half-turned towards Saturday,

half-turned towards Sunday.

There is no sound or silence

when the mystery grows.

Silence is a senseless thing

that I never stop watching.

The mystery is, I think, something

more of time than space.

When the mystery comes back,

my sleep becomes so unfixed

that no fear in the world

could hope to sustain me.

Midnight, an open book.

Mosquitos and moths land

on the doubtful words.

Could it be the white of the page

resembles light solidified?

Who knows the scent of blackness

fallen there like remnants?

Or do the insects greet

the letters of the alphabet

as distant relations, family?