Poetry Translations

with Susan McLean

Susan McLean 2019-06-08 cropped.jpg

To Hope

Featured

Green spell that so beguiles humanity,

unreasoning hope, gilded delirium,

dream that the sleepless dream, unrescued from

the fantasy of fortunes not to be;

 

soul of the world, old age dressed handsomely,

imaginary blossoming of some

bare branch, the lucky man’s today — “to come

tomorrow,” says the luckless man, “for me”:

 

let them who will follow and live for you,

those who, green-spectacled, pursue in vain

chimaeras they create and trust too much.

 

Saner about my fate, I keep my two

eyes in my two hands, and find it plain

there’s nothing I can see but what I touch.

 

Previously published in Measure.

Halt, Dearest Shadow Always Poised to Flee

Halt, dearest shadow always poised to flee,

spellbinding vision that I most adore,

fair dream I willingly would perish for,

sweet lie for which I live in misery.

If it is fated that your charms must be

magnets to the true steel of my heart’s core,

why court me sweetly, flatter and implore,

and then laugh at my grief and run from me?

But never mind: you shall not boast you have

triumphed, or that your power is complete:

you may escape the strict confinement of

bonds you evade and vanquish with deceit —

but though my arms and breast may lose your love,

fantasy builds a cell you cannot cheat.

 

Previously published in Measure.

Dominican-born Rhina P. Espaillat has published thirteen books, four chapbooks, and two CDs, comprising poetry, essays, and short stories, in English and Spanish, and translations into both languages, winning the Richard Wilbur Award, Nemerov Prize, Eliot Prize, and others.

A la esperanza

            Verde embeleso de la vida humana,

loca Esperanza, frenesí dorado,

sueño de los despiertos intrincado,

como de sueños, de tesoros vana;

            alma del mundo, senectud lozana,

decrépito verdor imaginado;

el hoy de los dichosos esperado

y de los desdichados el mañana:

            sigan tu sombra en busca de tu dia

los que, con verdes vidrios por anteojos,

todo lo ven pintado a su deseo;

            que yo, más cuerda en la fortuna mía,

tengo en entrambas manos ambos ojos

y solamente lo que toco veo.

Détente, sombra de mi bien esquivo

            Détente, sombra de mi bien esquivo,

imagen del hechizo que más quiero,

bella ilusión por quien alegre muero,

dulce ficción por quien penosa vivo.

            Si al imán de tus gracias, atractivo,

sirve mi pecho de obediente acero,

para qué me enamoras lisonjero

si has de burlarme luego fugitivo?

            Mas blasonar no puedes, satisfecho,

de que triunfa de mí tu tiranía:

que aunque dejas burlado el lazo estrecho

            que tu forma fantástica ceñia,

poco importa burlar brazos y pecho

si te labra prisón mi fantasía.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695, Mexico), born of Spanish and Creole parents, became a nun to avoid marriage and to write, becoming the first great poet of the Americas. Warned by the Inquisition to stop writing, she died tending sick nuns during a pandemic.

And the Head Burst into Flames

On the black surface

of the wall

a rectangular opening

unfolded,

looking out

onto the great beyond.

 

And the moon came wheeling

into frame;

it ground to a halt

and declared:

“This is where I’ll stay, right here;

I’m going to watch you.

 

I don’t intend to grow

or to shrink.

 

I’ll be the flower

that blooms

endlessly

in the shutterless window

of your house.

 

I don’t want to go rolling

out of sight

anymore

behind lands

you’ve never known,

butterfly

who subsists

on shadows.

 

And I don’t want to erect

any more ghosts

over the far-flung rounded rooftops

that lap me up.

 

I’m staying put.

I’m watching you.”

I didn’t respond.

A head lay fast asleep

underneath

my hands.

 

White

as you are white,

moon.

 

From the pools of its eyes

murky waters

streamed,

streaked through

with incandescent snakes.

 

And all at once

the head

burst into flames,

like the stars

at sundown.

 

And my hands

were stained

with a phosphorescent

substance.

 

With it,

I will burn

the houses

of mankind,

the forests

of the beasts.

Brittany Hause lived in Bolivia, the USA, and South Korea before moving to the UK to pursue a degree in linguistics. Their verse translations and original poetry have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Star*Line, NewMyths.com, and elsewhere.

Y la cabeza comenzó a arder

Sobre la pared

negra

se abría

un cuadrado

que daba

al más allá.

 

Y rodó la luna

hasta la ventana;

se paró

y me dijo:

“De aquí no me muevo;

te miro.

 

No quiero crecer

ni adelgazarme.

 

Soy la flor

infinita

que se abre

en el agujero

de tu casa.

 

No quiero ya

rodar

detrás de

las tierras

que no conoces,

mariposa

libadora

de sombras.

 

Ni alzar fantasmas

sobre las cúpulas

lejanas

que me beben.

 

Me fijo.

Te miro.”

Y yo no contestaba.

Una cabeza

dormía bajo

mis manos

 

Blanca

como tú,

luna.

 

Los pozos de sus ojos

fluían un agua

parda

estriada

de víboras luminosas.

 

Y de pronto

la cabeza

comenzó a arder

como las estrellas

en el crepúsculo.

 

Y mis manos

se tiñeron

de una substancia

fosforescente.

 

E incendio

con ella

las casas

de los hombres,

los bosques

de las bestias.

By the time she ended her life at the age of 46, Swiss-Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938) was widely recognized in South American literary circles for her intensely personal writings, outspoken feminism, and innovation across a variety of verse forms.

Archive of Poetry Translations

    November 2021     August 2021     May 2021     February 2021     Septermber2020     July 2020     May 2020   

  March 2020     January 2020     November 2019     September 2019     July 2019     May 2019     March 2019   

  January 2019     November 2018     September 2018     July 2018     June 2018     May 2018     April 2018   

  March 2018     February 2018     January 2018     December 2017     November 2017     October 2017   

  September 2017     August 2017     July 2017     June 2017     May 2017     April 2017     March 2017   

  February 2017     January 2017     December 2016     November 2016     October 2016