Podcast #8: Lawrence Venuti

by: Montana Ray

Venuti.Credit Karen Van Dyck

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In this episode, Montana Ray interviews historian, theorist, and translator Lawrence Venuti on how, by way of theory and practice, he has come to view translation as an interpretive, figurative act. Approaching the question of “what kind of figure do you want to create?” Larry discusses how the hybridity of his own mother tongue is registered in his translations; how he strives to create readerly fluency using a writerly translation technique; and the intertexts he has created for various translation projects (Antonia Pozzi, IU Tarchetti, Ernest Farrés) by sampling from a variety of relevant English(es) in an experimentalist approach first practiced and discussed by Pound. With original poems and music by Ernest Farrés, Lluís Llach, and the Stepping into Catalan Music Project, as well as translations by Lawrence Venuti of poems by Ernest Farrés and J.V. Foix.

Lawrence Venuti has translated over 15 books, including Edward Hopper by Edward Farrés (Graywolf Press, 2009), selected by Richard Howard for the Robert Fagles Translation Prize. He is a professor of English at Temple University, the editor of a foundational anthology in translation studies, The Translation Studies Reader (Routledge, 2000; 2nd ed, 2004; 3rd ed., 2012), and a theorist in the same field, most recently authoring Translation Changes Everything: Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2013).

Picture by Karen Van Dyck. 

 

They knocked my teeth out.
I became a member.

Two Poems by Ma Lan translated from Chinese by Charles A. Laughlin.

MaLanCharlesLaughlin

 

为牙齿写首情诗

by Ma Lan

1:我要打掉我的大牙。打掉牙齿有八种方法。

轻轻打。重重打。先轻后重。先重后轻。

 

2:作为新鲜出炉的2003年歪脖镇桂花诗人,我的牙医是耶鲁大学医学博士。

他坚持要我深度清洗牙齿.

他站在喜马拉牙山教尼泊尔的孩子学刷牙。

刷出阳光,刷出微笑。 现代工业社会讲究微笑。

雪山随流而下。

 

3:我参加了牙齿俱乐部。会费三百歪脖人民币。

我的介绍人姓名保密,只有二位.一位证人。

他们把我从床上拉出去,打了我一顿。我领到了申请书。再打。

把我牙齿打掉了。我入会了。

 

4:刷牙的目的。正确刷牙的方法。

 

饭后刷牙。使用电动牙刷, 。刷牙不宜用力过猛.。

美容牙齿有脱色、贴面、烤瓷三大类。

 

如果你刷牙的目的不纯洁,那你牙齿不会洁白。

如果你没有正确的刷牙方法,你的牙齿不会态度端正。

 

5:人的一生共有二副牙齿,还要进行乳、恒牙的交替过程。

 

人们应该熟知而深刻体会牙齿的先进精神,每颗恒牙的萌出有一定的时间和顺序,并且左右侧同名牙是成对 萌出的。其中,第一颗恒磨牙大约在六岁左右萌出,所称“六龄牙”。

 

6:我的右边牙齿突然掉了。

 

没有说明.我找不到说明书。

 

7:我咬牙切齿。牙齿咬人,咬狗。

 

难怪牙要落地.天地为之变色。

 

8:被调查的65名26~39岁的舌癌患者中,有56名患者皆有牙齿向舌侧倾斜.

 

这可能暗示了国际政治冲突的缘由。暗合了我们左右为难。左右逢源。

 

9:打掉的牙齿往肚里吞。牙齿就从胃里长出来。

Writing a Love Poem for a Tooth

by Ma Lan
1. I want to knock out my molars. There are eight ways to knock them out.
Knock them out lightly. Knock them out hard. First lightly then hard. First hard then lightly.
 
2. As I am the freshly minted 2003 Poet Laureate of Bent-Neck Village, my dentist is a Yale PhD.
He insisted that I do a deep cleaning.
He stands on the Himalayas teaching Nepalese children to brush their teeth.
Brushing in the sunshine and smiles—modern industrial society takes smiling seriously
The snowy mountains flow downward.
 
3. I joined a tooth club, the dues were 300 Bent-Neck dollars.
My sponsors’ names are secret, there are only two. One witness.
They pulled me off my bed and beat me up. I picked up my application. They beat me again.
They knocked my teeth out. I became a member.
 
4. The purpose of a toothbrush. The correct method of brushing your teeth.
Brush after eating. Use an electric toothbrush. Don’t use too much force as you brush.
Cosmetic dentistry has three categories: stain removal, capping, and enameling.
 
If your goal in brushing your teeth is not pure, your teeth will not get white.
If you do not have the correct toothbrush method, your teeth will not have a proper attitude.
 
5.  According to legend, there are two sets of teeth in our lives; we must make a transition from baby teeth to permanent teeth, or we become inhuman
We must familiarize ourselves with and deeply understand the progressive spirit of teeth
The emergence of each permanent tooth adheres to the time and order of its elders—in the moonlight each tooth and its comrade emerge on the left and right
The first permanent molars emerge at about age six, and so are named “six year molars”
 
6.  One of my right teeth suddenly fell out.
No explanation, and I could not find the instructions.
 
7.  I clenched my teeth. Teeth bite people, bite dogs.
No wonder the tooth wanted to fall out. Heaven and earth changed color because of it.
 
8.  “Of 65 tongue cancer victims surveyed between ages 26 and 39, 56 have teeth tilted toward their tongues.”
This could be a sign of the cause of international political conflicts: implicit agreement disturbed from left and right; advantage gained from both sides.
 
9.  The knocked-out tooth is swallowed down. Then it grows out of the stomach.

 

translated from Chinese by Charles A. Laughlin
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Evening comes into our house –
a little bitter and very clean

 

Amanda Aizpuriete Inara 25 poems by Amanda Aizpuriete translated from Latvian by Inara Cedrins.

 

[Tālu aiz pilsētas krītošu raķešu gaismā]

by Amanda Aizpuriete

Tālu aiz pilsētas krītošu raķešu gaismā

Kareivja māte izkravā manu maisu.

 

Tur purva, nakts un nāves smarža visam.

Māt, vai mēs uzvarai ticam?

 

Pulkstenis, šķiltavas, dzeltējošs meitenes smaids.

Papira driskas. Pēdējais sveiciens? Vaids?

 

Dzeja. Par nakti, purvu un nāvi.

Tālāk par naktīm, purviem un nāvēm –

 

Par pilsētu. Par pieneni. Par mums.

 

[Far beyond the city in the light of falling rockets]

by Amanda Aizpuriete

Far beyond the city in the light of falling rockets

The soldier’s mother loaded a sack with objects.

 

There was a grove, night and the smell of death on everything.

Mother, do we still believe in victory?

 

Clock, cigarette lighter, the golden smile of a girl.

Tatters of paper. A last greeting? A wail?

 

Poetry. About night, the grove and death.

Further than nights, groves and deaths –

 

About the city. About a dandelion. About us.

translated from Latvian by Inara Cedrins
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[Simtiem reižu sacīts: baidies miera.]

by Amanda Aizpuriete

 

Simtiem reižu sacīts: baidies miera.

Ilgi baidījusies, nu vairs nebaidos.

Attek migla – manu namu

Baltiem karodziņiem post.

Nāve papļāpāt ar mani nekautrējas.

Vienas cilts mēs esam,

Vienas dzejas,

Naktīs klausos tos, kas elpo tālu

Puķu, klusuma un drupu zemē.

[A hundred times it’s been said: fear peace.]

by Amanda Aizpuriete

A hundred times it’s been said: fear peace.

Long having feared, I no longer fear.

Fog flows in – my house

attacked by white flags.

Death is not shy of chattering to me.

We are of one tribe,

one poem.

Nightly I listen to those who breathe, distant,

in the land of flowers, silence and ruins.

translated from Latvian by Inara Cedrins
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three years of ballet tutus and taffeta and still i lost my posture.

Six poems by Angélica Freitas, translated from the Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan. 

foto (2)KI first discovered Rilke Shake while browsing the poetry section at Livraria Cultura, a large bookstore in Porto Alegre. I grabbed it because of the title; the pun on “milkshake,” which in Brazil’s vernacular means just what it does in English, made me laugh. The voice in the poems stood out to me because it was funny and female, portrayed queerness, used speech from the south of Brazil, and combined local and global perspectives to deal with questions of personal and poetic identity. I was intrigued by this voice, which grappled with the poets of the past but had a style unlike most other poetry on Brazilian bookshelves. I walked into the street with a new book to devour.

The shake is Freitas’s symbol of poetic invention; it is the delicious mess of combination that makes poetry. In Freitas’s vision, poetic formation is life formation. Life in these poems occurs in concrete scenes—a family library, a young person’s room, a city street—but the setting and its artifacts always point to the human interior. By shaking together literary classics, pop culture, pastoral fantasy, and more, the poems reflect upon and attempt to understand the self, and the poet’s art.

–Hilary Kaplan

cosmic coswig mississippi

by Angélica Freitas

abriremos a janela mais tranquilas para ver

não esse tanto de edifícios mas

 

vacas aparando a grama

galinhas arregaladas

galos em estacatos

 

abriremos a janela toda

 

não só uma fresta para a ver a vida besta

que se desenrosca amanhecida nos metros

 

porque lá só haverá tatus

underground

 

só haverá o blues

rural

 

 

cosmic coswig mississippi

by Angélica Freitas

tranquil we will open the window to

see not this endless mass of buildings but

 

cows clipping the grass

wide-eyed hens

roosters in staccato

 

we will open the window wide

 

not just a sliver to see brute life

untwist asleep from the metros

 

because there will only be armadillos there

underground

 

there will only be country

blues

 

 

translated from Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan
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Once resuscitated, I will be a book.

A poem by Sarah Kernya translated and with an introduction by Virginia Konchan. 

Sarah Kernya author photoVK Author 2“Nothing is clear when you are perpetually ‘in search’ of something,” as Julia Kristeva says. “Elles Cherchent” (“They Are Searching”), an excerpt from a French poetry collection by Marseilles-based poet Sarah Kernya (pictured left), entitled Rappel (Bleu du ciel, 2007), creates a poetic volta—and theatrical denouement—to Kristeva’s observation. A collection of cartographic poetics set in a post-9/11 international landscape of fear, Rappel forges historic lineages and paths forward into signification out of the miasmas of global capitalism: “Elles Cherchent” interpolates the daily habitus of an individual life with the exigencies of relationship, with the ghosts and living ecrivains of French literature (Simone de Beauvoir, Pascale Roze, Elsa Triolet), as constellated in the moving epistolary fragments between the speaker and her female mentor and muse, Huguette. Restoring to contemporary poetics the Sapphic powers of granting names and social legitimacy to women outside of patrilineal structures (“Seven percent of the Goncourt prizewinners are women”), the speaker claims to “pretend to be an animal of significance,” while, through the very act of remembrance and marking (of ancestral and literary relations) in fact enacts her own, and others, right to be present, and occupy space, however futile the socio-political endeavor may seem at times (“Thirty years since Allende shot / a bullet into his head, / rather than surrendering”) in a new republic of her own making: that of poesis (specifically la langue of French letters, from the Song of Roland to Christine Pizan to Baudelaire) restored.

–Virginia Konchan

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A wild tiger’s excesses.
Or an ocelot.

Three poems by Macario Matus translated from Zapotec into Spanish by the author, with English translations and an introduction by Wendy Call.

MatusPhotoJuchitanIn Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca, twenty miles north of the Pacific Ocean, the city of Juchitán has produced an enormous constellation of musicians, poets, storytellers, and painters. Juchitán’s traditional language, Isthmus Zapotec, was the first New World language to be written down, more than two thousand years ago. Over the last century, many bright lights of indigenous literature have come from Juchitán. Macario Matus was one of the most prominent; he influenced an entire generation of Zapotec storytellers and poets. One of those poets, Irma Pineda, said of Matus, one year before his death in 2009, “Macario Matus is in my life like water, like daylight. He exists, has always existed. I can’t pinpoint the date that we met; no one introduced us for the first time. And yet, every day I discover him, I recognize him, because every day he invents something new, something surges forth from that imagination—abundant, terrible, tireless, ferocious.”

Born January 2, 1943 in Juchitán, Macario Matus moved to Mexico City as a young adult to study; he continued to migrate between the two cities throughout his life. Matus published his first book at age 26, eventually producing more than twenty volumes of poetry, short stories, journalism, criticism, history, and translations. He founded Juchitán’s Casa de la Cultura, the cultural center where multiple generations of juchiteco musicians, painters, and writers—like Irma Pineda—took their first art classes. 

Matus passed away on August 6, 2009, at the age of 66. Three months after his death, a center for Isthmus Zapotec culture opened in Mexico City—a project of Matus’s for the last six years of his life. “Centro Cultural Yo’o Za’a Macario Matus” offers workshops taught by writers and artists who were students in Juchitán’s Casa de la Cultura under Matus’s leadership.

Unlike Irma Pineda, I never met Macario Matus in person. But like her, his work seems to have been around me, in the air and water, since my first visit to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in 1998. I discovered the bilingual poem “Bidóo Bacáanda / Dios del Sueño” (“God of Dreams”) in the Mexico City newspaper La Jornada, in June 2001. I don’t remember where I first encountered “Bidóo Gubéedxe / Dios de la Lujuria” (“God of Lust”) or “Cáa Bidóo Stíi Dúu / Dioses Nuestros” (“Our Gods”). All three poems appear in Matus’s 1998 collection Binni Záa (Los Zapotecas), but I’m sure that’s not the first place I read those poems. Books are still relatively rare and precious in Juchitán. By the time I borrowed a copy of Binni Záa, long since out of print, from Juchitán’s Casa de la Cultura, those poems were already familiar to me. In Juchitán, individual poems are passed around hand to hand, ear to ear. They flow through life like water, like daylight.  

–Wendy Call

Bidóo Gubéedxe

by Macario Matus

Guennda rigúu béedxe páa cáa guennda ranna xhíi

guláaqui cáa bée láa rigúu béedxe béedxe guíixhi.

Béedxe guíixhi, láani.

Guennda ráaca díiti máani stíi binni síica máni dúuxhu.

Xhiñée quíi gáaca núu síica béedxe guíixhi

páa láa núu gúule núu ndáani dúuxhu mée yáa.

Guennda ranna xhíi rudíi láa síica béedxe zée xpiáani.

Guennda ranna xhíi ngáa láaya béedxe náazi yanni.

Guennda béedxe ngáa ranna xhíi guiráa xhíixhe láaya binni,

guíidi láadi, bixhúuga náa máani, bixhúuga náa binni, guíicha

ruáa binni, guiée lúu béedxe ndáani yóo.

Guennda ranna xhíi née cúu béedxe ngáa ráaca binni máani née

binni guíidxi layúu.

¿Xhíi guiráa guíidxi layúu née cáa xpidóo lá?

guennda ranna xhíi née guennda rigúu béedxe zuzuhuáa cáa

huaxhíini, ridxíi.

God of Lust

by Macario Matus

Love or lust

they called a wild tiger’s excesses.

Or an ocelot.

Men shiver instinctively,

like ferocious animals.

How could we not be like ocelots

if born of their spirited viscera.

Love is mad cats in heat.

Love is eyeteeth threaded into your neck

Lust is loving with all your teeth,

skin, claws, fingernails, whiskers, cat’s eyes.

To love and be lustful is to be animal, or man.

To lust and to kiss is to be woman with sugared bile.

When the earth and its gods meet their end,

love and lust will preside over night, over day.

translated from Zapotec by Wendy Call

Dios de la Lujuria

by Macario Matus

La lujuria o el amor

lo llamaron excesos del tigre silvestre.

Ocelote, pues.

Estremecimientos instintivos

de los hombres como animales fieros.

Cómo no íbamos a ser como ocelotes

si nacimos de sus entrañas briosas.

El amor es entrega de felinos a lo loco.

El amor es colmillos ensartados al cuello.

Lujuria es amar con todos los dientes,

pieles, garras, uñas, bigotes, ojos de gato.

Amar y ser lujurioso es ser animal u hombre.

Lujuriar y besar es ser mujer con hiel azucarada.

Cuando se acabe la tierra y sus dioses,

el amor y la lujuria presidirán la noche, el día.

translated from Zapotec by Macario Matus into Spanish
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Cáa Bidóo Stíi Dúu

by Macario Matus

Ndáani cáa guiée nabáani tíi bidóo stíi dúu,

ndáani tíi yáaga nabáani tíi bidóo stíi dúu,

xháa xcúu nabáani xpidóo dúu,

ndáani níisa dóo née níisa guíigu

nabáani cáa bidóo bizibáani láa dúu.

Níiza guiée xhúuba, béedxe, béeñe

náaca cáa xpidóo dúu, bixhóoze née bíichi cáa dúu.

Guidúubi guíidxi layúu ngáa jñáa dúu.

Our Gods

by Macario Matus

In every stone lives one of our gods,

in every tree dwells one of our gods,

our god lives under the roots,

within the water of river and sea,

dwell the gods who gave us life.

Rain, corn, jaguar, and lizard

are gods, fathers, brothers and sisters. 

All of nature is our mother.

translated from Zapotec by Wendy Call

Dioses Nuestros

by Macario Matus

En cada piedra vive un dios nuestro,

en cada árbol mora un dios nuestro,

bajo las raíces vive nuestro dios,

entre las aguas del mar y del río,

moran los dioses que nos dieron vida.

La lluvia, el maíz, el tigre, el lagarto

son dioses, padres y hermanos.

La naturaleza toda es nuestra madre.

 

translated from Zapotec by Macario Matus into Spanish
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Bidóo Bacáanda

by Macario Matus

 Guúzi Góope síica Moctezuma guníi xcáanda

cáadxi binni quíichi née ruáa ráaxhi

zéeda yéete cáa lúu níisa dóo tíi quíiñe ntáa láa.

Née huandi, lúu cáa baláaga quée, déeche cáa máani quée veda

ndáa cáa binni guníi xcáanda xaíique quée.

Núu ndáani layúu stíi xaíique quée záa quée bíini núu xipiáani

riníi xcáanda cáa.

Rúuya cáa síica ráaca ridxíi níi chíi guizáaca lúu.

Cáa bacáanda quée, guníi zéeda quée, náaca cáa níi huandíi

néexhe náa.

Nguée rúuni quíi nucáa lúu cáa bée, bidíi cáa bée guíiba gúuchi,

layúu, née lúuna rizáaca.

Cáa bacáanda ngáa díidxa huandíi. Tíi gúuca huandíi guennda

ruziguíi stíi cáa binni quíichi.

Yanna láaga xhuxháale lúu núu riníi xcáanda núu huandíi ngáa

huandíi.

God of Dreams

by Macario Matus

Gúuzi Góope, like Moctezuma, dreamed

that some bearded white men

would come from the sea to dethrone him.

And yes, they arrived on huge ships, riding horses,

those men who the king had dreamed.

In the Zapotec kingdom there were wise men who dreamed.

They saw, clear as day, what soon would happen.

The dreams, they foretold, are waking realities.

And so they surrendered, handing over gold, land, and kingdom.

Dreams are real. The white men’s lie was real.

Now that we have awakened, we dream that truth is real. 

translated from Zapotec by Wendy Call

Dios del Sueño

by Macario Matus

Gúuzi Góope, como Moctezuma, soñó

que unos hombres blancos y barbados

bajarían de los mares para destronarlo.

Y sí, sobre unas barcazas, sobre unos caballos,

llegaron aquellos hombres que había soñado el rey.

Había en el reino zapoteca los sabios que soñaban.

Veían como si fuera de día lo que pronto sucedería.

Los sueños, predijeron, son realidades despiertas.

Por eso se entregaron, dieron el oro, su tierra, reino.

Los sueños son verdad. Fue verdad la mentira de los blancos.

Ahora que estamos despiertos, soñamos que la verdad es verdad. 

translated from Zapotec by Macario Matus into Spanish
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Photo of the author courtesy of Irma Pineda.

the hurtling tornado
bears down on poplars

A poem by Pierre Chappuis translated from French by Tim Keane and Myriam Moraz.

Hommage ˆ la PoŽsie, Pierre Chappuis

Photo of Pierre Chappuis, 2010, Geneva, Switzerland, by G. Perret.

Tel un cri

by Pierre Chappuis

Tel un cri (d’où ? de qui ?), le tourbillon de la foudre s’allume. Nuit secouée, jetée à terre, reformée pour être ressaisie (étranger, hôte de passage tâtonnant entre les meubles), sauvagement prise et reprise. Dehors, champs, villages s’illuminent. Saillies, bondissements, nuit déhiscente (quel autre bruit plus lointain, plainte ou aboi ?), lueurs sur le pays déchiqueté, fractions englouties avant d’être aboutées, franchissement de l’abîme, dévalement de la tornade sur les peupliers, les jardins piétinés. Tel l’oiseau fabuleux (dormeur que le songe enveloppe de nouveau), la pluie, dans l’amorce grise du matin, ne viendra qu’une fois le calme rétabli.

Like A Cry

by Pierre Chappuis

 

Like a cry (from where? from who?), whirlwind from the lightning flash. Night is shaken, knocked to the ground, recovers to be steadied again (stranger, passing guest,  groping among the furniture), savagely seized and seized again. Outside, fields, villages, light up. Jutting, leaping, dehiscent night (which noise is further, the barking or the moaning?), glimmers over decimated earth, portions swallowed before coming to a head, clearing the chasm, the hurtling tornado bears down on poplars, trampled gardens. Like the mythical bird (sleeper wrapped in dream once more), the rain, in morning’s gray light, will only come once the calm’s restored.

translated from French by Tim Keane & Myriam Moraz
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And from the sea
the Policeman can be seen

Four poems by Dmitri Prigov translated from Russian by Matvei Yankelevich. 

[Глядь — уж новая лежит]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

Только вымоешь посуду

Глядь — уж новая лежит

Уж какая тут свобода

Тут до старости б дожить

Правда, можно и не мыть

Да вот тут приходят разные

Говорят: посуда грязная —

Где уж тут свободе быть

[Soon as you're done with doing dishes]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

Soon as you’re done with doing dishes

Look — new dishes stacking up.

May I ask, what sort of liberty is this,

If one can barely just keep up?

Sure, you could leave the dishes dirty,

But here, from God knows where, they come

Complaining the dishes haven’t been done.

So where, then, is there room for liberty?

translated from Russian by Matvei Yankelevich
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Банальное рассуждение на тему разумности идеалов

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

Погода в Москве к идеалу приблизилась

А раньше была ведь весьма далека

Была непонятлива и жестока

Поэтому часто мы с ней препиралися

 

А тут идеалы мои поменялися

И сразу погода приблизилась к ним

Вот так вот природу безжалостно мучим мы

И мучимся сами ужасно притом

 

A Banal Discourse On the Topic of Reasonable Ideals

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

The Moscow weather has become very near ideal

While earlier it was quite far from it

A bit slow on the uptake, and rather cruel

Which is why we wrangled, finding no agreement

 

And then, all of a sudden, my ideals were different

And straight away the weather rose to meet them

And thus we mercilessly torment nature

While we torment ourselves terribly by the same

translated from Russian by Matvei Yankelevich
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[Когда здесь на посту стоит милицанер]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

Когда здесь на посту стоит милицанер

Ему до Внуково простор весь открывается

На Запад и Восток глядит Милицанер

И пустота за ними открывается

И центр, где стоит Милицанер —

Взгляд на него отвсюду открывается

Отвсюду виден Милиционер

С Востока виден Милиционер

И с моря виден Милиционер

И с неба виден Милиционер

И с-под земли…

Да он и не скрывается

[When the p'liceman stands here at his post]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

When the p’liceman stands here at his post

Expanses all the way to Vnukovo unfurl before him

The P’liceman gazes to the West and to the East

And emptiness unfurls behind them

And the center, which the P’liceman holds:

A view of him unfurls from ev’rywhere

From ev’rywhere the Policeman can be seen

From the East is seen the Policeman

And from the sea the Policeman can be seen

And from the sky is seen the Policeman

And from beneath the very earth…

Anyway, he isn’t hiding

translated from Russian by Matvei Yankelevich
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[Я устал уже на первой строчке]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

Я устал уже на первой строчке

Первого четверостишья.

Вот дотащился до третьей строчки,

А вот до четвертой дотащился.

 

Вот дотащился до первой строчки,

Но уже второго четверостишья.

Вот дотащился до третьей строчки,

А вот и до конца, Господи, дотащился.

[I'm only on the first line]

by Dmitri Aleksandrovich Prigov

I’m only on the first line

Of the first quatrain and I’m exhausted.

Now I’ve made it to the third line,

And now to the fourth, just barely.

 

And now I’ve made it to the first line

But this time of the second quatrain.

And now to the third line, barely,

And to the end, oh God, I’ve made it.

translated from Russian by Matvei Yankelevich
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None of you know what it’s like to live with Matt Sweeney.

Two poems by Melcion Mateu translated from the Catalan by Rowan Ricardo Phillips and a musical composition by Alexis Cuadrado. 

Photo by Patricia Tagliari

Photo by Sue Kwon

The composer and bassist Alexis Cuadrado wrote music for “The Ballad of Matt Sweeney” that was performed and recorded as a part of POETICA, a collection of original compositions by Cuadrado based on my poems and the poems of Melcion Mateu [pictured on the left]. The collaborators were Alexis Cuadrado on bass, Andy Milne on keyboards, Miles Okazaki on guitar, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums; with Melcion and myself [pictured on the right] providing voice. The band performed during a four-night residency at SEEDS::Brooklyn and a two-night, two-set per night stay at The Jazz Gallery in Manhattan. The following is from a studio session (recorded at The Bunker in Brooklyn) for the forthcoming album. Listen and enjoy.

–Rowan Ricardo Phillips 

Balada De Matt Sweeney

by Melcion Mateu

I

Matt Sweeney, el meu company de pis,

és alt i és gras; podria,

si volgués, actuar en un musical.

I és que té un do (de pit) realment insòlit,

gairebé com el seu do

de donant –el seu do d’amant, volia dir.

El seu do i el seu re

i el seu mi. Matt Sweeney

ronca al quarto del costat.

 

L’hauríeu de veure quan es lleva,

amb la calba, amb el cap ple d’antenes retorçades.

Li hauríeu de veure els ulls verds de Heineken,

les ulleres i el nas d’intel·lectual

i la gota del nas, li hauríeu de veure

la boca i les dents i

la llengua i la papada i els pits i el cor

(tatuat damunt del cor), li hauríeu de veure

la panxa i l’esquena i el cul

guaitant-li per damunt dels calçotets.

 

Matt Sweeney només s’assembla a Matt Sweeney,

sobretot als matins

(sis llaunes de cervesa es beu totes les nits

davant la tele, mirant una soap-opera):

té un cert posat d’entertainer triomfador,

amb el cap embotit de marihuana i un somriure feliç de bon vivant;

Matt Sweeney s’enlaira com un globus,

em mira, obre la boca i diu:

«Good morning, dude!», talment com si acabés de tornar de Califòrnia.

«Mornin’», li responc.

 

II

Matt Sweeney, el meu company

de pis, és un poc especial.

Va tenir un amant filipí

que estava boig pels óssos.

L’abraçava i li deia teddy bear

i en Matt li responia I wanna be your teddy bear

movent el cul com n’Elvis.

 

Vosaltres no sabeu el que és viure al costat de Matt Sweeney.

(És un ofici tan difícil!)

Sweeney! Sweeney! Sweeney! Sweeney!

«Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd»,

alguns dies em canta.

Jo per ara us explico la vida de Matt Sweeney

i un poc de la meva. Permeteu-me per tant que desafini.

 

III

Realment és un porc:

deixa la pica del lavabo plena de pèls,

la tapa del vàter esquitxada

i sovint es descuida d’estirar la cadena.

No renta els plats fins que no són plens de verdet.

Deixa els calçotets bruts al damunt del sofà,

una sabata a sota,

restes de porro a terra.

Acumula diaris i revistes.

Va perdre un dia el seu raspall de dents

i em va demanar de fer servir el meu. Ni en broma!

 

Cada nit el sentia masturbant-se al seu quarto

i en acabat roncava fins l’endemà.

Per sota de la porta s’escapaven les xinxes.

Li vaig demanar sisplau

que abaixés el volum de tant en tant.

I em va dir, ben afaitat i fent-se el nus de la corbata:

«I got my hair I got my head I got my brains I got my ears

I got my nose I got my mouth I got my teeth

I-got-my-tongue…!»

I encara sense treure’s

els auriculars va afegir:

«Benvingut, fill meu,

a l’imperi de Matt Sweeney,

observa al teu voltant i sàpigues que algun dia, estimat»

–i aquí es va dur una mà al pit i l’altra a l’entrecuix–,

«tot això que veus, tot això que t’envolta (i el que no veus i ni tan sols

imagines) serà teu,

serà teu tot l’imperi –el meu imperi–,

l’imperi de Matt Sweeney!»

The Ballad of Matt Sweeney

by Melcion Mateu

I

My roommate, Matt Sweeney,

is tall and fat; if he wanted

he could be in a musical.

It’s that his High C is really extraordinary,

almost like his gift

Of giving––his gift as a lover, I meant.

His do and his re

And his mi. Matt Sweeney

snores in the room next door.

 

You should see him when he wakes up,

his bald-spot, his head full of twisted antennae.

You should see his Heineken-green eyes,

his glasses and his intellectual

nose and his runny nose, you should see

his mouth and his teeth and

his tongue and his chest and his heart

(tattooed over his heart), you should see

his belly and his back and his ass

jutting out from just above his underwear.

 

Only Matt Sweeney looks like Matt Sweeney,

especially in the mornings

(he drinks a six pack of beer in front of the TV

every night, watching a soap opera):

he has the assured air of a triumphant entertainer,

with his head stuffed with marihuana and a happy bon vivant smile;

Matt Sweeney rises like a balloon,

looks at himself, opens his mouth and says,

“Good morning, dude!,” as though he’s just gotten back from California.

“Mornin’,” I say back.

 

II

My roommate Matt Sweeney

is a little weird.

He had a Filipino lover

who was crazy for bears.

He’d hug him and call him teddy bear

and Matt would respond with I wanna be your teddy bear

shaking his ass like Elvis.

 

None of you know what it’s like to live with Matt Sweeney.

(What a pain in the ass it can be!).

Sweeney, Sweeney! Sweeney! Sweeney! Sweeney!

“Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd,”

he sings sometimes to me.

For the moment, I’m telling you about the life of Matt Sweeney

and a little bit about me. So don’t mind if I sing out of key.

 

III

He’s a real pig:

he leaves the sink full of hairs,

the lid of the toilet splattered,

he often forgets to flush;

he’s doesn’t wash the dishes until they’re covered in grime,

he leaves his dirty underwear on the sofa,

a shoe under it,

spliff ash on the floor;

he lets his newspapers and magazines pile up.

One day he lost his toothbrush

and asked to use mine and I said there was just no way.

 

Every night I’d hear him jerking off in his room

and when he finished he’d snore until the next day.

Bedbugs fled from under his door.

Once, I asked him nicely

if he could lower the volume once in a while

and, clean shaven and fixing the knot of his tie, he told me:

“I got my hair I got my head I got my brains I got my ears

I got my nose I got my mouth I got my teeth

I-got-my-tongue…!”

And then without taking off

his headphones he added:

“Welcome, my child,

to the kingdom of Matt Sweeney,

observe all around you and know that some day, my beloved”

––and here he placed one hand on his chest and the other on his crotch––,

“all that you see, all that surrounds you (and all that you neither see nor

imagine) will be yours,

all of this kingdom will be yours––my kingdom––

the kingdom of Matt Sweeney!”

translated from Catalan by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
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Gap

by Melcion Mateu

Puc fondre el gel amb la Mirada,

puc esborrar una multitud amb un sol parpelleig.

Si m’ho proposés,

podria fer créxer la palmera més alta

al mig d’aquesta plaça.

Puc agafar un grapat d’aigua, palpar-lo i prémer-lo

fins que en surti una pedra.

Els guàdies m’aturen quan vaig pel carrer

i em demanen per mi:

sempre els indico la direcció oposada.

Al matí, en despertar-me,

és normal que el llençol m’arribi al sostre.

Puc veure alguns planets que han deixat d’existir,

i també les estrelles que no han sortit encara.

El meu horòoscop sempre s’acompleix,

el meu destí és el destí dels éssers immortals.

Puc decidir entre la vida i la mort,

entre el somni i allò que no gosem pensar.

Puc fer-te patir

o fer que et sentis l’ésser més feliç de la Terra.

 

El meu nom és antic,

sóc el rei de la llum.

Quan plou o quan fa fred, em torno una crisàlide.

Al meu costat les papallones sempre tremolen,

no puc fer res per evitar-ho:

el que els alters poetes escriuen,

el que els alters poetes diuen en els seus versos és només una part

––una part molt petita––del que dir i puc fer.

 

Gap

by Melcion Mateu

With just a glance I can melt ice.

I can wipe out multitudes with a single blink.

If I were to suggest it

I could make the tallest of palms rise

right here in the middle of this plaza.

I can grab a fistful of water, palm its surfaces and squeeze

until a stone ekes out.

The cops stop me when I’m out on the street

and ask me if I’ve seen me . . .

I always send them in the opposite direction.

In the morning it’s normal for me to wake up and discover

my tented bed sheet touching the ceiling.

I can see some of the planets that have ceased to exist

as well as the stars that still have yet to be.

My horoscope always comes true.

My destiny is the destiny of immortals.

I get to choose between life and death,

between the dream and the thing that we don’t like to think.

I can make you suffer

or make you feel you’re the happiest being on Earth.

 

My name is ancient:

I am the king of all light.

I become chrysalis when it rains or when it’s cold.

There are always butterflies trembling at my flanks.

I can’t do anything to avoid it:

what other poets write,

what other poets say in their lines,

it’s all only a part –– a very small part –– of what I can say and what I can do.

translated from Catalan by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
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Photos of Melcion Marteu and Rowan Ricardo Phillips by Patricia Tagliari and Sue Kwon, respectively.

with no more authority or force
than pale, stripped branches

Two poems by the 16th century French poet Pierre de Ronsard, translated by Diane Furtney.

A La Royne Catherine de Medicis  

by Pierre de Ronsard

. . . L’autre jour que j’etois au temple à Sainct Denis,

Regardant tant de Rois en leurs cachottes mis,

Que n’agueres faisaient trembler toute la France,

Qui tous enflex d’orgueil, de pompe et d’esperance

Menoient un camp armé, tuoient et commandoient,

Et de leur peuple avoient les biens qu’ils demandoient,

Et les voyant couchez, n’ayans plus que l’escorce,

Comme buches de bois sans puissance ny force,

            Je disois à par moy:  Ce n’est rien que des Rois:

D’un nombre que voicy, à peine ou deux ou trois

Vivent apres leur mort, pour n’avoir este chiches

Vers les bons escrivains et les avoir fait riches. . .

To Queen Catherine de Medici  

by Pierre de Ronsard

. . . The other day, when I’d stepped inside

the church of Saint Denis and saw them, side by side

 

in their shallow niches, so many great

rulers lying in state

 

in stone, each inside a jail of death,

though everyone in France took a startled breath,

 

sometime, at the sight of his flying

colors—each leading out his armed camp, trying

 

for glory, and always receiving more

goods and help from his people than he’d asked for—

 

seeing them lying there, my lady,

on their backs, finally

 

unescorted, unhorsed,

with no more authority or force

 

than pale, stripped branches,

just rows and rows of impotence,

 

I said to myself, “There’s nothing

in here but Kings,

 

and quite a few of them.  No more than three

or two live on in anyone’s memory,

 

and only because it did not occur

—not to these monarchs—not to be meager

 

toward their writers, but rather make much

of them—even make them rich.”

translated from French by Diane Furtney
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Sonnet

by Pierre de Ronsard

 

Les villes et les bourgs me sont si odieux

Que je meurs, si je voy quelque tracette humaine:

Seulet dedans les bois pensif je me promeine,

Et rein ne m’est plaisant que les sauvages lieux.

 

Il n’y a dans ces bois sangliers si furieux,

Ni roc si endurci, ny ruisseau, ni fontaine,

Ny arbre tant soit sourd, que ne sache ma peine,

Et qui ne soit marri de mon mal ennuyeux.

 

Un penser, que renaist d’un autre, m’accompaigne

Avec un pleur amer qui tout le sein me baigne,

Travaillé de soupirs qui compaignons me sont:

 

Si bien, que si quelcun me trouvoit au bocage,

Voyant mon poil rebours, et l’horreur de mon front,

Ne me diroit, pas homme, ains un monstre sauvage.

A Thought

by Pierre de Ronsard

The villages and cities

are so odious to me,

 

I feel myself dying

if I see even a sign

 

of a human being.  I stay

in the deep woods, away,

 

and nothing pleases me except extreme,

savage places.  And yet, no scream

 

of a boar is furious enough,

no boulder dense enough,

 

no stream or waterfall or tree

deaf enough to stop the grief in me

 

and this evil weariness.  A thought

brings up another thought,

 

and with them tears that wet

my chest, pushed out by sighs that

 

stay my only companions.

If any person

 

crossed my tracks and noticed,

through the twigs, this

 

tangled hair

and the horror

 

on my face, he’d say, “That’s not a man,

it’s a monster!  Monsters have come again!”

 

 

translated from French by Diane Furtney
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