19 feb. 2012

A Translation Experiment

Here is a first version of a poem by María Victoria Atencia:

Now that so many hours are shifting to the back
and I forget already their shape and property
I once again feel in the flash of wings behind the panes
that begins to undo the darkness of the sky
as if, with their wings of major poets,
the petrel and the kingfisher had come to let me know
that this thread of life in which I succeed myself
has not changed more than the precise degree necessary.


The experiment will consist of making this translation of a poem into a poem, pushing it as far as I can without making it no longer a translation at all. I don't consider this translation to be a poem in the least. There will be words or phrases that will stay in the final version. Atencia uses wonderfully rich words words like "hechura" and "aletear," "pertenencia" and "preciso." My translation should be almost Yeatsian. I could use the word "fashioning," straight out of "Sailing to Byzantium," instead of "shape," for "hechura." I wouldn't go so far as to say 'the bell-beat of their wings above my head" for "aletear." Pertenencia and preciso are hard, because they each suggest more than one meaning. Pertenencia is two kinds of belonging: a human being belonging to an organization, and property belonging to someone. Possession might be better than property. Both words are polyvalent in English. Property belongs to me, but is also a trait or characteristic. Possession is property but also invasion by an alien spirit. Preciso means necessary, and precise. I used a periphrasis in my 1st version. 'Me sucedo" (I take my own place / I succeed myself). I believe Atencia could be thinking of Quevedo's "presentes sucesiones de difuntos." "Let me know" might be too flat for "avisarme."

Of course, I need to also find a convincing rhythmic shape (hechura) for the poem. That does not come automatically by any means.