From time to time, I (mis)translate poems from languages which I don’t speak, or at least, which I don’t speak well. I don’t claim that there’s any great artistic merit in this, but I enjoy doing it and there is some degree of effort, I promise. Anyhow, here’s the latest one.
Patrizia Cavalli is an Italian poet whose selected poems translates approximately as My Poems Won’t Change the World. I suspect neither will this (mis)translation. Nevertheless, her modesty is less appropriate than mine. Her poems are excellent and should be read by everyone.
From time to time, I busy myself (mis)translating poems from languages that I do not speak. Tonight it is eight below zero outside. I expect we will have the white here in Cappadocia tomorrow, if not quite the Christmas.
So, it seemed appropriate to share this mistranslation from the great Turkish modernist poet Sezai Karakoç.
Happy Christmas, or Yule, or whatever midwinter festival you prefer, to one and all.
Snow Poem (mis)translated from Sezai Karakoç
When you look and see that it is snowing You will understand the snow-gripped ground. And when you find a fistful of snow on the ground You will understand how snow can burn in snow.
When God rains down from the sky like snow, When the hot snow touches your hot, hot hair And when you bow your head, Then you will understand this poem of mine.
This man or that man comes and goes, And in your hands, my dream comes and goes. A vengeance comes and goes in each forgiveness. You will understand me when you understand this poem of mine.
“Enthusiasm is a supernatural serenity,” Henry David Thoreau once wrote. Lingthusiasm, by contrast, is neither supernatural nor serene.
It’s the state of being excited by language, how it works and how it functions.
It’s about being fascinated by phonemes, seduced by semantics and in love with lexis.
It’s why I’m interested in what invented languages do, because in their artificial creation, they reveal the obsessions of their creators in relation to the generally opaque modes through which we communicate.